Last week I received my first Christmas catalog in the mail which means (Ta-DA!) Halloween is nearly here! And as confirmation, when I stepped into Wally World, I was confronted with a large display of winking colored lights featuring reindeer and a sleigh full of colorfully wrapped boxes. So I know it’s nearly time for the Great Pumpkin.
The house around the corner is already sporting fake tombstones (which actually complement the dirt and weeds), and bloody hands sticking out from under the window. Soon the house across the street will have flimsy white gauze hanging from the tree — I think it’s supposed to be ghosts — and the people next door will go all out with orange lights in every window and a motion-activated skeleton that jumps and shrieks when someone walks past. The house next to them always has a huge display of carved pumpkins and a large rubber rat that makes horrible sounds. Jolly good fun!
So how much does all this stuff cost? I went on-line and was flabbergasted. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $350 million for Halloween. On Costumes. For their pets.
When did Halloween develop into this elaborate holiday?
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 and 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 balls or Rice Krispie treat, Big Hunks or Abba Dabas, and occasionally someone had chocolate. Word circulated pretty darn fast 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 2016. 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 probably aren’t either — that means someone else is laying out the equivalent of a car payment for Halloween candy and decorations.
And this year, Halloween is on a Friday. You know what that means? Parties! Yes, grown-up parties. And that’s not something where you can make a costume out of crepe paper. Grown-up costumes are about $50, unless you want to spend a few hundred 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.