Trick or treat
With Halloween around the corner, my roommates and I have to get ready for little kids coming up to our door trying to get their grubby hands on our hard-earned candy. Living off campus in a residential neighborhood means that there are going to be costumed critters running around on sugar highs.
When we were little, we celebrated Halloween by choosing an awesome costume and stuffing candy in our pillowcases that would last until February; but now college students celebrate Halloween by dressing—dare I say it—scantily and going to parties. Is this how Halloween will be for the rest of our lives?
Can we ever go back to sharing candy? In the end, the social aspect of Halloween stays the same, but we’ve shifted from celebrating the pursuit of candy to simply celebrating.
As we get older, Halloween shifts its focus from giving and sharing to self-enjoyment and smaller group interaction, and—when we look at a larger transition that has taken place over time—we can see that Halloween has become less collaborative overall. Halloween used to be a time when neighborhoods organized activities and trick-or-treating in a cooperative manner. Nowadays, parents are too worried about the infinite things that are lurking out there: not Frankenstein or Dracula, but child molesters and drugs. People interact less, and children grow up more wary of social activities. The real idea of Halloween—giving out treats and sharing experiences with others—is forgotten, and Halloween becomes just another occasion to indulge oneself.
In line with the shift from giving and sharing to pure entertainment, it’s interesting to note the massive hold entertainment merchandising has over the American public. Remember when Harry Potter came out, and every other kid was dressed up as Harry? And the same thing happened when Spider-man and Batman movies became popular. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, American consumers spent almost five billion dollars on Halloween-related goods in 2006. In contrast, UNICEF has spent over 50 years collecting money each year during Halloween and has raised about 120 million dollars over the past 50 years.
The shift from social cooperation to personal entertainment is evident: We spend five billion dollars in one year for Halloween merchandise, but we’ve only raised a fraction of that for the past 50 years for a charitable cause.
But we’re all to blame. Before writing this column, I myself was not looking forward to handing out candy to annoying little kids who probably will all be dressed up as Hannah Montana or a “Twilight” character. However, it matters not; I will be the bigger person and be willing to share my candy (or, at least, bite-sized boxes of left-over raisins).
Aditya is a junior in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.