Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

10-30 Halloween Is Second Biggest Holiday

FRI, 10-30-09

SANTA FE ? Political correctness has not been able to kill Halloween. Despite efforts to portray it as satanic, pagan, religious, frivolous, dangerous, scary or bad for our teeth, Halloween is second only to Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year in terms of sales.
According to a Scripps Howard News Service story from a few years ago, more candy is sold at Halloween than on Valentine's Day and more parties are held than on New Year's Eve. It's hard to believe that a national social chairman somewhere keeps track of how many people have parties on a given night, but it's a pretty safe bet that Halloween wins because New Year's Eve is mainly for adult partying.
Adults do their share of Halloween partying too. The Scripps article says two-thirds of all grownups will celebrate Halloween and half of them will spend more than $100. Much of that adult expenditure may be for the front yard. Halloween displays in many neighborhoods are becoming very elaborate, especially with all the new gadgets now available in stores.
In Santa Fe, I don't see many outdoor Halloween decorations. The big time for outdoor decorations here is at Christmas when houses throughout town are lined with farolitos, or luminarias as they are called in the rest of the world.
We've always tended to stay home on Halloween. It's fun to see the kiddies in their costumes although there certainly aren't as many trick-or-treaters anymore. When I was growing up in Deming, my parents felt it was a good idea to stay home and give out treats in order to avoid the tricks high schoolers used to play. Now, the only high schoolers we usually see are collecting for UNICEF.
Over the years, we have spent a Halloween in the Chicago suburbs and one in Phoenix. In both of those areas, Halloween decorations were everywhere. Our six-year-old grandson in Scottsdale is invited to Halloween parties every night this week.
We haven't spent much time in other New Mexico communities on Halloween so I'm not sure whether house and yard decorations are popular in other areas of the state. It may be that in New Mexico, centuries-old traditions have tended to recognize the night of October 31 as the hallowed evening before All Saints Day.
Actually, adults may be taking Halloween away from kids. Many schools have discontinued Halloween parties because of the fear that cardboard witches are perverting our youth and trick-or-treating is discouraged by warnings that all goodie bags should be taken to the nearest x-ray machine. I have seen claims recently that there is no record of a child ever being injured by Halloween candy. Is it just an urban myth?
It is easy to prevent schools and other government entities from observing tradition. All it takes is for one person to be offended and public agencies back down quickly. Some churches now take offense at Halloween because it either is pagan, satanic or an occult religious festival.
Some schools worry that Halloween celebrations could encourage satanic cults. From what I've seen of student cults, anything as mainstream as Halloween would turn them off. And people who view themselves as witches don't appreciate the way we portray them on Halloween.
Halloween really isn't much of a religious observance. The eve of All Saints Day is said to have its roots among the Druids, but in America the day has been claimed by decoration companies and costume manufacturers for a giant national costume party.
Why is Halloween so popular? Could it be we like to be scared? Do we have a fascination with the macabre? That could explain why pre-teen boys love the goriest of costumes. Or maybe it's because we Americans like to have fun. That might explain why some of the most popular masks are representations of past and present political figures. Reportedly one of this year's favorites for adults is the Bernie Madoff mask.



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