Halloween obsession.
October 8, 2009 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Why Are American adults obsessed with Halloween?

Whilst here in the UK our children are equally obsessed, what kid wouldn't accept free sweets?, I see a lot of adults on here asking for costume suggestions, etc.
posted by nam3d to Society & Culture (67 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Halloween is an excuse to break from the normal social rules, and do what you want to while wearing a mask.
posted by 517 at 9:58 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because dressing up is fun? Because we're trying to make up for that whole Puritanical witch-burning thing from back in the day by being a bit more laid-back about it?

(this is kind of chatfilter)
posted by substars at 9:58 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm Canadian, not American, adult and I love it too. It is just a chance to play dressup! Generally adults don't get to indulge that part of themselves, don't get to play with funny costumes or ridiculous makeup, etc. so Hallowe'en is a perfect opportunity. It is also a good chance for a really hilarious party. I mean, being in a room full of adults in insane costumes is always a good time. :)
posted by gwenlister at 9:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

A lot of people see it as a "one night to run crazy/no rules" sort of thing, kind of like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnivale elsewhere. It's also an excuse to throw parties. I'm personally really not into Halloween because the costumes tend to be closer to the slutty/cheesy side of the spectrum than the creative/interesting one (and hey, you can have a costume party any time), but a lot of American young adults really cling to the idea.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:02 AM on October 8, 2009

Because it's an excuse to (1) relive a part of childhood that, for most people anyway, was fun and is remembered positively, (2) engage in (very mildly) mildly socially transgressive behaviors by dressing up (or down), partying, etc.

There really aren't that many times during the year when you can dress up as a pirate wench (or whatever), get sloshed, carve pumpkins, and eat totally excessive amounts of candy, and not have people give you funny looks at the next PTA (or whatever) meeting.

In short I think it serves most of the same purposes that many holidays and festivals have served, historically.

Also, this.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:06 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, I think there is an element of how many Americans (specifically Boomers and Gen X-ers) have not let go of their childhoods. Notice the biggest blockbuster movies are those based on toy lines popular 20-some years ago. Or the huge number of American adults who buy toys of all types (from action figures they played with as children to new action figures to expensive prop replicas that still are nothing but toys).

Next, I don't think you can take fetish entirely out of it. I've read several articles about how many women "slut it up" at Halloween (one particularly memorable article about this was in the column Suburban Fringe in the St Louis Post Dispatch published in 2008, but I can't find it online now). I went to a Spirit store the other day (a chain of stores literally only open one month a year in whatever property they can find) and the women's costumes were, by and large, very very revealing. Here's a few we saw...see for yourself:




So you get women who can be overtly sexual in the guise of a costume, and men who can also perform some amount of with fulfillment.

Then some of it is competitiveness. I've been to adult Halloween parties with costume contests and the amount of work some people put in just to "one up the Joneses" is amazing.

And then yes, as others have said, it's a whole lot of fun besides!
posted by arniec at 10:08 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's fun, it gives you a chance to be creative, you're socializing and having fun with others, and you can participate with your kids (if you want).
posted by 14580 at 10:08 AM on October 8, 2009

Buffy: "You're missing the whole point of Halloween."
Willow: "Free candy?!"
Buffy: "It's 'come as you aren't' night."

posted by adipocere at 10:09 AM on October 8, 2009 [18 favorites]

Substitute "Halloween" with "costume ball", and this question could have been asked of adults at any time over the past 200 years.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:11 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Halloween is a holiday that actually rewards sophistication, a rarity in (at least) the US. That is, the older you get, the better the costumes can be (money, creativity, and/or subtlety), and the more they tend to be appreciated (positive reinforcement). Dressing a nine year-old up as Walter Sobchak doesn't really work among his peer group, you know?
posted by rhizome at 10:11 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

If I'm not mistaken, children celebrating Halloween in England is still kind of a new phenomenon, right? So that people who are now adults were far less likely to go Trick-Or-Treating when they were kids? If I'm right about that, it means that Halloween celebrations still aren't yet as well established in British culture as they are in American.

