Halloween is Economically Hollowed… But Why? (Reflections on the Recession-Proof Holiday)

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Yesterday on CNN, a guest was on a morning news program describing the current state of our economy during the recession.  To my surprise, there’s a day of the year that hasn’t struggled during our economic downfall: October 31st.  That’s right, Halloween actually been showing good numbers for the past several years.  The sort-of-holiday is described as the only recession-proof holiday.  Halloween is economically hallowed… but why?

It seems to me that Halloween, among other things, is a day when people escape into another reality.  We masquerade in attire that takes us out of our own story and places us into an alternative narrative.  Certainly we don’t want to be quick to judge folks that dress up (I have several times), but the idea of escaping our problems for one night of fun makes sense.

Yet I wonder what sort of stories some folks are choosing to escape into?  Some costumes reveal deeply disturbing themes.  Violence, death, and devils – just to name a few.  And it gets worse, these sorts of costumes are now marketed to children!  We don’t allow kids to step into a rated R movie but we’re quick to allow them to dress up like an ax murderer?  By the time we’re adult we’ve grown up playing characters inconsistent with the character that God wants to form in us.  Something here doesn’t make sense.  Not only do we escape our lives to pretend to be something totally “other than,” but many of the sort of characters we play represent anything but who we really want to become.

This begs an important question: Who is it that we wish we could be?  Rich?  Powerful?  Happy?  Perhaps this simply illustrates that many of us wish we could be something that we’re not.  Some people look at their lives and want to wear a mask that’s different than their current situation because “anything would be better than my ‘real’ life.”

Following Jesus is something to be done with our ‘real life.’  The story that we find ourselves in is the narrative that God wants to transform.  Even when our situation feels challenging, the way of Jesus is a challenge to rise above circumstances as we determine to become more fully human.  We can mask our story in an effort to find satisfaction, or we can allow the love of God to purge us of any impulse to ‘dress up’ as someone other than the person God designed us to be.

Just so I’m clear, I’m moving into deeper issues beyond if someone chooses to celebrate Halloween or not.  I’m not advocating for or against the day, just thinking out loud about why Halloween is economically hallowed.

What do you think?

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  • I think it sticks around because it remains a relatively cheap holiday. Costumes can be made or bought at a fairly low price, so recession or not people can afford it.  And who doesn’t love the smiling faces of children as they become sick with candy? Scrooge thats who. I agree that it is somewhat of a mind holiday, I just don’t necessarily see that as so bad, of course depending on where the mind travels to. 

  • I think you’ve identified an important element of why Halloween is recession-proof, Kurt. There is always a market for escape.  

  • Erin Thomas

    I think you hit on a great point, Kurt. I’m an abolitionist and have been active in trying to end the global slave trade for some time. On the largest consumer days of the calendar year is Halloween — candy & costumes. Both are cheap, made in foreign countries, often using illicit, poorly paid, or slave labour. For me, it is painful to see our children (and adults) over indulging in this ‘fun’ when it’s coming at the expense of other people’s lives (cocoa slave trade in West Africa; textile industry in India or Uzbekistan). Spiritual undertones nothwithstanding, our gluttony in Halloween (and Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, Mothers Day) is having catastrophic effects around the world on economic, social, and kingdom levels. If people are suffering because we demand to have our fun, something is deeply wrong with the picture — whatever the holiday.

  • I think it’s because of the candy. You buy a bag a few weeks before the big day, thinking, “This will be enough for the trick or treaters…” and then, all of the sudden, you’ve eaten the whole dang thing. And then you have to buy another one.

    Halloween will continue to be recession proof because there are few among us who can resist the lure of an entire bag of fun-sized candy bars.

  • Brad Thomas

    Though Halloween may be recession-proof, the general capitalist culture surrounding other holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc. is interesting as well.  I’m not against a holiday, but I know I’ve bitten off more than I can chew (Halloween Candy, Thanksgiving Turkey, Christmas Cookies 🙂  ) not only in the food area but also the spending esprit  that makes me hollow inside on the Halloween side.