Special Feature

Kate Heyhoe

A Kinder, Gentler Halloween
for Black Magic Month

By Kate Heyhoe

When I was a kid, Halloween was a time for innocent fun and fantasy. Wearing handmade costumes that my mother spent weeks assembling, my brother and I competed in the local neighborhood park's costume contest, and we usually won. We never dressed as ghouls or bloody messes. Instead, I masqueraded as a butterfly or an Asian princess, and my older brother was a clown or a cowboy. We canvassed the neighborhood, knocking on doors, toting home bags of candy so heavy we could barely lift them. When I was very young, my mother went with us, but later as we grew older, she felt comfortable enough to let me and my brother trick or treat the neighbors on our own. Nothing bad ever happened. Times were different then.


Some thirty-something years later, when Global Gourmet debuted in 1994, Halloween had become a rowdy, raucous Mardi Gras-like holiday, but not in a bad way. It was a harmless celebration in which people unleashed their wild inhibitions, made fun of fear, and everyone felt safe in confronting their imaginary demons. Halloween revelers were more often young adults than children. Haunted houses flourished, and costumes ranged from politicians (the scariest demons of all) to ghoulish monsters with dangling body parts.

Then, between 1994 and 2001, Halloween performed its own magic trick: It became the nation's second leading retail holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. Sales of $2.5 billion in 1996 escalated to nearly $7 billion in 2002. In other words, from décor to candy and costumes, consumers spent a whopping $45 per family on Halloween items. And that's just the average: Trick or treaters in the 18 to 34 age range devoted an estimated $67 each, while consumers with children were spending around $62. No wonder Halloween grew from a one-night holiday to being a month-long autumn retailing event.

After 9/11, fake blood was understandably out of fashion. Cop costumes, firemen, Spiderman, and family values were in, and sales for Halloween goods slumped slightly for the first time in six years. Retailers remained optimistic, though, predicting that adults would return to their wild ways after the shock of the tragedy wore off. But along came another shock: the war in Iraq. Suddenly, Halloween swept its wild, wild ways under the carpet. While consumers are likely to continue Halloween spending in the double digits, I suspect their activities will continue to take a lighter, tamer tone. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun!

Family get-togethers, pumpkin carving, and happy-looking little tricksters are on the rise. Parties take place in homes rather than on the streets. Tasteless is less tolerated. Heroes are in demand, whether they're super or human. Decorated cookie bats and black cat cakes replace bags of door-to-door candy. We're back to a time when we appreciate the innocence of fun and fantasy, and there's nothing wrong with that.


With the changing mood in mind, I've assembled a few ideas for happy, upbeat Halloween festivities, filled with lots of tasty treats and a few special tricks. Have a happy and safe Halloween!


Black Magic Month: Halloween Count-Down

Witch's Hat  

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Copyright © 2000-2006, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.


This page created October 2003 and modified October 2006

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