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#ConsumerCorner: Halloween - love at first bite... or more like resting witch face?

By SEC Newgate team
24 October 2023
Consumer Industries
Love at first bite…

By Beth Colmer

I LOVE Halloween. Always have. The theatrics, the parties and especially, the costumes. When I was young my sister and I would spend hours after school stitching and sticking our costumes made from cereal boxes and charity shop ‘bits’ in the run-up to the big trick or treat. Sometimes we’d be admired, sometimes we’d be ignored and more than once we’d receive a woeful apple when the sweets had run out. It was a simple and sugar-filled tradition that I now take great delight in celebrating with my own children. 

It’s no secret that Halloween has taken a somewhat American-inspired turn in recent years. The decorations, of which there are now plenty, go up weeks in advance and the dedicated supermarket aisles get bigger each year and now stock Halloween crackers and baubles?!

However, despite Heidi Klum’s admirable efforts (my personal favourite is the year she dressed as a human worm), I disagree wholeheartedly with the approach that anything-fancy-dress is Halloween appropriate. Google Trends Frightgeist recently announced that Barbie has been the most-searched Halloween costume this year in the US. The outrage! This is Hallow’s Eve, for goodness’ sake; the night dead souls will return to their homes and, according to tradition, we are supposed to dress as frightening ghouls to ward them off. Ken and Barbie ain’t going to cut it. The brief is simple – keep it scary, kids.

And for me, that’s where the joy lies – embracing the weird, creative, and macabre for one night only. Over the years, I have dressed as creepy clowns, Cinderella with a glass heel through my temple, I’ve sewn capes, worn a plethora of different coloured contact lenses, dyed my hair devil red and bought far too many bottles of fake blood and sets of vampire teeth. And it’s all been fabulously fun! 

Needless to say, I attack my children’s Halloween outfits with the same tenacity and attempted creativity, without ever buying a ready-made one which would definitely be the simpler choice.

The spiderwebs are already stretched across our porch littered with tiny spiders, the homemade ghosts made from pillowcases are down from the loft and one pumpkin has been carved with at least another three on the way. My five-year-old wants to be a werewolf this year, and despite his pleas for me to "just buy an outfit from the supermarket!", I have bought a cheap wig which I plan to cut up and stick to his face and hands with lashings of white face paint - hopefully, it’ll all come off in time for school otherwise I'll be taking a very small Colonel Sanders in on the 1st of November.

More like resting witch face…

By Anthony Hughes

In the last few weeks, the shops have started to stock the usual Halloween-themed everything and invitations for macabre themed parties have started to roll in, but this year I am going to give it a hard pass. When I was growing up Halloween was lots of fun, dressing up in ghoulish outfits and a vast haul of sweets and chocolate to gorge on for weeks afterwards - what’s not to like. But these days I am older, grumpier and I don’t have children, so the Halloween experience is very different.  

Halloween's origins can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which was held on the 1st of November (in contemporary calendars) to mark the beginning of winter. It was believed that on that day, the souls of the dead returned to their homes, so people dressed in costumes and lit bonfires to ward off spirits or appeased them with offerings of food and drink. 

The Halloween custom of “trick-or-treating” became popular in Canada and the United States in the early 20th century as Irish and Scottish communities revived the old-world customs of “guising,” or “souling” in which people would dress in costume and tell a joke, recite a poem, or perform some other trick in exchange for treats. 

These days Halloween has mutated into a very different affair. Capitalism has firmly stepped in, and it is one now of the biggest holidays for candy sales in the United States, estimated to be more than $3 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Meanwhile in the UK, retail expenditure on Halloween products sat at a whopping £687m last year (2022), with £777m forecast* to be spent in 2023 on ‘spooky’ merch. 

Most modern holiday festivals have the promise of something enjoyable, whatever level of commercial exploitation. Christmas, for me at least, is a chance for some quality time with family and friends, good old-fashioned feasting and a general spirit of peace, goodwill, and generosity to all. Easter has the aforementioned feasting, family time and the promise of spring. Bonfire night has fireworks and unless you are of the canine variety, who doesn’t like fireworks? Halloween in comparison, is an over-hyped, cheap, plastic annoyance. 

"You just need to get into the spirit of it” someone said to me when discussing this article. What spirit would that be? Faux spooky? My last few Halloweens living in central London have involved desperately trying to find a good enough outfit to not be ridiculed at a party I didn’t really want to go to anyway. All the while, my doorbell is rung every five minutes by rude teenagers in horror masks shaking me down for sweets or risk getting egged…or in one case just getting egged (which was actually pretty funny).       

I realise I am swimming against the tide of popular opinion here (as the retail data shows) - but seriously, what is the point of Halloween? It seems to exist for its own sake, or so that retailers can cash-in selling cheap tat which all goes straight in the bin the next day – certainly it has nothing to do with Samhain. 

I know I sound like some kind of Halloween grinch who’s partying days are behind me, but I think Halloween suffers from the same problem as New Year’s Eve - the expectation that it will be ‘really fun’ because it’s supposed to be, which is the death of any party. The reality is, like most New Years, Halloween is an exercise in hyperactive anti-climax with tacky costumes - so it’s a ‘no’ from me.