I Really Don't Understand Halloween Mania
Not that there's anything wrong with Halloween. But the way some people plunge into it now strikes me as a little crazy.
A couple of blocks away from my house there's a yard which features a werewolf sort of thing that must be eight feet tall. And a life-sized witch, and a few other things which I haven't gotten close enough to identify. At night there's a lot of spooky purple lighting.
This is not so very unusual. But what is unusual is that this display has been up for at least two weeks: i.e., it went up in mid-September. When I first saw it I had a moment of confusion about the date of Halloween: wait, Halloween is at the end of October, right? Is it at the beginning? Am I forgetting what month we're in now? By the time Halloween actually arrives, these props will have been in place for a month and a half.
This seems to be a relatively new thing. I knew a family back in the '90s who went to a huge amount of trouble and expense to decorate their house for Halloween. As far as I recall that was the first time I ever encountered that kind of zeal. Since I grew up in the country I may have missed some of it, but I really don't think many people in the '60s or for the next decade or two went in for it with this kind of zeal. I don't remember it happening where I lived in the '80s but maybe I've just forgotten, or didn't pay attention.
In general Halloween seems to have become a major thing for a lot of people, which must surely have some social significance, but I don't know what it is.
When I was a kid we really looked forward to Halloween because the police chief of North Miami and his family lived about a block away and each year he would put on an ape suit and be chained in his front yard. In order to get candy you had to go through him and enter the porch area where his wife would be dressed like a witch and have a bowl in her lap. As a young kid this was all very disconcerting, and I remember saying the chief's name (Mr. something, can't remember now - Pinkston maybe?), but of course he did not break character. It was quite scary/thrilling at the same time. This would have been in the 70s.
But regardless of that old memory, now as an adult I really don't "get" the appeal of Halloween, and have not dressed in a costume since being a child. Like so many other things I don't understand: tattoos, rap music, reality TV, the list goes on. It's terrible to be an old fuddy duddy. LOL
Posted by: Stu | 09/27/2022 at 07:03 AM
:-) I guess there's a definite grumpy old man flavor about this post. I don't get any of those things either...well, rap, a little, I guess.
After I had posted this I remembered that when I was in grade school or junior high, i.e. no later than the early '60s, my school had a Halloween festival of some kind that involved setting up one classroom as a haunted house. So the basic thing probably has been around for longer than I recalled. Still...mid-September?!?
Posted by: Mac | 09/27/2022 at 08:33 AM
...and of course I cannot help but think of one of your former employees and the costumes she would wear on Halloween (huge guffaw)!
Posted by: Stu | 09/27/2022 at 10:49 AM
Oh lord...that's a painful memory....
Posted by: Mac | 09/27/2022 at 11:08 AM
I actually have a theory of why Hallowee'en has risen in popularity, especially among adults.
1) As a holiday, it's politically non-controversial.
2) Except for a tiny minority of people, it's religiously non-controversial.
Hence, it can be celebrated with large numbers of people with a low risk of causing offence.
3) It involves costumes, which is fun.
3b) This gives people the chance to indulge their taste for sleaze and/or gruesomeness.
4) The marketers of decorations, dishes, linens, etc. have discovered it.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | 09/27/2022 at 02:52 PM
I think Halloween took a turn in the 80s that was a result of the rise in popularity of horror/slasher films, and it's only gotten worse since. When I was a kid in the late 60s/early 70s we had a lot of fun with Halloween, the decorating, the costumes, etc., but it was nowhere near as "manic" as it is today, and neither did it have the strong horrific side. There's an element of violence in it that simply wasn't present back then. Also back in the day it was seen as primarily a kid's holiday. Nowadays a lot of adults seem just as much into it as the kids are.
And yeah, September is ridiculous. But then, Christmas stuff is already starting to show up in stores now, so the whole flippin' thing is insane. It's basically all about $$$ now all the way down.
Posted by: Rob G | 09/27/2022 at 03:35 PM
Later in the day, after I had posted this, I was in Lowe's, and the first thing I saw was a gigantic display of really crummy-looking Christmas decorations--snowmen, trees, etc. I remember when it didn't start till after Halloween, and even further back, when it didn't start or least didn't really get going till after Thanksgiving.
I think all the reasons the two of you give are contributing factors. I suspect, too--and maybe this is paranoia--that there is somewhere under there an anti-Christian sentiment. The day is almost totally severed from its Christian context, and is consciously a pagan celebration in some quarters. The "it's really a pagan festival that Christians appropriated" view gets a lot more purchase in the historically Protestant countries, since Protestants don't do saints anyway, not like Catholic and Orthodox do. Not to say that the connection to Samhain etc is altogether invalid, but the debunkers certainly overdo that sort of thing.
Posted by: Mac | 09/27/2022 at 04:55 PM
Somewhere there is a picture of me in what is intended to be a wizard costume. Halloween ca 1984. Actually I hope it's been lost.
Posted by: Mac | 09/27/2022 at 04:56 PM
"there is somewhere under there an anti-Christian sentiment"
Among some people that's undoubtedly true, but for others it seems to be a simple acquiescence to commercialism. One of the interesting things I've noticed in the last couple years has been the increasing presence of the use of both trees and outdoor lights for other "holidays" -- people now have "Halloween trees" and "Valentine's Day trees," for example, and put up lighting in colors that go with those particular days. This has the dual result of the downplaying of Christmas and the increase in commercialization of all the "holidays," Christmas included. As in so many other areas, we are being suckered and don't realize it.
Of course, the anti-Christian sentiment you mention and the rampant commercialization can exist quite happily together. The realization of this is to me what makes voices like Kingsnorth's and Berry's so important.
Posted by: Rob G | 09/28/2022 at 05:41 AM
Mardi Gras trees...
Posted by: Stu | 09/28/2022 at 08:26 AM
Yeah, I thought of that immediately.
I probably underestimate the influence of commercialism, because it doesn't work on me at all. In fact has the opposite effect.
Posted by: Mac | 09/28/2022 at 09:47 AM
Commercialism is helped along not so much by anti-Christian sentiment as by the decline of Christian practice. In 2022, several Mardi Gras celebrations, including Rio's Carnaval, were postponed due to Covid. If it were still an actual Christian event, it would be unthinkable to reschedule it to the Easter season, let alone to a week in Lent.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | 09/30/2022 at 07:36 PM
In Lent?!? I’m mildly shocked. Sigh.
Posted by: Mac | 09/30/2022 at 10:17 PM
Over the weekend I actually saw a house where the owners have started with the Christmas decorating while the Halloween decorations are still up.
Posted by: Rob G | 10/27/2022 at 05:59 AM
Posted by: Mac | 10/28/2022 at 11:08 AM
My next-door neighbors leave some of their Christmas decorations up all year. Right now they have a mixture of Christmas lights and orange ones, and one little tinsel sleigh is tucked under the roof eave, surrounded by a forest of skeletons, ghosts, witches, clowns, scarecrows, and giant pieces of candy corn. Although a couple of the items are individually creepy, the randomness and enthusiasm make the overall effect kind of charming.
Posted by: Anne-Marie | 10/31/2022 at 12:07 PM