/ Money, Shopping

Consumerism is suffocating Halloween

Halloween pumkins

Halloween spending has rocketed in the UK. And though we’re not on a par with America, our high streets are more reliant on the holiday every year. Is consumerism ripping the barely beating heart out of Halloween?

Witches on broomsticks and facemasks on Britton’s, bright orange pumpkins and blood thirsty… kittens.

Ok, my rhyming dictionary has failed me there. But what I’m trying to say is that these are a few of my favourite Halloween things.

A traditional British festival

I’ve always liked Halloween – a British Celtic festival that many feel has been bastardised by America. However, when I lived in Scotland as a wee nipper, Halloween was a huge event.

In England the whole holiday seems to be an excuse for children to gobble up free sweets, but in the Highlands people of all ages would jump head first into ghoulish activities. And there wouldn’t be any free sweets for your trick-or-treating. You’d have to earn teeth rotters by performing a ‘wee turn’ – a poem or song etc.

I’d say the Scottish Halloweens of my past approached the feverishness of America, which is undoubtedly the country that takes the biggest bite out of this horrific holiday. The US is expected to spend £3.7 billion pounds on Halloween this year, that’s almost £12 for every person. This compares to just £4.50 a head in the UK.

Has Halloween consumerism gone batty?

But not so fast! Are you finding it difficult to avoid pumpkins, toffee apples and ghastly costumes this year? Well, that’s because Britain’s Halloween spending has risen from a measly £12m in 2001 to a frightful £280m expected for 2010. That’s a gruesome 23-fold increase.

Not only that but spookily we’re spending twice as much on pumpkins as two years ago. In Waitrose alone they’ve sold, terrifyingly, 676% more large pumpkins than last year.

Now before I try even harder to inject rubbish Halloween adjectives into the remainder of this Conversation, how do you feel about the growth of this festival? For some retailers it’s their third biggest money-spinning event on the calendar, only behind Christmas and Easter.

Are we approaching a time when we’ll build-up to Halloween over weeks, rather than days? Is Guy Fawkes and bonfire night being suffocated by the consumerist Americanisation of October 31st? Are retailers ramming it down our throats whether we like it or not? I don’t have the answers, but I am looking forward to my horrifying Halloween house party.

pickle says:
31 October 2010

Yes – it’s like Christmas – the only saving grace is that merchants and some shopkeepers make money for themselves. The whole thing is overdone – the Victorians did it in a more gentle way without all the commercialism.

Yeah but we love a bit of consumerism don’t we! Nothing like a bit of a festive spend! If we didn’t like it, we wouldn’t be spending money on it and the spending wouldn’t have increased so dramatically in the last 10 years. Yes its in our face but at the end of the day we choose how we spend our money!

£4.50 per head sounds like a pretty cheap bit of fun! When my children were small we really enjoyed our Halloween celebrations – nothing to do with America – just traditional dressingup, apple bobbing, ghoulish games and special food – a great excuse for a party!

Robert Smith says:
31 October 2010

That bloody ET has a lot to answer for. Before that film it was not really known in this country and then suddenly the big greedy supermarket chains saw another excuse to squeeze a few more pips from the sad average mum and dad.
Ask the bog standard halloweener [or their carer] what halloween is all about or for and they will look at you as though you are stupid. They haven’t a clue except as another reason to go begging.
Far better to wait another week so as to burn a catholic efigy

Where I live, Hallowe’en has changed over the last few years. Then it was several “trick or treats” followed by gangs of youths running riot egging properties and spraying cars with shaving foam. This year we had just the one “trick or treat”, and so far the local police crackdown on mindless criminal damage seems to have worked.

This is not a British custom, it’s an American import, that has been subverted by the yob culture. We would be better off without it. Long live Guy Fawkes Night. Now there’s a genuine British custom.

dynmarw says:
29 November 2010

I would have advised a little research prior to your posting as it only serves to demonstrate your lack of historical general knowledge. Hallowe’en, based on the previous, anceint Celtic festival of Samhain is indeed genuinely British, in fact it is the oldest, continuoisly celebreated British festival. The Americans may have inspired the modern face of Hallowe’en but they do not own it, it is in fact ours. Guy Fawkes may well be genuinely British but it also incorporates the fire festivals of the Celtic Samhain feast.

It is ignorance of the roots of Samhain that serves to prove that the British themselves are resposnible for the loss of their culture, for one simple reason, the majority do not even know their own history.

Whatever you say about Americans commercialising everything and anything in sight I guess on the other hand people are out enjoying themselves and having some fun and if some shops make some money, is that a bad thing, especially right now? No one’s forcing the hand of the consumer.

There will always be some misery-guts moaning about teenagers knocking on doors but I think, as nedsram points out, that phase seems to have long since ended. In our Close the kids only knock on the doors of homes of people they know and they’re always with their parents. It reinforces the strong neighbourhood spirit (sorry, had to get one pun in) we have and that’s not a bad thing either. It’s just a laugh.

Sophie Gilbert says:
1 November 2010

I agree with Pickle. Halloween is overdone, just like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter. With perhaps the odd exception here and there, people are manipulated more than they realise into spending more money than they should.

I think the Americans have got the right idea when it comes to Halloween. It’s not just for the kids out there. In fact, my American sister-in-law says it’s her favourite festival. She starts decorating her flat with witches and pumpkins on the first weekend in October.
Halloween costume parties in the US are not just about dressing up as a ghost or a zombie either. In fact, you’re seen to be a cop-out if you do.
Everyone competes to come up with the most clever costume ideas. Someone I know dressed up as a Freudian Slip one year! Much more inventive than a bit of blood and white face make up.