As Halloween is fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to dive into some of the good and bad aspects of the holiday, the treats and tricks if you will. Starting with the treats, Halloween is a fantastic holiday for community building. More and more, our lives are increasingly isolated and secluded from the people that live around us. On Halloween, the community is open to everyone. Additionally, Halloween encourages us to think about and to care for others, in this case, children. We all collectively distribute candy and other various gifts to the children of the community. We are choosing to give away food to the children of the community for no cost to the consumers (children). In our highly market-dominated world, this is a rather rare situation. I don’t think we really appreciate just how bizarre and unprecedented that is in our present-day capitalist and consumerist world.
But of course, Halloween isn’t just a holiday for children. Halloween provides a much-needed break and opportunity for fun for the adults. In the United States, the average private-sector worker has 16 days of paid vacation. In Europe, the European Union requires each member country to legally require four workweeks of paid vacation to all employees. Most European countries give 30 days of paid vacation. Even though Americans still have to work on this holiday, it is still a break and time for fun nonetheless.
Finally, Halloween provides an opportunity for us all to use our imaginations and experience escapism. Unfortunately, the reality of much of our lives is mundane and frustrating. Especially in our current political climate. Halloween provides an opportunity to escape all that and be something else. Much of our society tells us to repress our feelings and imagination. Halloween gives us a chance to indulge in our imagination for a little while.
As with all things, there is also a bad side to Halloween. Halloween has some tricks up its sleeve. As I mentioned earlier, we live in a capitalist and consumerist world. Capitalism and consumerism have managed to worm their way into and corrupt much of this holiday like with all holidays. Halloween candy is sold earlier and earlier every year and is more and more gimmicky. Kids and parents are encouraged to buy the best and trendiest costumes. Children who do not have the nicest costumes, have their costumes homemade or have to reuse a previously worn costume are often looked down on and judged. Like all the other holidays, Halloween becomes an opportunity for companies to sell as much as possible and convince you that you will not be happy if you do not buy as much as possible.
Likewise, Halloween has fundamentally shaped the modern movie industry. Every year there are some sort of unoriginal copy/paste horror movies. The greatest example of this phenomenon is the “Halloween” movie franchise. To date, there have been eleven movies released in the franchise, and another two are already planned for release in 2021 and 2022. The “Saw” movie franchise has eight movies in total with another one planned for 2021. The “Paranormal Activity” movie franchise has six movies in total with another one set for 2022. The list goes on and on. Capitalism has caused Halloween to inadvertently stifle creativity in the horror genre.
On a seemingly unrelated note, Halloween is partially and indirectly responsible for daylight saving time continuing in the United States. Candy companies have repeatedly spent significant money on lobbying to convince politicians to keep daylight saving time. This is because they believe that extra hour of daylight will lead to an extra hour of trick-or-treating and therefore more profits for them in the long run. They’re not the only industry interested in keeping Daylight Saving Time around, but they are the only industry involved that is related to Halloween.
In regards to costumes, Halloween can be an opportunity for socially accepted discriminatory behavior, most notably cultural appropriation. Some Halloween costumes sold and worn by people are blatantly based on cultural and/or racial stereotypes and are therefore damaging to the image, respect, and acceptance of people belonging to these cultural and racial groups. There has fortunately been some push back in recent years against the practice of cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes, but the problem still remains.
Overall, Halloween is a great holiday that encourages us to be kind to children, have some fun outside of work, and use our imaginations. There are some unfortunate problems working their way into the holiday, but they shouldn’t ruin the holiday for us. Rather, we should seek to address and correct these problems to make the holiday better for everyone.