It's not a holiday, per se, here -- you don't get time off of work, there isn't any sort of religious/cultural significance to the date. But it's something that everyone here thinks of as a fun, special day. Everyone knows Halloween, everyone has memories of Trick-Or-Treating. The same way you probably can't think of "December 25" without thinking of Christmas, we can't really help but think of October 31 as Halloween.

It's not like Halloween celebrations just involve Trick-Or-Treating--as a recent thread makes clear, it's generally accepted that adults should not participate in Trick-Or-Treating. And it's not like the Brits don't also enjoy the occasional fancy-dress party. It's just that part of our American culture involves thinking of that particular day, October 31st, as THE day for dressing up and boogying down.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:16 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

In the past 15, 20 years or so, Haloween has become an adult drinking occassion rivaled only by New Year's eve. Think of it as an opportunity for everyone to throw big, raucous, fancy dress parties (that's what you call costume parties, right?).
posted by mr_roboto at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2009

Seeing multiple posts about adult costumes on this website does not reflect a nationwide obsession of all adults within a country.
posted by Houstonian at 10:27 AM on October 8, 2009

Halloween = big, nationally recognized fancy-dress party.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:27 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

How is it any different than Christmast-time fancy dress parties in the UK??

Or, what ROU_Xenephobe said.
posted by proj at 10:35 AM on October 8, 2009

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:35 AM on October 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

It also comes close to being a ritual associated with religion, though a pagan one, and it unites us all rather than having our separate but "ood" religious conventions. Alas, we are not allowed to have a day off from work or have schools shut down.
posted by Postroad at 10:36 AM on October 8, 2009

Closest thing to Mardi Gras for those who don't live in Louisiana.

But really, we provincials might just as well ask why don't Briton's take advantage of it.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2009

I'm jealous that my UK friends have so many occasions for "fancy dress" parties. We pretty much only get Halloween.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's because, as a nation, we don't have other holidays/events where costumes for grownups are appropriate. Mardi Gras is quite regional, masked balls are pretentious, and costume parties often seem vaguely creepy and salacious. Halloween is pretty much a grownup's only chance to wear a fancy costume without feeling like a weirdo.
posted by Quietgal at 10:38 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

If I'm not mistaken, children celebrating Halloween in England is still kind of a new phenomenon, right? So that people who are now adults were far less likely to go Trick-Or-Treating when they were kids? If I'm right about that, it means that Halloween celebrations still aren't yet as well established in British culture as they are in American.

This - Ms. Saint has nailed it. In the US, everyone grew up with really REALLY strong Halloween traditions, so the interest continues. In the UK, most adults didn't really grow up with it (yet). I still think that even for kids, the UK doesn't rival the US in the Halloween-craze.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 10:39 AM on October 8, 2009

also, Halloween is a holiday that is about having fun with your peer group - as a kid you go out with other kids, as a adult you go to parties - there's no family element, so it's less stressful (unlike, say christmas) you get to dress and act like someone else, which can be cathartic.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:40 AM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

I never celebrated Halloween much as a small child (long story) and never actually went trick-or-treating but I really enjoy it as an adult because it marks the one time of year you can break the box of common fashion/culture--wearing archaic and uncommon clothing, using prosthetics and horror makeup, etc. Day-to-day life is pretty blah in many circles, and Halloween changes the rules. Then of course you have the parties.

With practice, I've gotten pretty good with the halloween makeup kits (such as what Woochie sells) and might spend an hour or two reading in a busy library or sitting at the coffee shop, acting perfectly normal--in a long flowing Victorian dress-coat with blood pouring down my face and horns freshly sprouting from my forehead. There is something priceless about being mistaken for some kind of prop or display--cautiously eyed by those nearby--only to nonchalantly put away one's books and saunter off to order a cup of coffee. People want to look but they don't want to stare, and genuine fear is surprisingly easy to come by from the most unlikely individuals. A vampire, demon, or cyborg acting perfectly ordinarily, just living another middling day, can really throw people for a loop.
posted by Phyltre at 10:41 AM on October 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

Because people don't want to grow up.
posted by cabingirl at 10:45 AM on October 8, 2009

Aren't fancy dress parties a thing in the UK? I don't see what is so bizarre about adults dressing up. Prince Harry would have done well to ask for costume advice on Metafilter.
posted by smackfu at 10:46 AM on October 8, 2009

