Halloween: Harmless Fun or Nuisance?

10/30/2012 11:25 am ET | Updated Jan 27, 2014

For citizens of the UK, Halloween was once a quiet affair, more commonly associated with small groups of young children wandering the streets with their parents, trying to identify the house that would provide the biggest haul of sweets and chocolates. Now, however, the once low-key holiday has exploded in popularity with youths of all ages, spurred on by fantasy films such as Twilight and Harry Potter, causing many to ask whether October 31st is a night of harmless fun, or just another nuisance.

Many of those in the nuisance camp will highlight the spike in anti-social behaviour that usually occurs around this time of year. Indeed, police forces across the country have ramped up their efforts to curb Halloween vandalism, providing special talks to young people and even urging shop owners to limit the sale of flour and eggs to those who are likely to use them for the now traditional Halloween prank.

The growing cost of Halloween is also considered by some to have created a nuisance out of the event; the UK's annual spend on Halloween related purchases has ballooned from just £12million in 2001, to a staggering £315million as of 2011. In fact, Halloween is now the third most expensive holiday in the country, trailing only behind Christmas and Easter.

In a time of austerity, this is a cost that many households in the UK can ill afford, as demonstrated by a recent poll by money saving experts Quidco, who found that around 1 in 5 adults were likely to hide from late night visitors in their own homes, just to avoid the cost of sweets and decorations. Tight household budgets have only strengthened the case for those who identify Halloween as a nuisance, and when adults are forced to go to such extreme lengths to avoid the holiday, it isn't surprising.

Whilst there are quite a number of people who would welcome the end of Halloween, there are still those who would defend it, claiming that it is simply harmless fun for children to enjoy. It is true that this traditionally pagan festival has now transformed into a community event, providing both adults and children with an ideal opportunity to mix with their neighbours, and embrace a sense of community spirit, organising fun events in the local area.
There are also the financial benefits too. Whereas parents and confectionery buyers may be reluctant to part with the large sums of money that Halloween now demands, a spending boost of over £300million will be welcomed by many retailers who are struggling to balance their books, whilst also providing a boost for the economy as a whole. An increase in spending on costumes, decorations and other treats will vastly increase the treasury's VAT receipts, which may help to spur on the economic recovery.
Halloween naysayers can at least take comfort in the fact that the UK's zeal for the holiday pales in comparison with that in America, where adults spend up to $1billion a year on costumes alone. And, considering Halloween only takes place once a year - and brings such joy to so many children - perhaps it's one indulgence the nation can allow.