The Culture of Halloween
In the past 20 years so there have some changes in the culture of Halloween in the United States. Likewise celebration of the holiday has spread to parts of the world where it was previously unknown. I am interested in exploring this and wondering how this may affect its older cousin, Samhain. I do observe both holidays- celebrating Halloween with my community, decorating my house and handing our treats, sometimes attending events related to it. Then after the trick-or-treaters dwindle, I turn off the porchlight, and ritually honor my ancestors- remember the sacrifices they made so I could be here, and others I know or admire who have died in the past year.
First, the trends that began emerging in the 1980’s, when I was a young child and first starting to trick-or-treat. There has been a “culture war” against Halloween by some evangelical Christians who view it as “the Devil’s holiday”. I always found this quite ridiculous, as it was obvious to me it’s a secular holiday. The problem is that the essence of Halloween just doesn’t fit into their worldview- not to mention their lack of sense of humor! They have managed to stop it from being celebrated in some public schools, ruining the fun for the majority of kids. Still public celebration of Halloween persists, very strongly in fact.
Concerns about safety arose- parents were advised not to let their kids trick-or-treat alone, or eat unpackaged treats. This is all common sense. Still it’s too bad that neighbors can’t hand out homemade treats like cookies or apples, which would be healthier than candy. (at least cookies aren’t pure sugar!) I think handing out those things actually would be possible if arranged previously by neighbors who know & trust each other. I may mention that to folks in my block club for next year.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve seen Halloween get more commercialized each year. The advantage is this gives a wider range of costumes and other products than used to be available. But it’s really getting as ostentatious and wasteful as Christmas. Remember most of these costumes & decorations are made of petroleum products. Even with the economy’s current state, Americans are still spending record amounts on their “hauntings”.
I have noticed that concepts for some of these new Halloween decs are inspired by Christmas ones- Halloween trees with ornaments, orange lights hung outside, miniature spooky villages. While I enjoy decorating for holidays there’s a point where it goes too far. I do have fun looking at how some of my neighbors adorn their houses & yards- I was doing this just a few days ago while doorknocking for Obama. At times I chuckle about the lengths to which they go.
Another trend that disturbs me is some of the skimpy costumes I have seen designed for young girls. It goes along with the regular clothes being marketed towards them. I’d think most parents wouldn’t fall for this, but some have poor judgement, or go along with little Ashley’s pleads to dress like Lindsay Lohan and that “all the other girls wear that”. Sheesh, are these people trying to encourage pedophilia?
I also hadn’t realized until I got into college that Halloween was used an excuse to get drunk at parties. Then again to college students and others anything is an excuse to drink. It also seems like the tricks people pull are more destructive than they once were.
I realize that these changes reflect trends in the overall American culture- everything becomes successively more commercialized- literally nothing is sacred. Likewise, sexuality is reaching a saturation point- where even prepubescent kids are getting sexualized.
I also wonder if as some non-Pagans (other than the anti-Halloween evangelicals) become disgusted with these Halloween trends, they might turn to a revival of All Soul’s/Saints Day, or Samhain as a cultural celebration, and honor their own Dead. My Christian fiance enjoyed observing Samhain with me, remembering his grandparents and others that have passed on. It was nice to share that with him.