In the UK you have fancy dress (costume) parties throughout the year. In America, the ONLY time of the year that it is okay for adults to wear a costume is Halloween. Costume parties are pretty much non-existent here in the US.
posted by k8t at 10:46 AM on October 8, 2009

Amercan in his 40's here. When I was a kid, I loved Halloween. As I grew up (i.e. around college age, +), I liked costume parties, because they're fun. But when I got to the point of being an "adult", it became fun to join in on the Halloween fun in that role. Maybe it's a re-living the childhood thing, but I just really enjoy giving out candy, decorating the house, and scaring the kids (and they seem to enjoy it too, so don't think I'm "terrorizing").
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:48 AM on October 8, 2009

The same reason so many are obsessed with New Year's Eve.

No matter how vanilla your day job, it's a (rare) socially-acceptable excuse for a crazy party.
posted by rokusan at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2009

It's a socially accepted time to get drunk, be flirty and have a raucous party. It you're an adult with no kids, it's not a "family" holiday; so it's a pretty good night to look for booze/drugs/sex.
posted by spaltavian at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because my wife made me.
posted by amanzi at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because it's my birthday?

(Ok, seriously, I think it's just like any other carnival type event, which is very common all over the world, not only in catholic societies.
The real question is: why doesn't the UK have some kind of carnival/dress-up day? You're the odd one out!)
posted by The Toad at 10:55 AM on October 8, 2009

Maybe completely off base here, but I'll hazard a guess.

A lot of adults in the US believe that they have to put away their personalities into a box to fit in. They gotta wear a suit and sit in a cubicle and not tell dirty jokes and wear clean ties take the kids to piano practice and they've gotta do it all to fit in the square hole. And they sort of die a little bit.

And then halloween comes along, and they can throw caution to the wind, let the boobies out for air and the express their creativity and individualism via a culturally accepted avenue. They really are FUN, they just never show it.

Personally, I can't stand halloween. Of course, I can't stand easter or valentines day either, or all the crap that goes along with Christmas.

Every year my friends have a costume party, and every year I try to come up with an anti-costume. One year I was a ghost with a boner. (sheet, eye holes, something to make a boner.) One year I went as the hostess. (I am male. I stole her clothes and a wig.) Last year I put on my very old bright pink 1 mil wetsuit and got a fake set of nunchaku and a head wrap and went as a very confused ninja.

I'm rarely culturally acceptable though. So...it is what it is.
posted by TomMelee at 10:56 AM on October 8, 2009

...spend an hour or two reading in a busy library or sitting at the coffee shop, acting perfectly normal--in a long flowing Victorian dress-coat with blood pouring down my face and horns freshly sprouting from my forehead.

You rule!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2009

I wouldn't say that UK children are equally obsessed with Hallowe'en as American children. When I lived in the UK we got not one trick or treater. We were in a house in London with kids living next door. It's very close to Guy Fawkes and there were fireworks the whole week long.

In Canada (and I assume the US) Hallowe'en is big. There are always trick or treaters (even in the snow). If they don't come to your house, you see them on the way home from work, etc.

For adults, the lack of fancy dress opportunities really explains it to me. Most people do not wear costumes other than Hallowe'en. Exceptions to this rule include Cosplay, Furries, Singing Telegrams and Regional celebrations (Mardi Gras)
posted by Gor-ella at 11:00 AM on October 8, 2009

In addition to the reasons listed above, add the fact that Halloween is being really aggressively marketed to us, especially in the last decade or so. When I was a kid (60s and 70s), Halloween was a minor holiday, and you could buy kids' costumes, candy, and some haunted house decorations in the stores (but mostly you made the decorations yourself); for adult costumes, you had to go to the special costume place, the kind that rented gorilla outfits. Now it is becoming a major holiday on a par with Thanksgiving. The stores roll out the Halloween stuff in the beginning of September, and the range of merchandise is staggering. Of course some of this is in response to increased demand, which is in response to increased marketing, etc., etc. But whatever the incentive, marketing has definitely been ramped up in the past few years.
posted by HotToddy at 11:19 AM on October 8, 2009 [5 favorites]

If I'm not mistaken, children celebrating Halloween in England is still kind of a new phenomenon, right? So that people who are now adults were far less likely to go Trick-Or-Treating when they were kids? If I'm right about that, it means that Halloween celebrations still aren't yet as well established in British culture as they are in American.

