Record Halloween spending predicted

Scary business: America will spend a record $9.1 billion on Halloween this year

Have we forgotten why we celebrate Halloween? Many think it is an excuse to spend money, dress up and eat sweets. But historians know there are other, more interesting reasons we celebrate.

What’s happening

Historians know that we celebrate October 31st because it falls on the ancient festival of Samhain. Another old Pagan tale tells of “All Hallows’ Eve”, a time when the veil between the living and dead is at its thinnest. Are these stories why we dress up, or have we forgotten our history?

Find out more

The Pagan story is scary. The living must dress as ghosts on All Hallows’ Eve. This tricks the ghosts who pass from the land of the dead and want to steal you, taking you back. If your costume gives you away your best bet is to hand them something sweet.

It is not the first time in history humans have found excuses to dress up together for fun.

From carnival in the medieval times, masquerades of the 14th century to the fancy dress parties encouraged by Queen Victoria. Humans love to dress up.

There is a lot of money to be made from these events. The UK spends millions of pounds every year on Halloween. Turn on a TV in October and you will see many spooky Halloween themed adverts from shops or supermarkets.

Does Halloween mean anything anymore?

Some say…

“Halloween has been lost!” say some. At best it is a chance to dress up with friends but at worst it is a money making scam. As with many other historical festivals (Christmas, for example) it has been transformed for the worse. No one thinks about the true significance anymore. Retailers have sadly convinced us to think it is all about spending money.

Others think…

“Like carnivals were to Medieval society, Halloween is important!” say others. Barbara Ehrenreich believes we dress up and celebrate together because it is in our nature. She is right. Pretending to be someone else for a day gives us a chance to go wild before returning to a normal life. We may learn things about ourselves, or others, in the process.

You Decide

  1. Is Halloween a money making scam or an important festival?

Activities

  1. Plan your very own Halloween-themed Medieval carnival in your class. What costumes and masks would you wear? What food would you eat? What games would you play?

Some People Say...

“Halloween is a waste of time and money.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

Samhain
A festival that was part of an ancient Celtic religion followed in parts of Europe.
Pagan
An ancient religion that predates Christianity.
Carnival
A day when the world would be turned on its head. A chance to make a fool out of famous or powerful people, wear masks and get up to mischief. Usually ending in the crowning of a “King of Fools”.
Masquerades
Where people would attend a party wearing a mask.
Barbara Ehrenreich
The author of Dancing in the Streets: A history of collective joy which is all about celebrations throughout history. (Metropolitan Books; 2007)
Retailers
Businesses which sell goods.

Subjects

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