Our financial state is pretty scary right now, and we’re all watching our spending pretty closely. So what’s the one thing Americans are willing to shell out for in this economy? Costumes, decorations and entertainment designed to scare us even more.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans plan to spend $6.9 billion this year for Halloween. To put that number into context, the same NRF survey found that Americans planned to spend $3.3 billion as recently as 2005.
This biggest chunk of this money — $2.5 billion of it — will go to costumes. Of that total, a little more than $300 million will be spent on costumes for pets. We’ll also drop $2 billion on candy and just under that on decorations.
This year isn’t an anomaly, either. Halloween spending did decline in 2009, when it dropped by about $1 billion to $4.8 billion. But by last year, it had bounced back to $5.8 billion.
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By contrast, the much larger holiday season spending category isn’t growing as quickly. We were projected to spend $447 billion celebrating Christmas and other end-of-year holidays last year, but that figure was a measly 2.3 percentage points higher than what we spent in 2009. Calamitous political and economic events generally put a crimp in our festive spirit. So what makes Halloween the exception?
Well, it appears that troubled times drive our zeal for escapism; romance-novel sales boomed during the last recession, just like extravagant musicals that were popular during the Depression. Add to that the fact that Halloween has undergone a shift from a sort of silly, kid- and candy-centric affair to a full-blown event for adults. This year, the NRF says nearly 70 percent of adults plan to celebrate Halloween. Bars all over the country hold parties for the 21-and-up crowd and manufacturers crank out costumes that definitely aren’t meant for family trick-or-treating.
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Modern-day Halloween traditions are said to derive from ancient rituals intended to protect people from ghosts, harsh winters and crop failures. These superstitions seem primitive today; and yet, putting ourselves in control of scary motifs seems to provide a measure of security even now.