This - Ms. Saint has nailed it. In the US, everyone grew up with really REALLY strong Halloween traditions, so the interest continues. In the UK, most adults didn't really grow up with it (yet). I still think that even for kids, the UK doesn't rival the US in the Halloween-craze.

You are mistaken. I am 51 and as a child I walked from house to house in my street with a lantern (a turnip not a pumpkin) and so did all the other local kids. But it would have been bizarre to have seen an adult doing it. However, it is true that Halloween has become commercialised/aka Americanised in the last 15 years.
posted by A189Nut at 11:28 AM on October 8, 2009

Additionally. I've never seen or heard of Christmas fancy dress parties in the UK. Or many fancy dress parties at all actually. The vision of us dressing up all the time is false
posted by A189Nut at 11:30 AM on October 8, 2009

I read a British writer once (can't for the life of me remember who) who said he thought Americans loved Halloween because it was the only time they were allowed to dress up. He said that British adults could go to fancy dress parties throughout the year, so they had other socially sanctioned opportunities to look like someone else and act foolish.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

...fancy dress parties in the UK??

While we're at it, what's with all those "Vicars and Tarts" costume parties that are so popular in the U.K.?
posted by ericb at 11:47 AM on October 8, 2009

Because its fun. Also, some places of employment let you come to work costumed on Halloween, so you know it'll be one of those light on work / heavy on watercooler hangout days.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:49 AM on October 8, 2009

Costumes. Candy. Booze. No guilt-inducing religious backdrop.

What kind of stick in the mud doesn't get that?
posted by chairface at 11:51 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Different time of year, but in terms of adults dressing up, also see The Fight Between Carnival and Lent
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2009

They're not "obsessed." The assumption your question comprises is false so let's chuck the rest of it, shall we?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:52 AM on October 8, 2009

Because imagination is fun! And losing it is sad =(
posted by ihavepromisestokeep at 11:56 AM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Halloween even in the United States does not have terribly long historical roots. It was not celebrated widely in America until the arrival of immigrants from Ireland in the 1840s, and started out as kind of a hoodlum's holiday, building on European traditions like mumming, Guy Fawkes, etc. It became a big problem in the industrial era and started to feel beyond control in the early 20th century. Halloween parties began to evolve around 1900ish as a way to bring the mayhem under control and sanitize the holiday's activities, make them family-friendly. (The same thing incidentally had happened to Christmas only about 30 or so years before).

Today's children's activities - trick-or-treating in costume for candy --didn't become formalized until about the 1930s, and that tradition was a prescribed one: established as a response, and a safe alternative, to the activites that typically took place on All Souls' Eve before that -- vandalism, pranks, rioting, stealing, etc. That activity did not actually involve young children, as a rule - it was preteens, teenagers, and young adults, mostly boys, doing the damage.

If you ever see the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis" you see a pretty good depiction of a regular American Halloween circa 1900ish- kids wear masks to get away with playing pranks, and eventually there's a super dangerous bonfire and attack on a resident and other fairly scary, out-of-control stuff.

The increasing involvement of adults in Halloween is indeed interesting, and has happened within my lifetime. There were occasional adult Halloween parties when I was a kid, but they weren't common. Today they're quite common. It's true that it's a development that has occurred largely since the 70s. Apart from the ones mentioned - a culture that longs to hold onto childhood, an opportunity to break free of daily life and take on a fantasy character - I can think of a few others:

  • pop culture, especially TV. As TV evolved, every popular sitcom and even drama had to find premises for episodes, and holidays, especially wacky ones like Halloween, make for good premises. Seeing a few TV generations' worth of grownup Halloween escapades probalbly created a sense that dressing up was more prevalent than it actually was at the time, but those of us who grew up saturated in these depictions probably never thought twice about whether it was called for or not.

