Welcome to my guest blogger Melissa Hebert, award winning writer and editor!
When did Halloween become such a big deal?
I thought it was just me feeling a bit bah-humbuggy about Halloween this year. Then other friends started sharing on Facebook their own ambivalence about Halloween. As it often happens on social media, I felt a little less alone.
Halloween has become part of the Holiday Season Industrial Complex, and thus has become excessive in a way I find repellent.
A generation ago, Halloween was simply dress the kids up in costumes and send them out to trick-or-treat. Now, the grown-ups have co-opted Halloween and taken it over. They have to have their own costumes and participate in zombie walks. In my old neighborhood in Ohio, some parents dressed up to go trick-or-treating with their kids … and brought their own bags for candy.
If you don’t think we’re going a bit nuts for Halloween, here’s a tidbit for you. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $6.9 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations, etc. That’s more than $75 for each person participating in Halloween activities.
This is where leadership comes in. Leaders ask hard questions like, is all this Halloween hoopla really the best use of our precious time and hard-earned money? Like a business, a family has only so much time, money and physical/emotional resources. In a family, the adults are the leaders and have to set the priorities, and that means saying “no” to themselves and their own impulses as well as those of their children.
My Pinterest feed is filled with friends pinning ideas for Halloween decorations, treats, entertainment and costumes. One friend is expected to decorate her work cubicle for a Halloween decorating competition. My former workplace is having a Halloween costume competition. At home, a kid-carved jack-o’-lantern on the front porch isn’t enough anymore. Now the yard should be decorated with lights, mums, cornstalks, faux gravestones, faux spider webs, and my husband’s particular bête noire, inflatables. Inside, there should be Halloween tchotchkes, special bowls just for Halloween candy, and gold-leafed gourds and acorns.
Most of this work – planning, shopping, decorating, baking, costume-making – falls on women, mothers especially. It becomes part of the Mommy Wars competition. Moms who makes their kids’ costumes by hand “win” over moms who buy costumes at Target or on Amazon. Moms who make color-coordinated, Halloween-themed homemade caramel apples “win” over moms who make chocolate-chip cookies. Moms who make sure their kids go to all the corn mazes “win” over moms who don’t fill every autumn weekend with memorable things to do. And it all must be documented in Facebook albums, Shutterfly memory books, Vine videos and Instagram feeds.
But does any of this really make Halloween more special for the children? I doubt it. My Halloween memories were about my friends and me putting on costumes – no one cared if they were homemade or store-bought – then going out and getting lots of candy. The only roles our parents played on Halloween were as chauffeurs during trick-or-treating and killjoys who wouldn’t let us eat all the candy we wanted to afterwards. Are adults really doing all this Halloween stuff for the children … or for themselves?
Recent years have seen more of us reflecting on our excesses of the holiday season, focusing largely on Christmas. Maybe it’s time for the grown-ups to reflect more on Halloween excess, and their role in it, and let it go.
Melissa Hebert is an award-winning sportswriter, a copy editor, a news reporter and editor, a lifestyle and entertainment writer and editor, a social media manager, and a marketing copywriter. She has a blog, Domestic Putterings. Melissa lives with her husband, and their iguana and turtle, in New Jersey.