With the refusal of Millennials to give up the costume and candy side of Halloween, the holiday that kicks off the season of major holidays has become a huge money maker. Just in my life experience Halloween has made a meteoric rise in popularity, from being a holiday that was traditionally just for children to now involving costume parties, haunted attractions, massive decorations, television channels touting their Halloween movie line ups, and pop up Halloween stores cashing in on the craze. Halloween has turned into an $8 billion dollar juggernaut of profit according to DDB Worldwide.
So where did this now heavily commercialized holiday come from? Histories generally end up tracing back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced SOW-win) that ushered in the Celtic new year and celebrated the end of summer. Many mass-media histories of Halloween seem to indicate that the holiday has been passed to current times looking almost the same as the original festival, but according to David Skal in Death Makes a Holiday, Halloween is a hybrid of many different cultures, cultivated in America, which may explain the popularity of a holiday that is such a hodge podge of cultures. A mishmash of Samhain, All Soul’s Day, Guy Fawkes Day, and Roman festivities all combine to form a celebration that America in particular has embraced and created into its own image. Halloween has weathered World Wars, urban legends of tainted candy, and all out assaults from conservative churches to become what it is today.
Denise Delahorne of DDB Worldwide gives some insight on the popularity of the holiday, especially with adults. “There’s no stress to it. You don’t have to travel or deal with relatives. You can wear whatever you want and not be judged. There’s not the holiday pressure to find a date if you are single. There’s the fantasy, role-play element. If you think about it, it’s surprising that 90% of people don’t feel it’s their favorite holiday.”
The National Retail Federation predicts that more than 157 million people plan to celebrate Halloween this year, spending on average roughly $74. I myself have probably already spent more than that if we consider $30 for a haunted attraction, roughly $30 collecting parts for Halloween costume that really isn’t that elaborate, $18 on a ticket to a costume ball at the symphony, and any other random expenses on cute holiday decorations. But if you think about it, how can Thanksgiving and Christmas really compete? Thanksgiving is often the “boring” holiday of the three, involving work on food preparation and only a minimal amount of excitement in decorating and activities. Christmas brings the pressure of finding the right gifts and the expense, though it involves a level of nostalgia that Halloween has yet to conjure up. Both holidays involve family, and lots of it often times. Halloween is the party before two months of relative togetherness. No wonder Halloween has seen such a massive adoption.