The average family will spend $185.50 this year on Halloween. Within that $185.50 figure, 41% ($76.05) of the expenditure will be for candy, 36% is allocated to costumes ($66.78), and decorations will consume 23% ($42.67). When did Halloween evolve into such a huge deal?
I have a hard time remembering much about Halloween from my childhood. Perhaps that’s because I am trying to dredge up memories from over 60 years ago. Once, I asked my mother what costumes I wore for Halloween, and she informed me that it really wasn’t a big deal when I was a kid. In fact, she didn’t think I went trick or treating until we moved to the suburbs in the 1952.
I do remember my younger brothers dressing up as…hobos. How’s that for politically incorrect and a total throw back to another era? I doubt kids today have ever heard that word, which is a good thing. My mother would make mustaches for them with blackened cork and tie a bandana filled with newspaper to a stick. I’m pretty sure I went with them as babysitter, which was no costume at all. I did host one Halloween party as a teen and remember dressing as a doll. No comments please. Those were different times.
By the time I had three kids of my own, Halloween was a holiday that required costumes and trick or treating. Luckily for me, the costumes didn’t have to be elaborate. Plastic ones were perfectly acceptable. I think my son went as a generic Chicago Bears player for multiple years. Just a jersey and helmet – so simple. My daughters were figure skaters and, being a practical mom, they repurposed costumes from prior ice shows.
We decorated our house by carving one pumpkin and putting it in the front window, lit with a candle. My kids got to wear their costumes to school, at least when they were younger. And they went trick or treating to neighbors’ homes. That was it. The whole thing took up a day to choose the costume (except for my son – he didn’t even have to think about it) and a couple of hours to carve the pumpkin and bake the seeds.
Fast forward to my grandkids’ generation. Halloween is a huge deal. Costumes need to be considered months ahead and ordered online if there is not an acceptable one at Target or a Halloween store. Speaking of which, have you ever been to a Halloween store? Don’t get me started. Last year, my husband and I took our three grandkids from Indiana, who were staying with us right before Halloween, to one. Plastic and cheap costumes are definitely out. My grandsons would never be happy being a generic anything. The boys, who were eight and five, needed to be a Ninja warrior and Bumblebee transformer. They both required plastic swords that broke the minute they got back to my house (thank goodness for duct tape).
Their sister, who was eleven, was too cool for a character costume. In lieu of that, we shelled out for a black wig and tons of face paint so she could be gross. Toss in a few skeletons and other creepy decorations and themed candy buckets and it cost pretty close to what the average family will spend this year, minus the candy.
Then there is the issue of decorating the house and carving the pumpkin. Driving down one of my daughter’s block, I see every house decked out with spider webs, spiders, skeletons, ghosts, scarecrows, graves, and other creepy stuff. The Halloween-Industrial complex must be in seventh heaven. And one pumpkin is no longer enough. Each home is graced with several and some are decorated with spray paint, elaborate designs, and intricate carvings. Apparently, you can Google this or look on Pinterest or YouTube for thousands of ideas. This year, my granddaughter and her friend spent hours creating this lovely tableau on the front porch:
Within a few hours, the wind and rain has destroyed it. Well, at least they had fun.
Then there’s actual Halloween, which is generally cold and rainy in our neck of the woods. Trick or treating used to be pretty simple. You got a lot of candy and you ate it. The only controversy was if your parents let you horde it or made you eat it quickly to get it over with. But now it’s hard to decide if it’s safe to take candy from folks you don’t know. And you rarely see kids going from house to house without parents accompanying them. So even this aspect of Halloween has become more complicated.
There’s a part of me that loves the new Halloween traditions. Every year, I want photos of my grandkids in their costumes. They look so cute. But part of me wishes Halloween were less demanding of their parents' limited time. And another part of me wishes that Halloween, which should be a simple children’s holiday, were a bit less commercialized and costly.
Do I sound like the Halloween Grinch?