Yesterday I received another batch of Christmas catalogs in the mail which means (Ta-DA!) it’s almost Halloween! Today when I stepped into Wally World, I was confronted with a large display featuring reindeer and a sleigh full of colorfully wrapped boxes. Must be time for the Great Pumpkin.
Actually, since the end of September, my neighborhood has been gearing up. The house around the corner has a yard full of fake tombstones (which actually complement the dirt and weeds). Across the street they’ve hung white gauze “ghosts” from the tree and the people next door put orange lights in every window and a motion-activated skeleton that jumps and shrieks when someone walks past. The house on the other side has a display of carved pumpkins and a large rubber rat that makes horrible choking and gagging sounds. Jolly good fun!
When did Halloween develop into this elaborate holiday? And how much does all this stuff cost, anyway? I tend to be a fiscally conservative (read “thrifty” or even “frugal”). I cringe at the thought of spending money on basically useless items. Okay, yes, I do buy Christmas decorations and pretty wrapping paper and ribbon for birthday presents and sometimes even shell out $4.95 for a birthday card that I know is going to be looked at one time and then thrown out, but shelling out money for Halloween decorations? Really? It’s gotta be in the hundreds of thousands.
Out of curiosity I went on-line and was flabbergasted. The estimate that Americans will spend on Halloween is $350 MILLION. On costumes. For their pets.
Remember when we were kids and the big deal was to carve a pumpkin? And you bugged your parents from the beginning of October until finally, about a week before, they bought you a pumpkin? And you spent a good part of the afternoon carving it? And all the pumpkins looked pretty much alike because that was before someone came up with templates so even the most inept of us could make something really artistic.
Your costume. Raise your hand if you ever went trick-or-treating as a ghost. One year Mother took an old sheet, cut two holes for my eyes, dropped it over my head and secured it with some twine around my waist. Another year I went as Bo-Peep and made my costume all by myself out of crepe paper. I had a tree branch for my staff. Good thing it didn’t rain — but in never rains in Southern California.
And the candy — there were little sacks of candy corn (love that!) sometimes a popcorn ball or Rice Krispie treat, Big Hunks or Abba Dabas, (moving up, here) and occasionally someone had chocolate. Word circulated like wildfire when someone was giving out Snickers or Hershey bars. One time the O’Neils did Life Savers. A whole roll of Life Savers. A whole roll!
Fast forward to 2018 You know how much candy we will buy? The National Confectioners Association expects people to cough up $2.5 billion (that’s Billion with a B) on candy this year. The average expenditure for each household is a mere $80, but since I’m not buying any — and you may not be either — that means someone else is laying out the equivalent of a car payment for Halloween candy and decorations.
And what about Halloween parties? Grown-up parties. That’s not something where you can make a costume out of crepe paper. Grown-up costumes start about $50, unless you want to get decked out like a Storm Trooper ($750) or Darth Vader ($595 if you’re lucky). I’m still in favor of the clever home-made costume. One year I went as a Lert. I dyed an old pair of bell bottoms and a shirt bright red. I sewed bells on the bottom of the pants (making them truly bell-bottoms), and got those little eyes you sew on stuffed animals and stitched them all over the shirt. When people asked me what I was, I said “alert.” Okay, that one might take some thought.
So the bottom line spent on Halloween this year in America is somewhere between 7.4 and 8 billion. Billion. And people squawk when the city wants to raise the taxes a half a cent for street improvement? Hey, be a sport — skip the screaming rat this year and send that $14.99 to the highway department.
Or maybe we could just crush all those fake tombstones and use them to pave the roads. Happy Halloween!
(I updated and re-posted this blog from a couple of years ago. No use wasting all that good research. See what I mean? Thrifty!)