October 31, 2006

Americans Spend Lots on Halloween

Print More

Americans are estimated to spend a whopping $5 billion on Halloween this year, up considerably from the $3.29 billion spent in 2005. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) survey, 63.8 percent of American consumers will be celebrating Halloween this year, a significant increase from the 52.5 percent who celebrated last year. The spending increase is largely due to a surge in celebrating.

“Other holidays have become less important. Halloween is the exception. It has become more important,” said Howard Davidowitz, president of retail consulting firm Davidowitz and Associates, as he explained to CNN Money.
Halloween is quickly catching up to other commercially-celebrated holidays and becoming one of the most lucrative days of the year, only immensely surpassed by the $436 billion spent on the winter holidays.

Consumers spend approximately $1.5 billion on costumes every year. The average household is likely to spend about $30 per child on costumes and about $20 on assorted candy; however, children are not the only ones who enjoy Halloween. The average adult spends $49.95 on a costume and many spend as much as $100 for the popular Batman and Superman costumes of the season.
In addition to $1.5 billion spent on costumes, Americans also spend almost $490 million on decorations.

Wal-Mart spokesperson Tom Williams said, “People are slapping down $40 for 8-foot inflatable pumpkins, and other decorations like flaming cauldrons, more than they have in the past.” Other Halloween superstores have reported that people will pay as much as $250 for an animated flying bat, which sells out every year.

Despite Halloween being stereotyped as a holiday mainly celebrated by children and families, NRF surveys have reported that 85.3 percent of young adults, ages 18-24, will be celebrating Halloween this year, a notable increase from the 66 percent who celebrated it last year.

Cornell students are definitely among that 85 percent. This past weekend, practically all the Halloween fraternity parties were filled to capacity, even early in the night. Several sources reported that fraternities spent between $1,000 and $3,000 on their Halloween parties.

Although many students try to put together their own costumes, others go out and purchase extravagant costumes. The temporary Halloween store in Pyramid Mall was left bare after mobs of Cornell students and Ithaca residents stormed it this past weekend. Some sororities even spent as much as $50 on Halloween costumes to ensure that everyone in their house would be well dressed and coordinated. The top Halloween costumes of the year include witches, pirates, vampires, and of course super heroes.

Although Americans spend a fortune on Halloween every year, a few questions remain. Is the average American familiar with the history of Halloween? Can the average American even tell you why we celebrate Halloween?

Halloween originated from the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), over 2,000 years ago. The Celts inhabited the land, which is today known as Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France. Samhain is the beginning of the dark, cold, winter season that is usually associated with death. The Celts celebrated Samhain as the last night before their New Year. They believed that on this night, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.

According to history.com, on Oct. 31, the ghosts of the dead return to wander the earth. Samhain was a night where the veil between the worlds was lifted, a perfect time for divination.

On this night, crowds would gather and make huge bonfires as Celtic priests gazed into the fire to make predictions. These sacred fires were composed of offerings of burned crops and animals as sacrifices to Celtic deities. The Celts wore costumes made from animal skins as they danced and chanted around the fire, hoping to get a glimpse into their futures. Because of these slaughters, the symbols of skeletons and death became associated with a more
modern Halloween.

Since the Celts believed that both good and bad spirits wandered the earth on this night, people were afraid to leave their homes. In order to avoid being recognized by ghosts, people dressed up in ghoulish masks and costumes, in hopes of tricking the ghosts into seeing them as fellow spirits. Today’s tradition of dressing up originated from this custom. People would also leave food outside their homes for the spirits, hoping to appease them and prevent them from entering their houses.

In medieval times, multitudes of young men would dress up and parade to different homes, demanding beer and munchies in exchange for a performance. It was believed that if one was stingy on Samhain, bad luck would soon cross their path. Inebriated young men would sometimes also come back and play tricks on the houses of people who were stingy to them. The modern tradition of trick-or-treating evolved from this medieval practice.
While the boys were out parading, young girls would get together and do different types of apple magic in hopes of finding out their future husbands’ names. Some believe that this popular apple magic is how the tradition of bobbing for apples came to be.

Samhain is celebrated differently than the modern Halloween, but it is still interesting to see how ancient elements of pagan folklore have combined with modern elements to give us the captivating holiday of Halloween, which is celebrated and loved today.