The real horror of Halloween: Consumerism

Dorms are decorated with vampires and fake blood, tombstones and bats; offerings of free candy are posted on the forum; pumpkins are carved with menacing and friendly faces; costumes are purchased in preparation for the Palm Court Party. It’s Halloween – not only the scariest time of the year, but perhaps the scariest time for your wallet.

This year, Halloween falls on a Friday. Because of the weekend advantage, the amount of money spent on the holiday is projected to be at an all time high. As reported by the National Retail Federation, Halloween costumes and decorations are expected to fly off shelves this season contributing to an estimated $7.4 billion spent on the spooky celebration which has surpassed last year’s spending of $6.9 billion.

Halloween is clearly a big deal in today’s society. It is the time of the year that is both anticipated and embraced with equal excitement by children craving an unadulterated sugar rush of mini-sized candies and by adults begging for an excuse to dress up as a creepy and eroticized pop culture icon. Somewhere along the way, Americans demonstrated their ability to turn a culturally rich celebration into an array of monetary exchanges.

Originally, Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, stemmed from the ancient Celtic festival, Samhain. It was the celebration of the end of the harvest season as supplies were gathered and preparations were made for the winter. On Oct. 31, the Celts believed that the boundaries between the dead and living world were opened, allowing the dead to roam free amongst the living world, wreaking havoc and damaging crops. Because of this, the Celts lit bonfires and laid out harvest gifts for the traveling souls of the dead passing through as they made their way to the next realm. This tradition was carried to the United States by Irish and Scottish immigrants in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, Haitian and African immigrants brought voodoo and superstitions of black cats and witchcraft.

Together, both traditions merged and created the perfect combination that allowed Americans to transform Halloween into a pageant of masks and lewd consumerism. Here is the spending to be anticipated this season:


162 Million: Amount of people expected to celebrate Halloween this year. Last year, only 158 million celebrated.

$2.8 billion: The estimated amount consumers will spend on Halloween costumes this year.

$1.1 billion: The estimated amount spent on children’s costumes this year.

$1.4 billion: The estimated amount spent on adult costumes this year.

$350 million: The estimated amount spent on animal costumes. This is a $20 million increase from the 2013 Halloween season. In fact, it is estimated 23 million people will dress their furry friends in silly costumes this season.

$75.53: The average amount people will spend this year per costume. Last year, the average was $73.02.

$87.00: The average amount young adults will spend on Halloween festivities.

$2.2 billion: The estimated total amount spent on candy.

$2 billion: Estimated total amount of money to be spent on decorations.

$2 billion: Estimated total revenue of all haunted houses or attractions.

33 Million: The amount of people who will visit a haunted house.

1 in 5: Amount of shoppers that say the economy will impact their Halloween spending.

54 Million: Amount of people estimated to either throw or attend a Halloween party.

$360 Million: Amount estimated of purchased and sent Halloween themed greeting cards.

35.9: Percent estimated of those sending out Halloween themed greeting cards.

7.1: Percent of people estimated to pass out candy.

46.7: Percent of people estimated to decorate their homes and yards.

45.8: Percent of people estimated to dress up in costume.


Perhaps the Celts never anticipated their sacred Samhain holiday would become just another money maker in an American consumerist society, but this is the way of the modern world. So whether you are young or old, whether you are celebrating the end of the harvest season or just discounted candy, go ahead and dress up like a zombie. After all, it is the only time of the year the dead can be the life of the party.



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