Far back in ancient times, the Druids and wizards of the Celtic region held an annual drunken orgy and harvest festival on Oct. 31. Coincidentally, many years later, owing in large part to the Catholic Church, on Nov. 1, Christians began observing All Saints Day or All Hallow’s Day. Apparently, when the early Christians stumbled across the Celtic festival they were quite impressed, so the Church usurped and canonized that evening, christening it All Hallow’s Eve. Over time, it was contracted into Halloween and today it’s celebrated in many countries and cultures all over the world. Since it has pagan roots, some modern churches and denominations – not the most enlightened ones, I assure you – condemn the day’s merriment and mirth as satanic.
According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween has now surpassed Mother’s Day, Easter and Valentines Day to generate more commercial revenue than any other day of the year, except Christmas. Indeed, last year Americans spent more than $2.5 billion on Halloween and it isn’t even an official holiday.
Once upon a time, it was merely an evening set aside for children to go trick-or-treating. I was about 5 years old when my mother accompanied her little Batman through the neighborhood and I was quite disappointed when my Batman insignia didn’t project off my flashlight like it did in comic books. A few years later, my peers and I were on our own, so we ventured a couple of blocks further down the street, visiting the homes of people we didn’t know. A few years after that I suddenly realized I didn’t look anything like Batman and the entire evening seemed silly and immature.
But then, believe it or not, a few more years passed and the festival started to look quite appealing again.
Today, it’s sometimes a week-long celebration that adults have co-opted and there may not be a child anywhere in sight. Sixty-five percent of Halloween costumes are now sold to adults. (Cleopatra is the most popular costume for women; Dracula for men.) It’s not unusual to attend local “block parties” in which entire neighborhoods are turned into “spooky” places. Some individuals spend several hundred dollars decorating their homes and invite the entire town to enjoy the results.
Early in the evening, Cole Street businesses welcome a bunch of pint-sized superheroes, goblins and fairy princesses who dart excitedly from door to door, collecting treats. Then, after dark, more hideous and humorous beings, along with some beautiful and sensuous creatures, begin appearing in the gin mills. That’s especially true of the bartenders and you can be quite certain Tamara’s costume will blow you away.
Happy Halloween, everyone!