Something has been happening in my neighborhood. As I drive the narrow, tree-lined streets at twilight I am greeted by tombstones, with the hands of the un-dead breaking through the soil, giant spider webs draped across the trees, ghost and ghouls hovering around doors and trees, as witches streak across the amber sky and glowing jack-o-lanterns that seem to come alive. Something so familiar to me is becoming strange and eerie. It must be Halloween.
Halloween descended from an ancient Celtic pagan ritual. After the harvest, as summer gave way to fall, the Celts believed on this night, the spirits, disguised as humans set out-door to door looking for a new soul. The Celts would wear masks to disguise that they were humans and scare away the evil spirits. They left food on their door steps to attract the good spirits into their homes as protection. Eventually this night was named HALLOWEEN. Hallow is translated to Saints and EEN is translated to night. Halloween was the eve of All Saints Day which is November 1.
Many, many, many years ago, when I was a kid, Halloween was a night of running door to door, “Trick or Treat”. You filled your bag with goodies of all kinds. Our costumes were the cheap plastic type with a rubber band, stapled in place holding your mask on until the band broke in the middle of the night. Sometimes the costumes were hand-made by our Moms, using old sheets, clothes and sometimes a touch of make up. We didn’t care, we just wanted the candy.
Halloween is celebrated in many countries across the globe including; Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Latin America, Spain and Sweden. But nowhere is it celebrated like the United States.
In the United States;
YEAR Americans Celebrating Spent
2015 157 million $6.9 Billion
2016 171 million $8.4 Billion
2017 179 million $9.1 Billion
2018 (est) 175 million $9.0 Billion
90% of Americans purchased candy for $2.6 billion
75% of Americans purchased décor for $2.7 billion
70% of Americans purchased costumes for $3.2 billion
and 20% of Americans even dressed their pets up.
In September, specialized Halloween only stores pop up across the town, taking over old abandoned locations. Spirit Halloween, a large national chain starts real estate searches in January opening over 1,100 stores across the country. We line up for hours at “haunts” waiting to be scared beyond our imaginations. In 2017 Haunts generated $1.9 billion in sales with over 3,500 locations in America.
Halloween has come a long ways since the days of my youth.
What drives us to celebrate this night with such intensity. 334 days a year Americans avoid spiders and spider webs, yet for the month of October they drape them across their trees and living rooms. Cemeteries are always to be avoided at night but for the month of October are recreated our front yards. Ghosts fly through our trees as witches stir pots of potions in our entries. We scour the web’s specialty costume shops for just the right costume. It has to be authentic, a far cry from the cut up bed sheets of my past. We dress just as the beings that wake us in a cold sweat from our slumber. We dress up as that fighter pilot we secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) fantasize of being. We become that gun slinger we have romanticized of. For one night we become someone else.
What is it about this one night that we celebrate our fears and act out our fantasies? What drives us to find the scariest spook house to be scared out of our minds? What draws us to decorate our homes with the very things we avoid the rest of the year? I’m sure there are psychologist and psychiatrists that have studied Halloween and have found deep-seated psychological needs that drive us to that we avoid for this one night. I don’t know the psychology that drives us and really don’t care. Just sneak up behind me and say “BOO” . It’s Halloween.
There is no one that embodies the Halloween feeling like the actor, Vincent Price. His name alone can cause goose bumps. I am going to let his words close the blog this week.
Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is lose at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood
And whoever shall be found
Without the soul of getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to share your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the Thriller.
Vincent Price from Michael Jackson’s Thriller