Finding My Way to a Scary Halloween
When I started my Halloween collection of books, movies, and memorabilia, I realized how difficult it was to find good quality Halloween stuff. There are hundreds of holiday websites but few stood out as a noteworthy source, and most peddle really junky products. The quest to create the ultimate resource for everything Halloween begun and the result is this ever-growing site, MyScaryHalloween.com. The best part of this ongoing experience is discovering how many people love and “live” Halloween every day of the year.
Many people think Halloween is merely a children's holiday, and who can blame them. The costumes, the candy, the trick 'r treating are all geared towards the lil' ones, but it's just as much fun for the adults. Maybe it's the nostalgia of reliving their childhood, or a distant memory of a crazy college party but Halloween definitely evokes a strong following – whether adults want admit it or not. Yet, once you start studying the origins of Halloween, a very questionable history emerges. Many parents would shudder at the thought that this holiday once involved sacrificing people and animals in huge bonfires, or that teenagers used to terrorized townsfolk with property-damaging pranks that were often punished by death or amputation! It certainly doesn't seem like the sanitized version of the holiday we celebrate today.
Halloween at Retail, at Home, and on the Lawn
Halloween is now the second-most profitable holiday and retailers have made it a $6 billion industry (some estimates put it up as high as $8-$10 billion). While candy and costumes are the bread and butter of the holiday, retail stores are seizing the opportunity to serve adults who also love spooky stuff. National stores like Target, Michaels, Pottery Barn, and Lowes offer upscale Halloween products for the refined consumer. How about a black glittered resin skull, or bats with dip-dyed ostrich feathers? Perhaps a black chandelier for a gothic dining room? And just like Christmas, the dark holiday gets a head start with a “retail season” that creeps in as early as July! By late-August when the kids are back in school, many stores have their shelves fully stocked with must-have Halloween products!
Decorating the lawn with tombstones and zombies is proliferating at a wonderfully alarming pace, sometimes making the overdone Christmas lights seem so demure. Halloween enthusiasts call themselves "Yard Haunters" and every neighborhood has at least one good house where kids flock to the creepy fog and scary ghouls. When asked why they go through the effort and expense of putting up these elaborate displays, most yard hunters are at a loss for words. Eventually they say, "It's fun." Luckily, I live in a very spirited neighborhood and last year alone, we had over 300 trick r' treaters, from babies in strollers entranced by the lights, to toddlers too afraid to climb the stairs to claim their candy, to high school seniors out for one last go-round before adulthood. Everyone did seem to be having fun.
Why Celebrate Halloween?
Halloween IS just plain fun: candy, costumes, decorations, horror movies and haunted houses. It's one of the few holidays that is not based on religion or government, but rather a cultural holiday that evolved from many traditions across the world, from the pagan Samhain festivals to the Christian All Saints Day celebrations. The Halloween we know today is also a very American holiday that is slowly making it's way around the globe.
This darkest night of the year also beckons us to be scared, and being scared has many positive effects. When you are scared, adrenalin is released, your heart rate increases, and your body gets a little cardiovascular workout. Being scared also reduces stress (just like laughing reduces stress), and by "surviving" a little fright, you can achieve the ultimate satisfaction of overcoming anxiety and maybe even cheating death. It's all very empowering.
"We build up tension in our lives and we need a way to release it," says San Francisco State University professor Jeff Leroux. "Being scared or scaring others is a way to release that tension. Especially around Halloween you see people testing their boundaries of fear. The further those boundaries are pushed, the greater the payoff." (Oakland Tribune, 10/26/05)
All the better reason to ensure that your Halloween is a scary Halloween. Browse the site, get a few ideas, use it as a jumping off point, and then... celebrate. You don't have be a fanatic to be a fan, just start one small tradition. Even something simple, like a glowing, sinister jack o' lantern will do the trick. Whatever you choose, we hope MyScaryHalloween.com will inspire you to make this a very haunted holiday.