Here in the Northeast, the only thing that makes the death march toward winter tolerable is the brief respite that Halloween brings each October 31. It's the only time you can temporarily forget the shortening days, the ending of the year, the inevitability of cold and dark and aging... and be something else for a day.
Halloween has its critics; apparently, some conservative Christians, Jews and Muslims don't like it, and some mental health professionals contend that Halloween themes of violent psychosis and freakish insane asylums stigmatize and victimize the mentally ill.
I can understand those points of view (although... I might suggest that Halloween is as good a time as any to put the "fun" back in fundamentalism). ; )
Still, I love the holiday. And I'm not alone: Nationwide, Americans will spend more on Halloween this year than they did in 2006. Each consumer will spend on average $64.82 on Halloween, up from $59.06 per person a year ago. Collectively, we will have shelled out more than $5 billion on costumes, decorations, and candy before the night is over.
What makes Halloween such big business? Or perhaps the question is, What makes people love Halloween? Maybe because it offers a chance to indulge in a fantasy or alternative persona without risk of ridicule, or it could be that most people just don't get the chance to act like kids often enough. Or maybe it's because:
- Halloween is about community. Unlike other holidays -- like Thanksgiving, where you have to endure making nice with Aunt Ida and her wing-nut of a son, or like Valentine's Day, when it's the unattached who feel freakish -- Halloween is free from the pressure of sit-down meals with extended family and its complexities; free from heartache and an empty mailbox; and free from so much more...
- Halloween is equal-opportunity. Aside from those groups who voluntarily keep their porch lights out on Halloween night, Halloween does not differentiate based on income, sex, age, or religious or sexual preference. No religious or state institution "owns" it. Anybody can participate: In fact, the most-decorated house on my street belongs to a retiree, who has the time to hang flying witches and plant upended mummy legs in his front yard.
- Halloween is all about kids. As anyone with a school-age child knows, Halloween is one of the holidays around which the kid year revolves. For the kids, there's the thrill of dressing up, free candy, and walking the sidewalks after dark. As for us parents, I love seeing the same kids on my doorstep year after year, and taking a silent inventory of how they're growing up and changing.
- Pets are increasingly getting in on the fun. What else can I say?
- Halloween is a short-term commitment. So even if you hate it, the trick-or-treating is usually all over in two hours. And before you know it...it's November. Now that's scary.
So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Leave a comment below.