I wonder how many of you went trick or treating this year; I don’t expect, based on the general demographic and aimed readership of MouthLondon, that it would be many, if any of you that would have done.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you were out trick or treating this Halloween and you are the age that most of our readers are, then you were either being ironic, so well done, or you are quite a special brand of person, so, again, well done. I myself did not trick or treat, but I did dress up as some sort of Miami Vice cop, which went down surprisingly well. In this article I am going to take a look at Halloween, a little of its history and what it’s like now.
All Hallow’s Evening is a long held tradition that, traditionally, holds a genuine spiritual meaning; in Christianity it is the first night in the annual calendar of a period of memorial. From this date, the 31st October for those that don’t know, and for a period of three days, known as the Triduum of Hallowmas, it is said in some Christian denominations that the departed are able to return from the dead and walk among us. One often misunderstood element of this ideology is that anyone can come back during this period, that is not the case, the Triduum of Hallowmas is in fact reserved for those figures of Christian history that deserve to be remembered: saints, martyrs, etc. so it’s unlikely that you’re going to be talking to any lost loved ones anytime soon. So there lies the basis for this article; for many of us, and increasingly so, the nature of Halloween is simple: we dress up, we eat sweets and chocolate, or we go out get drunk whilst dressed as The Joker from Batman, or as The Mad Hatter, or as a Tampon… I saw every one of these costumes last week.
…we also drank ‘Vampire Blood’…
So I wonder how other people remember Halloween being when they were younger; my own experience with, and I’m using this term loosely, the holiday are pretty varied. The first Halloween I can remember involved me, my Mum and my little brother sitting in our living room eating dinner off of our laps and watching a Halloween-esque film; we also drank ‘Vampire Blood’ which, looking back in hindsight, I think was more likely Ribena. Other times I remember going trick-or-treating, wondering around the local streets knocking on doors and having the always polite pretend wonderings as to what I was; then, of course, with a bag, bucket, pocket full of sweets we would go home smiling to count our spoils and after that, inevitably, the next few packed lunches would contain a little treat from your Halloween night so that, by the end of the week, you’re sick of the stuff. So that’s what I remember, bad costumes, polite neighbours and broken sweet teeth. We are always told that Halloween is much bigger thing in America, and if you watch films like Hocus Pocus you’ll see American kids dressed up as witches or American flags and other things like that, and it seems to be that the tradition is much the same over there. But when all that is said, presumably the same costumes will appear over there and presumably the same drinking will take place.
So how is it that Halloween has evolved from what it started as, the days to celebrate lost martyrs and saints, into what is now, the one night of the year when dressing in normal clothes is frowned upon? The answer, as always, has a lot to do with money. Businesses saw an opportunity and they grabbed it with both hands and within a few years the holiday of Halloween had evolved from a religiously inspired period of remembrance into a marketing inspired night of frivolity and excess. Now, I am not for a second saying that this is a bad thing – in fact I would argue that, as long as the traditional meaning remains for those that want to embrace it, it is a good thing; when else do we get the opportunity to dress as our favourite sanitary products, the answer to that for most of us is: very rarely.
…the Western world loves being given the chance to have fun…
So what about some figures? This year, i.e. the Halloween just passed, it was estimated that a staggering $2.6 billion was spent in the US on adult costumes alone, throw in decorations, sweets, chocolate, decorations and everything else, and that number rose to a truly astounding $6.9 billion. In this amount there is included, again in the US, a rough $330 million to be spent on pet costumes. A survey showed that 7 in 10 adults, ages 18-24, planned to wear a costume this year and the same survey found that 65% of adults between 25 and 35 were also planning to don a disguise. On top of this, 52% of peoples attended a party or gathering, 47% carved pumpkins and 36% visited a haunted house or Halloween inspired attraction. I think it’s safe to say, and I have the stats to back it up, that the Western world loves being given the chance to have fun.
So how is it likely to evolve in the coming years? Well, as I’ve mentioned already, the general consensus is that Americans, at the moment, do it best. But that doesn’t mean in future years that it’ll stay that way; if you went out in the last week then you’d have seen as clearly as I did that the Halloween spirit was high and rising, and maybe that’s an indicator of things to come. There’s always been the argument that Halloween didn’t mean much to our parents’ generation; I know that my Mum and Dad didn’t think much of it when they were younger, and maybe that’s the thing to change. I think we can say quite safely that the next generation will celebrate the holiday, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re not going to stop. So maybe there’s a target for us, in twenty years’ time we want to rival the American’s when it comes to spending, in forty years we want to have them beat; I don’t see that there should be many disagreement because, let’s face it, the guy dressed as the tampon proved that we all just want to have fun.