As autumn starts coming to an end, Halloween fever begins to creep up on consumers across the country. What was once a time of cultural and spiritual appreciation, has now become another commercialised tool used by supermarkets and companies to increase their annual profits and increase their publicity. But how far has Halloween truly strayed from its once prominent cultural roots?
Although the origins of Halloween are debated, it is widely believed that this spiritual day originated from the Celtic festival of Samhain, where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off wandering ghosts or demons. This tradition soon evolved in the 18th Century, when Pope Gregory III made November 1 a religious day aimed at honouring all martyrs and saints. The night before had soon become known as All Hallows Eve (or Halloween) which was largely a mixture of the two cultural celebrations.
Over time Halloween has slowly morphed into the seasonal holiday that we all know and love today. Through cultural appropriation, many characters associated with Samhain remain but instead, they have taken a largely secular and commercialised form. Through this, the notions of death and fear are now celebrated and sold as commodities to children throughout the country.
The real extent of commercialisation is a truly scary sight to behold! Statistics from last year alone predicted that over £300m would be spent on Halloween within the UK, with the average consumer spending £33 on a Halloween costume. These figures are nothing when compared to the US, who were predicted to spend $2.6 billion on candy, $1.9 billion on decorations and an even scarier $350m on Halloween costumes for pets.
This commercialised rebranding has been increased by popular media portrayals, including films and TV shows such as Friends and Mean Girls. Such Americanised portrayals have increasingly infiltrated our perception and celebration of this spiritual day. In economically developed countries in particular therefore, it would seem that our perceptions have become somewhat blind-sighted by this tidal wave of corporate globalisation
The childhood innocence once associated with Halloween has also begun to slowly disappear, as students and adults alike start to celebrate and adapt this seasonal day. Such progression may arguably be counterproductive to the future of Halloween, particularly as many now the question the safety and commercial suitability of promoting this potentially volatile day.
On the whole, this process of commercialisation and modernisation has led to the loss of Halloween’s cultural roots. Even in Mexico, where the ‘day of the dead’ is widely celebrated, festivities have taken a largely commercialised structure and portrayal.
What remains of this seasonal day is now just a dominant corporate structure, which bears only the shell of what Halloween used to represent.