What will Halloween look like in twenty years?

I know, I know, this is going to be a bit of a rant. Hey, it’s my blog and you’ve been warned. 🙂

Pirate DaveI remember when I was a kid our Halloween costumes tended to be more improvised than purchased at the local Halloween costume store and the entire holiday had a rather underground “harvest festival” sort of feel to it, with benign scares and very little that was truly frightening.

That picture on the left? That’s me, dressed as a pirate. Cute, eh?

I also have memories of borrowing one of my Dad’s dress shirts and working with my Dad to build a little “shoulders” platform that rested on my head: I was the headless horseman. No picture’s available for me to post online, however, sorry!

By contrast, this Halloween we decided that we didn’t really even want to take any of our kids into the ubiquitous no-name Halloween costume stores because the imagery is so darn violent and gory.

What’s happened to Halloween?

For kids I think it’s still fun, but am I the only one who finds the extraordinary level of commercialization and the simultaneous increase in the dark, aggressive, scary, gory imagery really depressing?

According to the National Retail Federation: “This year, the average person plans to spend $66.54 on the holiday, up from $64.82 one year ago. Total Halloween spending for 2008 is estimated to reach $5.77 billion.” [src] I’m not the only one that remembers that we’re in scary economic times, am I? Is the increase in spending due to us all wanting to hide from the reality of the times?

More stats: “This year, consumers will spend an average of $24.17 on Halloween costumes (including costumes for adults, children, and pets). People will also be buying candy ($20.39 on average), decorations ($18.25) and greeting cards ($3.73).”
These are projections, but still, even adjusted for inflation, I am sure that my folks didn’t pay $24 for my costume and, frankly, there just weren’t aisle upon aisle and even separate Halloween costume stores where you can get whatever you want to look however you desire.

But the spending isn’t what bothers me this year, it’s the direction that the holiday is going: it seems to me that we are getting more crass — with the sex-themed teen and even pre-teen costumes — and more bloody — with extraordinarily violent costumes and props for sale — than I can ever remember in the past.

It’s as if we can see the loss of innocence of childhood in Western culture before our eyes, an innocence that’s been taken from us bit by bit. Which just makes me wonder…

What’s Halloween going to look like in twenty years?

9 comments on “What will Halloween look like in twenty years?

  1. Hey Dave!
    The other interesting thing to consider, in addition to the violence, gore, and overspending promoted by… Who is it really driven by, anyway?
    Anyway… the other thing to consider is how many costumes aren’t really friendly for the environment. Rather than making costumes out of old shirts and boxes and recycled stuff, buying costumes made of toxic metals and plastics can be a hazard to kids, and everyone else as well. I read a stat sometime in the past week which said that over 5 million pounds of store-bought costumes will end up in landfills each year.
    5 million pounds.
    Just to be re-produced and re-purchased a year later.
    I don’t know where all this is coming from (the powers-that-be?), but I admire you for being a parent who is aware of it and attempting to help your kids make decisions about what’s good for them.

  2. I totally agree with you. It’s amazing how much people go out for this holiday. Scary costumes can be fun, but nowadays they are getting to scary and gory- IMO. I admit i did “buy” my son’s pirate costume this year. I did not have the right kind of clothes to make the costume look right otherwise, but my daughter I broke down and made a good old fashioned Rubiks Cube costume. we had a party almost 2 weeks ago we went to- Daughter’s costume got so many compliments. People just don’t want to take the time to make homemade and use there imaginations anymore- I can be one of these people I have to say.

  3. Well.. I just got back from taking a 3-year-old girl and an almost 6-year-old out Trick or Treating..
    Robin Hood (almost 6) adult-sized polo shirt.. took off buttons.. strung a leather lace through the button holes.. belted at his waist.. paper hat.. tan pants.. a long stick with yarn for the bow.. cost.. under $5
    Clifford (the big red dog) 3-year-old.. red shirt.. red pants.. red shoes.. homemade hood with ears.. homemade tail.. cost?? $3?
    what wasn’t already owned.. was bought from the thrift store’s $.25 rack.
    Candy at home.. $12
    so.. $22… most of which was candy..
    yup.. people are lazy.. and they think they are “supposed” to buy stuff.. sad

  4. A couple of years ago, I went to a “halloween” parade and was disgusted by the freaky and outrageous costumes. Just plain dirty and insinuating.
    I think Halloween has basically split into 2 Halloweens. There is one for the kids (where they dress up as batman and go door to door with friends), and then another for adults where it’s a scary scream fest.
    As for the spending-we did spend this year. But, we spent on candy, water, and some decorations to let the kids know we were home. We will reuse the decorations next year. The candy…er…that’s another story.
    Our yearly ritual: give out candy and water, bake brownies and watch Hocus Pocus (yes-the Disney version of scary!).

  5. All the holidays are overcommercialized these days.
    And it seems to me that every year the promotions start earlier and earlier.
    These days it is more typical that both parents work and don’t have the time to make costumes.
    In fact, when I was a kid it even safe to go out trick or treating with your friends after school.
    Now kids go out at night with parents. Or they go to malls.
    Every theme park seems to have some sort of evening event for Halloween. They operate on select nights (thr, fri, sat) for an entire month.
    Here in Florida we also have Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios – Orlando)and Howl-0-Scream (Busch Gardens – Tampa). These events are huge money makers, but far too scary for young children.
    Fortunately we have some more family friendly events we can go to…. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Disney – Orlando) and Zoo Boo (Lowry Park Zoo – Tampa).

  6. IMHO Halloween is the best. Of course costumes become more and more freaky but everything are changing in this World. It’s up to us to change ourselves or to left behind.

  7. Yep, everything is changing and it’s not always for the better. I would rather be left behind! I live in New Zealand and Halloween is only recently becoming a big thing. The shops sell cheap and nasty plastic costumes, candy pails, decorations, you name it! Aren’t we trying to minimise our wastage? Don’t we want to teach our kid’s to be creative with things they have around the home. Do we not want to teach them to be money wise and respectful of the environment? On the topic of the gore factor. Yes its too much. Its our job to protect our little ones from such harmful things. Keep it old school!

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