  • excess cash: as we all know, there are a lot of Americans with a lot more disposable income than they ever had in history. Holidays are one of those things that you can lavish your extra dollars on, a luxury celebration. My older relatives, parents and grandparents, would never have spent a lot of money on a costume or Halloween party. it just wasn't around for the spending. It's a way for people with disposable income to use their income to entertain themselves.

  • profit motive. Since the will is out there, there is an industry that has sprung up supplying adults with costume materials and party goods. In addition, bars, restaurants, and theatres see an opportunity to do some event marketing and draw people in on what's often a dead night (when it's not Friday or Saturday) and an off time of year. This works in a cycle - marketing creates demand, demand creates more marketing.

  • Irish influence. 1/4 of Americans can claim an ancestor from ireland. Halloween in America is built on an Irish foundation, and when it began to develop here as a holiday, the Irish population in America's East Coast and Midwestern cities was pretty high. The All Souls' Eve activities saturated the awareness of the holiday not only within the Irish inner-city communities, but within their neighboring communities as well, so people of many ethnic groups became aware of some specialness to this day or time of year. As their diaspora spread from the cities to the suburbs throughout America, ideas about Halloween-time activity went with them to be transformed and reinterpreted locally. I believe the Irish influence may have established a 'placeholder' for the holiday in a deeper way than in other countries.

  • need for celebrations. Americans are a little obsessed with work and with being busy and constantly progressing along a path toward...something or other. As a result I think we have a really strange reaction to any intimation of a 'holiday'. I mean, a lot of Americans now do something for Cinco de Mayo. WTF? It's partly just because we need things to celebrate, and we don't take a lot of time to enjoy life for life's own sake. We look for excuses to have a good time, since we're not so comfortable taking a random Tuesday evening to enjoy a fun night out at the pub, or spending a weekend day walking in the woods, or what have you. We need social cues to make us prioritize fun. In addition, Halloween's one of those wonderful holidays that, despite its complex religious roots, really is secular. That means a lot of different people can get in on the fun, regardless of religious background.

  • it pissess off fundamentalists - so that's fun in itself.

  • posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on October 8, 2009 [12 favorites]

    p.s. I just read that Americans spend more than $6 billion on Halloween, making the holiday-related spending for this holiday second only to that for Christmas.
    posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Looks like it's out of print, but those interested in a cultural survey of Halloween should read this book by one of my favorite authors.
    posted by JoanArkham at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2009

    Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love it so much, I don't care that we don't get the day off, my employer is okay if we wear costume for work.

    I agree one good thing about Halloween, it is the only holiday that isn't loaded with religion. There are fun films to watch, from the old Universal monster movies, the Abbott and Costello monster films, I even like "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." Autumn is a really great season, it is fun to be scared, candy, apples, pumpkins, donuts--what is not to like?

    I also particularly like the Halloween bonfire scene in "Meet Me in St. Louis."
    posted by chocolatetiara at 12:24 PM on October 8, 2009

    Response by poster: Just for the record, I'm not sure where this 'Brits always have fancy dress parties' comes from.

    Whilst it's true that we don't require a specific date to dress up, it's not like every party I go to requires you to come in costume.

    I think it's more of a misconception, it'd be interest to find out where it came from (the misconception that is).
    posted by nam3d at 12:29 PM on October 8, 2009

    Very timely, I just sent out my Halloween party invites an hour ago. I LOVE Halloween. I suppose it has something to do with dressing up. Personally, I love costumes and would dress up as something odd for every party but if I threw a dress up/costume part at any other time no one would go along with it. I think it has a little to do with letting go and being someone you aren't for a night. I also went trick-or-treating until I was 29 so I'm probably on the crazy end of the scale.

    When I lived in England we went out to a club for Halloween and the other kids I knew dressed up (it was at uni). It was really hard to find Halloween stuff back in the 90s in England and I was surprised how few people seemed to know much about Halloween. I went to the market and bought candy as my trick-or-treat and wore a costume to class (my tutors thought I was mad). It was fun, isn't that enough?
    posted by Bunglegirl at 12:39 PM on October 8, 2009

    Whilst it's true that we don't require a specific date to dress up, it's not like every party I go to requires you to come in costume.

