The Halloween-Industrial Complex by
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(236 Stories)

Prompted By Trick or Treat?

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One grandson is a tiger (left) and another is the guy with the black mask

When did Halloween evolve into such a huge deal? I have a hard time remembering much about Halloween from my childhood. Perhaps that’s because I am trying to recall memories from 65 years ago. Once, I asked my mother what costumes I wore for Halloween, and she informed me that it really wasn’t that important when I was a kid. In fact, she didn’t think I went trick or treating until we moved to the suburbs in the 1952.

I do remember my younger brothers dressing up as … hobos. How’s that for politically incorrect and a total throw back to another era? I doubt kids today have ever heard that word, which is a good thing. My mother would make mustaches for them with blackened cork and tie a bandana filled with newspaper to a stick. I’m pretty sure I went with them as babysitter, which was no costume at all. I did host one Halloween party as a teen and remember dressing as a doll. No comments please. Those were different times.

Generic Bears player, skating dress with bunny ears added, skating costume — so easy

By the time I had three kids of my own, Halloween was a holiday that required costumes and mandatory trick or treating. Luckily for me, the costumes didn’t have to be elaborate. Plastic ones were all the rage. I think my son went as a generic Chicago Bears player for multiple years. Just a jersey and helmet – so simple. My daughters were figure skaters and, being a practical mom, they repurposed costumes from prior ice shows.

We decorated our house by carving one pumpkin and putting it in the front window, lit with a candle. My kids got to wear their costumes to school, at least when they were younger. And they went trick or treating to neighbors’ homes. That was it. The whole thing took up a day to choose the costume (except for my son – he didn’t even have to think about it) and a day to carve the pumpkin.

Fast forward to my grandkids’ generation. Halloween is quite a production. Costumes need to be considered months ahead and ordered online if there is not an acceptable one at Target or a Halloween store. Plastic is out, and my grandsons would never be happy being a generic anything. So, this year, we will have a ninja or two, Harry Potter, Glinda from Wicked, and others that could be described as simply creepy. My kids don’t spend a fortune on these (they easily could), but the planning consumes a lot of time.

She’s a lot cuter most days

 

Not sure who she was supposed to be but the quote is great.

 

Batman? and Harry Potter

Then there is the issue of decorating the house and carving the pumpkin. Driving down one of my daughter’s blocks, I see every house decked out with spider webs, spiders, skeletons, a few witches (LOL – shouldn’t they be called Wiccans these days?), ghosts, scarecrows, graves, and other creepy creatures. The Halloween-Industrial Complex must be in seventh heaven. And one pumpkin is no longer enough. Each home is graced with several and some are decorated with spray paint, elaborate designs, and intricate carvings. You can Google this or look on Pinterest or YouTube for thousands of ideas.

Getting the porch ready

Then there’s trick or treating, which used to be pretty simple. You got a lot of candy and you ate it. But now it’s hard to decide if it’s safe to take candy from folks you don’t know. And you rarely see kids going from house to house without parents accompanying them. So even this aspect of Halloween has become more complicated.

Trick or treat? I’ll claim the girl in red

There’s a part of me that loves Halloween. Every year, I want photos of my grandkids in their costumes. They look so cute. But part of me wishes Halloween were less demanding of my kids’ limited time. And another part of me wishes that Halloween, like every major holiday, was a bit less commercialized and costly.

Do I sound like the Halloween Grinch? Well, that’s who I am when a simple children’s holiday has become another opportunity for stores to sell outrageous amounts of merchandise to children and now to adults as well. Halloween has become an expensive excuse for bad taste, excessive partying, and competition to produce the coolest costume. Here’s to remembering simpler times when the only controversy surrounding Halloween was if your parents let you horde your candy or made you eat it quickly to get it over with. Trick or treat!

I have to admit they were pretty cute.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I think you assessment is accurate, Laurie. I did a lot trick-or-treating in Detroit, usually wearing a kimono that my aunt brought me back from Japan when I was a little girl. Once we moved to Huntington Woods, just before I turned 11, I don’t remember going out again. Perhaps I was too old.

