From sacrificial bonfires to a multi-billion dollar industry, Halloween has seen it all.
Halloween originated as a Pagan celebration during which they believed the boundaries between living and dead blurred. On Samhain, as they called it, people put treats out to appease the visiting spirits and wore costumes in an attempt to blend in.
There was also, of course, the bonfires. People would sacrifice various animals and crops in honor of the Celtic Deities. As fun as that all sounds, this era of Halloween was short lived, ending with the Roman Empire squashing paganism.
There were many other versions of Halloween to follow that led us to the over-commercialized, money making mess we celebrate today.
Thirty or so years ago, it wasn’t all bad. Halloween was a wholesome, secular fall celebration. Back when it was the norm for people to make their costumes, Halloween was probably pretty fun. People would tape balloons in a plastic bag onto a shirt and be a “bag of jelly beans,” and there wouldn’t be a million other “bags of jelly beans.” The alternative was to go buy fabric and spend months working on a costume they thought of in July. This was the golden age of Halloween.
In extreme contrast, the top searched costumes for 2018, according to Google, are Fortnight and Spiderman. At Party City, “Gamer Skin” costumes are selling for over $40 and Spiderman is going for about $30. Costume buying today consists of fighting through the crowd at Party City to pick a number off the vast wall of costumes only to then try and manage not to rip the cheap, spandex fabric of the unoriginal ensemble.
This Halloween, American spending is predicted to reach $9 billion dollars with the average citizen spending around $74 on decorations, candy and costumes. There is absolutely no justification for the outrageous amount of money we spend on this meaningless holiday.
How did this happen? How did we go from wholesome costume making to this disaster? Money. Companies figured out they could make money off of Halloween and did just that.
There are some smaller cash-grabs that are just flat-out annoying. The one that really gets me is costumes for pets. I’m not even going to try and say they aren’t cute because they are adorable, but they aren’t exactly cheap. Pet costumes sell for around $15-$20 which is simply ridiculous because I have never heard of a pet keeping one of those on for more than five minutes. I tried it. I fell into the corporate-cuteness-trap and got my dog a costume… he had it chewed up by the end of the day.
The other Halloween gimmick that entices many is those little plastic candy pails. First of all, they hold approximately 4 pieces of candy. Second of all, if one manages to fit more than the allotted 4 pieces of candy, the cheap, flimsy material cuts into the poor, unfortunate wrist that is holding it. Third of all, it won’t even make it that far because they break after about 10 minutes resulting in consumers either buying more, thus spending more money, or going back to the old reliable option: A pillow case. All of that just to waste plastic. It’s laughable.
However, pet costumes and plastic pumpkins are just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest culprits of obnoxious Halloween stunts are amusement parks: Universal Studios’ Horror Nights, Six Flags’ Fright Fest, Knott’s Scary Farm, and Disneyland’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party… to name a few. Talk about amazing marketing; haunted attractions are a $300 million a year industry. The novelty of Halloween decorations alone brings in more visitors to Disneyland, and parks such as Universal Studios and Magic Mountain manage to get people to pay to be scared all night.
Then of course, there are the exclusive souvenir items and photo opportunities. Whether it’s some guy with a chainsaw or the giant Mickey Mouse pumpkin at Disneyland not to mention the spectacle that currently is Haunted Mansion, everybody just has to have a picture. These pictures are then posted on social media, inspiring others to … wait for it … go to an amusement park for Halloween.
I’m sorry, what does that have to do with crossing the bridge between living and dead? Oh right. Absolutely nothing. Halloween has completely lost its purpose since its days of Paganism and simple costumes. Today, Halloween’s sole justification is to spike companies’ revenue and of course, an excuse to party.
While I realize that I sound like a horrible, spiritless witch, I promise that I do have a soul. It is the sad truth that most Holidays, particularly in this country, are over commercialized just like Halloween. I wholeheartedly surrender to the excessive marketing once Christmas time rolls around. Some feel that way about Halloween, so have fun with all the poorly made costumes and gimmicks in bulk, Lancers, and Happy Halloween.