Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

I've always loved Halloween.

When you're a kid, what's not to like about dressing up, roaming around after dark, and eating candy? As parochial school kids, we had even more reason than most to love the day: we got November 1st off. (They don't call it Halloween for nothing. The name means 'The Eve of All Hallows', another name for 'All Saints Day.' So you had to get up and go to Mass. Big deal. Well worth having a day off of school that the "pubs" (i.e., kids that went to public school) didn't. Ha, ha!)

So Halloween was a pretty big deal. But it wasn't that big a deal. Costume choices were homemade, or purchased at Woolworth's for $2.49. Those store-bought costumes of Snow White and Bugs Bunny were completely cheesy. Someone with a match got too near...Whoosh! Hey, that's a really neat "pillar of fire" costume.

Needless to say, we didn't go in for store bought.

Early on, my mother made witch costumes for me and my sister Kathleen. They weren't really witch costumes, they were long black dresses (with long hems, and plenty of room in the shoulders to let out).

In year one, when Kath and I were 6 and 4, we were witches, with purchased crepe paper witch hats and really scary rubber witch masks.

It was really warm and misty that Halloween. The dye from the black crepe paper ran down our faces, and the wonderful, scary masks - complete with big hook nose and facial wart - were too sweaty. We couldn't breathe. We couldn't see. We took them off.

But those black dresses.

Well, my mother got her efforts-worth out of them.

I wore that black dress when I went as a "college professor" (first grade), and as a nun (third grade). I think I wore it one other time.

It was also pressed into service when one of my brothers dressed up as a priest - Saint Isaac Jogues, I think, who was an intriguing figure, as he was a missionary priest who came to the New World to convert the Native Americans. He was martyred, and his fingers were gnawed off by some of those he failed to convert.  Perfect for an eight year old boy required to dress up as a saint for the school Halloween party, wouldn't you say?

Anyway, in those years I wasn't wearing the witch costume for something or another, my mother pulled some costume together. (Gypsy was always easy and popular.) Or I came up with one on my own. One year I cut arm holes in some old green drapes, made a cone head out of cardboard, and went out as a pencil. At least I think I did. I remember making the costume, but - as with many of my crafty efforts - it may have been so terrible looking that I gave up and went another route. (Maybe that was the year I went out as the football player, wearing some old football pants that had been castdown to us from my cousin Robert, a sweater, and my brother Tom's helmet.)

Girls pretty much did some type of costume until 8th grade or so. After about 4th grade, boys went as hobos (beat up clothes, old man's hat, ashes rubbed on the face), soldiers (no lack of old WWII uniforms hanging around), or beatniks (pointy beard drawn on with mascara).

So, costumes were pretty minimalist.

So were decorations: whatever construction paper pumpkins and black cats you made at school were taped to the living room windows, augmented by brown lunch bags that you decorated to look like an owl and then blew up. (Whoooo.....Whoooo......) A few creative types carved pumpkins, or made scarecrows that they plunked on their front lawns, leaning against a tree.

In the last decade or so, however, Halloween has become a really big business. Of course, it still can't compare with gift giving occasions like Christmas in terms of spending.

Still, there are Halloween lights, banners, pumpkin carving kits, special dishware and serving pieces, all sorts of doo-dads and decorative pieces.

Halloween greeting cards, of course. I send out a few.

Costumes for kids. Costumes for adults. Costumes for pets.

For those of us who don't do costumes: sweaters, socks, scarves. (I will be wearing a black sweater, a candy corn scarf, and orange socks with witches on them.)

This is a big business, baby. Once again, American consumer marketers demonstrate that they know how to create demand. Once again, American consumers demonstrate that we know how to consume.

Well, Halloween has nada, zip, zilch to do with the B2B tech marketing I do, so I don't get to play as a marketer, just as a minor consumer.

But - despite all the commercialism, despite all the crap - I still love Halloween, and wish a Happy Halloween to all you marketers out there.




I also posted about Halloween over on Pink Slip, if you care to take a look.

1 comment:

John Whiteside said...

The other night, while walking the dogs, I noticed the various clearly store-bough decorations around the neighborhood (including Halloween lights, which I really don't get) around the neighborhood. (It's a rather bobo neighborhood, so this does not surprise me. You can tell "old Heights" from "new Heights": old Heights is a paper jack-o-lantern taped to the window, new Heights is orange blicking lights, a skeleton hanging from a tree, and mounds of fake spiderwebs sprayed on things. (I get so many real spiderwebs - BIG ones - stretching from tree to tree that this seems to be beside the point.)

I couldn't help but think of a bunch of people in a factory in China somewhere making this stuff and thinking to themselves, "Americans have way too much money to burn."