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I have been thinking much about the aesthetics of the Gothic as Halloween approaches. As I coast into my 55th year, I continue to be amazed at how adults have successfully co-opted the holiday. When I was a boy, Halloween was primarily a children’s holiday, and when most adults thought about it (if they did at all), it was as a nuisance.
All of that has changed. For 2017, the National Retail Foundation (NRF) predicts that 69.1 percent of Americans will celebrate the Halloween holiday this year. To do so, they will spend $8.4 billion (billion!) – with 44.4 percent of them starting their Halloween observance in the first two weeks of October.
This figure has been steadily increasing; for 2007, for instance, Halloween spending was “only” $5.1 billion. This year, we will spend more than $350 million on costumes … for our pets.
People of my generation remember that Halloween was quite a big deal to us as children, but we were mostly on our own. Halloween costumes from the Ben Cooper company arrived in October, along with some plastic pumpkin satchels and some cardboard window decorations – and that was it. Today, each and every retail store (from card shops to food stores) has some kind of Halloween selection. The broad array of choice and quality in Halloween products is remarkable. These include candelabrum, snow globes, coffin-shaped jewelry boxes, plaster gargoyles and gnomes, monster bookends, dining and bedroom sundries, let alone more perishable items, like black plastic curtains and crepe paper wall coverings. If anyone were seriously interested in spooky décor, one could furnish their home during the Halloween season and be set for the year.
We here at The Jade Sphinx love Halloween, of course. But the co-opting of the holiday by adults seems to hit a discordant note. Much like the vulgarization of classic children’s properties like Peter Rabbit, the infantilized adults we have become continue to pollute things ideally left for children.
It seems as if we are hell-bent on ruining all the great rituals of childhood because … we, as a culture, seem incapable of growing up ourselves.