    That's just the thing, though: we don't ever have parties in the US where you dress up on days other than Halloween. Okay, I guess some people probably do, but them doing so is weird and unusual (not wrong, just weird). So, given that it is at least plausible for a Brit to throw a party where you're supposed to dress funny at any point during the year, this is a marked difference between your customs and ours. If I tried to throw a party like that around, say, Christmas, everyone I invited would go, "... Wait, what? What do you think this is, October?" It just wouldn't compute to the average American. We Americans don't think that every Friday you British-folk are getting your vicar and tart costumes out, but the fact that you ever do except for on a specific holiday where everyone does is noteworthy to us.

    All I know or believe about British customs relating to Halloween is from my step-dad, who's British. He was always vaguely aware of the holiday growing up, but it wasn't anything that mattered the way it does here, for us. He had never really dressed up for Halloween, and none of his friends did, but he was used to fancy-dress parties in general. He didn't even know what the insides of a pumpkin looked like. (And the first Halloween he spent with us, he was very excited about getting to experience the full-blown splendor of an American Halloween... all the way up until we had the pumpkins on spread out newspaper and he first cut in and lifted up the top of one. At that moment, he emitted a yelp and quickly put the top back on, terrorized to see for the first time what the insides of a pumpkin look like. He wasn't expecting all that goo and never has yet carved a pumpkin, the poor guy.)
    posted by Ms. Saint at 12:46 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Just for the record, I'm not sure where this 'Brits always have fancy dress parties' comes from.

    It's been in the news and the movies. Since I've seen it so much, I assume it's an obsession.

    See how that didn't work?
    posted by Houstonian at 1:06 PM on October 8, 2009

    I think it's more of a misconception, it'd be interest to find out where it came from (the misconception that is).

    Movies and television, mostly.
    posted by IndigoJones at 1:07 PM on October 8, 2009

    That was a great answer Miko, and thanks for the book recommendation JoanArkham.

    The reason that I like Halloween is the spirit of creativity that it draws out in people. It's fun to see adults who might otherwise be conservative in day-to-day life basically wearing home-made art on their person.

    I have no plans, so long as I don't have more pressing money/time concerns, to stop going to Halloween parties and dressing up for them.
    posted by codacorolla at 1:17 PM on October 8, 2009

    I am an American adult. I am not obsessed with Halloween. Question needs to be reframed as "why are American adults, except nax, obsessed with Halloween."
    posted by nax at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

    Um, because Halloween is awesome?

    No, really, nthing what everyone has said about costumes and parties and why this is all so appealing.

    I'll also add that my s.o. and I have sort of started our own tradition of using the entire month of October to indulge in our love of all things spooky. We try to watch all the Halloween and horror movies we loved growing up, and try to catch up on the ones we missed. We read Ray Bradbury and eat lots of candy and otherwise enjoy one of the best months of the year.
    posted by a.steele at 1:33 PM on October 8, 2009

    It's the perfect excuse to be someone different--a break from stress, normalcy, etc. This is why Dragoncon during Labor Day is my second favorite time of year!

    Don't ask "why" when it comes to harmless fun. Instead why not and have some fun.
    posted by stormpooper at 2:01 PM on October 8, 2009

    I'm 38 years old and only once in my life have I ever attended, much less been invited to, a costume party that wasn't for Hallowe'en, and I threw that party.

    When else are we going to wear costumes in public, unless we're furries or other fetishists (adult babies, ponies, etc.) or Ren Fest-obsessed? When else are we going to have the opportunity to see the engineer in a dress, human resources with a cape and sword, accounts payable as a nun, marketing as Buffy, shipping as a wolf, boss as the hippie he was 30 years ago, etc.? It's an opportunity to flaunt dress codes, explicit or implied, and see where others' imaginations take them.

    Also, it has nothing to do with family, and your Great-Aunt Maude isn't going to get offended if you don't have her singing fish on the wall and neglect to call her. Mom has no reason to guilt you and the twins won't fight over who got the better gift.

