Article by Chet Val
Halloween arrives on October 31st every year, and with it comes excitement for all. There are the parties, the decorations, the festivities, the laughs, and of course the costumes. Whether you view Halloween as scary or humorous, or maybe a bit of both, we can all agree that it is an enjoyable holiday. Popularity and participation seems to swell each year. Initially a holiday for children only, Halloween has become the holiday for everyone. Adults spend more time and more money each year preparing for this big day. As a matter of fact, Halloween is quickly becoming an acceptable holiday season versus just a one day activity. Halloween has surged in popularity holding its own right up there with Christmas. With all the hustle and bustle of party preparation, costume construction, and decorating, the question arises regarding Halloween being declared a national holiday. Halloween is a day of fun and the closure of federal and state buildings, businesses, offices, and schools may not be such a bad idea.
Halloween is traced back to a ritual of honoring the dead over 2000 years ago. Initially called All Hallows Eve, it falls on the final day of the celtic calendar which is, of course, October 31st. This is also the eve of All Saints Day which is a Christian holiday honoring the saints. Over the centuries, there were many traditions revolving around All Hallows Eve. These Halloween traditions varied greatly among the many cultures that celebrated it. The tradition of gift giving is a spinoff from the Celts who believed the souls of dead people roamed the streets at night. Many of the souls and spirits were thought to be unfriendly, the gifts and treats were left outside to pacify those that were evil, grant health for people in their family, and ensure next year’s crops would be abundant. This custom eventually evolved into today’s trick-or-treating from door to door involving children dressed as ghosts and goblins eagerly awaiting the treats from the doorstep.
From a commercial standpoint, the USA far exceeds any other nation in sales of Halloween costumes, Halloween decorations, party supplies, and other Halloween themed merchandise. Although it’s difficult to pin down exact sales figures regarding this holiday, it is conservatively estimated by some analysts that Halloween may eventually catch up to Christmas in terms of dollars spent annually. Past estimates have been as high as five billion dollars for recent Halloween seasons which would still rank it behind other gift giving holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as religious holidays like Easter. As for future growth, the buzz with Halloween, especially with the adult consumers, is the spending itself. Store-bought decorations in particular can be expensive. Some Halloween retailers even go as far as selling full size coffins and animatronic, robot-like, life-sized figures. These realistic props can cost hundreds and even thousands of US dollars. Combine this type of Halloween enthusiasm with national costume sales and the numbers can add up very quickly and continue to grow even in a slowing economy. This commercial explosion is a far cry from decades gone by where local retailers would carry a few select cookie-cutter boxed costumes, some Halloween themed candy, and some plastic pumpkins to carry the loot. The only thing lacking at this point in time would be some type of large scale gift exchanging tradition which is the common denominator in driving retail sales during the holidays.
Overall, the possibility of Halloween being proclaimed a national holiday is still only a pipe dream for Halloween enthusiasts. At the time of this writing, there has been no formal request made and my research concluded that no organization has taken the initiative to even begin the process. Commercial success is alone not enough to earn national holiday status. Halloween appears as though it may remain nothing more than a fun-filled day (or night) for both children and adults wishing to celebrate this centuries-old tradition in their own way.
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