    When my kids were old enough, I bought costumes for them and I took them out when they were young. As they grew older, they went with friends, but did dress up in school that day and had a Halloween parade in elementary school. There has been a lot of chat in the papers (and on Facebook) about that lately – about the pressure and basic unfairness of the dressing up. The costumes are too expensive and elaborate and one town in MA has banned the practice (the superintendent has been ridiculed in the press, but not by knowledgeable teachers who used their own money to buy costumes for some of their students).

    Your last photo of the kids in costume is adorable!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Do you remember Devils’ Night in Detroit? That was a fine tradition. While my kids and grandkids do go to school in costume, I agree with downplaying it in public schools. While some kids can afford very fancy costumes, others cannot. And there are actually religions/cultures that don’t celebrate it. I think it belongs in neighborhoods and at parties.

  2. Yes Laurie, like everything it seems Halloween has become big biz with Halloween stores popping up every year pulling in the profits.

    But I’m glad to see kids still having fun in these not so funny times!

  3. John Shutkin says:

    You hit on a theme that others of us have also talked about here, Laurie, and captured it beautifully and with a perfect title. (Too bad Ike didn’t warn us about this one, too.) I guess we are all grinches now, but simpler, less commercial and a lot less expensive are all just memories now.

    That said, these are all fantastic pictures of kids who obviously took their costuming duties very, sery seriously. Thanks so much for sharing them!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, John. I don’t think this commercialism had started when Ike was around. Halloween also had a nasty component in the Detroit are where I grew up. The night before was Devils’ Night, an invitation to mayhem, setting fires, and lots of destruction. Not so sweet.

  4. Suzy says:

    You make some good points, Laurie, but I am still a fan of Halloween. Dressing up in costume is so much fun, for children and adults as well. My kids also did it for Purim, of course, so those were their two favorite holidays of the year. I agree that the commercialism is annoying, but the stores do that with every holiday, even the 4th of July. As soon as the Halloween merchandise is moved out, the Thanksgiving AND Christmas merchandise will overrun the stores. It’s unavoidable.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    I also remember lots of hobos back in the day—an easy costume. We also had gypsies—just as clueless a choice in retrospect. You can tell from the comments you are not the only grinch. I also agree that the pictures (especially the little chicken!) are really cute!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Khati, that little chicken wore the costume for a year and became a major lover of dressing up and Halloween. She evolved into the girl decorating her porch with skeletons and the red witch in the group photo of middle school trick or treaters. (I think that was actually a Marvel character but don’t know her name). I know she has something special planned for tonight, but it’s top secret so I will have to see. The best part is she creates all of this on her own.

  6. Marian says:

    Perfect pictures and story, Laurie, you’ve said it so well. In New Jersey, we called Devil’s Night “Mischief Night,” and it was, with egg throwing and TP.

  7. Great comment about the need to make ground rules fore consumption–or not. I always gave our son till the end of November; there was still some left1 I had to remind him all through the month to eat some. He just liked collecting it, not eating it.
    I really enjoyed your reminiscences. And as for the caption that says your granddaughter is usually cuter? Really? Could a kid BE any cuter than that!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Dale. As you can tell, I have a love/hate relationship with aspects of Halloween. My Indiana grandkids usually get a huge combined haul of candy. There’s a lot of trading and consuming going on there for a few weeks.

  8. Dave Ventre says:

    We also called the “hobo” costume “Wino” or “Bum.” Never did one myself; my costumes were a matter of pride for me!

  9. Risa Nye says:

    Well said, Laurie! It is a shame that things have gotten out of hand around this holiday. I love seeing kids in costumes having fun on the one night a year they can go out and get candy from strangers with parental approval and supervision! My kids put a lot of effort into coming up with creative ideas, but then they all ended up doing theater for years, so it was good training I guess. Thanks for sharing your memories here.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I have to admit I still got a kick out of my grandkids’ costumes, although in some cases I had no idea what they were. Example, an anime character or something from Squid Game. I did get Glinda, the ninjas, and the Marvel superheroes, but I guess I’m older and more removed from popular culture than I used to be.

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