    (I learned something from this thread. Thanks! All this time I thought "fancy dress" meant dressing in fancy clothing, as in formal or semi-formal. I had no idea it referred to costumes.)
    posted by notashroom at 2:23 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

    Love me some Hallowe'en. Here's why:

    1) I enjoy entertaining and it is a great day to do that

    2) I enjoy crafting and I get to build tombstones, zombies and impress the hell out of my friends with my craftiness.

    3) I enjoy dressing up and sewing so I get to make my own costume every year

    4) I love seeing what really incredible ideas other people come up with and how clever they are

    5) It's all a big memento mori which has quite a bit of history.

    6) It's an opportunity to eat loads of sweets until you barf!
    posted by Sophie1 at 2:26 PM on October 8, 2009

    We need more holidays, darnit. Life is boring 99% of the time, why not have some fun when you can?
    posted by jenfullmoon at 6:44 PM on October 8, 2009

    I love Halloween. No, let me rephrase that, I am obsessed with Halloween. I carve multiple pumpkins every year, I always dress up. If Halloween is during the week, I dress in one costume to hand out candy, and another for any parties I attend.

    In fact my costume is hanging where I can see it, dress, cape, wig and all to get the wrinkles and that funky smell of the cape out of it. Halloween is my Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day rolled all into one.
    posted by SuzySmith at 8:50 PM on October 8, 2009

    I would like to put forth that, personally, I love Halloween because it is a holiday with strongly morbid elements and roots that I can relate to better than all the happy "life affirming" holidays rubbed in my face the rest of the year. Fear and death have a very important, balancing power too often ignored or even shunned. Possibly because of the uncertainty of what, if anything, is on the flip side of being alive. Faith may easily be self-deceit and all the science and religion (interchangable terms at times) can never prove what lies on the other side of that veil. Halloween, for me, honors that dark fear that grows as time slips away. Our inevitable, unstopable graduation through the wall of sleep may be whatever we want to imagine or more than we can imagine, but we can never know, really know. I have some vague interest in it's history and legends, but my obsession is the mystery of Death gets a tip of the hat from everyone else for a change, that I feel every waking minute of my short time here.
    posted by Redhush at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

    It's one of the few holidays that can be celebrated either with children or with adults alone. Among adults without kids or with other plans, it's a big excuse for the grown-ups to party, so it's more like a Crazy New Year With Dress-Up.
    posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on October 9, 2009

    I hate Halloween. Most of the people I know hate it. Not all Americans are obsessed with it. Nice for the kids and that's about it.

    Here is everyone has missed:

    In the U.S., the food and consumer products industries will try to make up holidays so they can sell you their shit. "Family Day", "Secretaries Day" and "Cinco de Mayo" come to mind. No one in Mexico even knows really what Cinco de Mayo is.

    Sometimes corporate america will take existing "holidays" and exploit them.
    Halloween used to be a minor holiday. It wasn't even a real "holiday". It was just a day where you (if you were under 12) walked around the neighborhood in costume after school and got candy. Period. It was here and gone in the blink of an eye.

    But corporate america has taken it over and they've completely run amok. Now even our BEER ads are halloween-themed this time of year.

    Halloween used to be a nice little day for kids that got commercialized the shit out of.
    posted by Zambrano at 8:53 AM on October 11, 2009

    Because Halloween is fun.
    posted by rahnefan at 8:51 PM on October 11, 2009

    If I'm right about that, it means that Halloween celebrations still aren't yet as well established in British culture as they are in American.

    I meant to comment on this back when the thread was live, but I'm another Brit who can remember Hallowe'en parties (for kids) right back into the mid 70s. And we would go out with our lanterns begging neighbours for cold hard CASH, not sweets, every Hallowe'en until in our mid teens.
    posted by galaksit at 12:24 PM on October 22, 2009

    Right, I think we need to talk timeline, as in what's "far back." I'm sure there are British Halloween party memories from the 70s. But there are American Halloween party memories from the thirties. Do they go back that far in England, or were Oct. 31st traditions somewhat different, where they existed at all?

    That's the difference in the degree of establishment of Halloween traditions. If the British Halloween got off the ground decades later, perhaps it will take a few more decades for adult holiday celebrations to take off to an American degree. Or perhaps it never will, for whatever cultural reasons people care to float.
    posted by Miko at 2:00 PM on October 22, 2009

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