More than 100 million American families will answer their door bells and hand out candy this Halloween.
More like, 111 million, to be exact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They’ll hand out Milk Duds, Fun Size Hershey Bars, Charleston Chews and the lamentable popcorn ball.
But I digress. The point is, that is a whole lot of trust in the “stranger danger” and the apocryphal “razor blade in the Snickers” era, no matter how you celebrate Halloween each year.
America, as a collective culture of many, many different cultures has it’s share of odd holidays and strange observances – Secretary’s Day, National Library Month, Flag Day and Columbus Day, come to mind. But none may be as strange as the varied ways and rituals that Halloween is celebrated in this country.
Every Oct. 31, children and adults – and sometimes their pets – dress up in costumes and play what can only be described as complicated role play, or “make believe.” We go door-to-door, eschewing charges of vagrancy and panhandling, and beg for candy. Sure, we may eat more of the candy than we actually give out, but we also celebrate ghouls and goblins, witches and warlocks. We put gravestones in our yards. We wear capes.
If there is one universal truth of Americans and holidays, it’s our communal love of celebrating them. Celebrating in every form. Halloween is just on example where celebrating belies our eternal distrust of others. Especially those others handing out Charleston Chews.
The Fed acknowledges 10 federal holidays annually. Others, considered “bank holidays,” don’t let you off for work but closes most banks and stops mail delivery.
Yet, Halloween isn’t part of the sacred dozen or so “national holidays.”
So does that mean Halloween isn’t really a holiday?
Recognition for the holiday we now know as Halloween is older than Independence Day, Thanksgiving and most any other holiday not called Christmas. After Christmas, Halloween is in fact the most commercialized holiday. Americans are expected to spend more than $5 billion this Halloween season, according to a National Retail Federation survey. To go along with that, essentially more people get “Black Friday” off than Halloween.
A Facebook petition to make Halloween a national holiday has more than 8,000 supporters.
And that Christian dogma that, pardon the pun, dogs Halloween, doesn’t hold up. Most every American holiday has pagan and Christian roots, meaning co-existence of two supposedly diametrically opposed ideals can be celebrated. Usually with candy or gifts. That always helps co-existence.
But unless Halloween is on a weekend, like it is this year, America works, banks are open and the mail is delivered.
The stock market shuts down for Good Friday but not Halloween. My son’s babysitter? Closed for Columbus Day. Columbus Day! A day to celebrate an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag discovering a continent that was pretty much already discovered.
Labor Day, a labor union inspired holiday designed to honor industrial workers that offers a Monday off for most every one in September, was originally conscripted as May 1, or International Worker’s Day, in the late 1800s. Little do people know the date of what we now know as Labor Day was changed to the first Monday in September because of that Spring date’s close association with socialism.
So, we can celebrate socialized workers with a day off but not Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve as it was once called. All Hallow’s Eve is a celebration that over time melded Celtic pagan rituals for the end of summer with Christianity’s All Saint’s Day. How that resulted in my third grade werewolf costume or my son’s surprisingly realistic shark costume this year, is anyone’s guess.
This I can assure you, as you trick-or-treat or tip toe through a fake grave yard clouded with dry ice fog, Halloween is indeed a holiday, whether the Feds or your boss acknowledges it or not. I’m not telling you that gives you the right to make this a three-day weekend, but if I had to guess, you’ll celebrate it one way or another.
That National Retail Federation survey? They also said in 2009 Americans consumed more than 24 pounds of candy each. Each. Candy? Capes? Yes, this is indeed a holiday.