It has been fascinating to witness the rise of Halloween in recent years. What was at one time a day for kids to spend a couple of hours going door-to-door to collect candy and coins has morphed into a true holiday where kids and adults alike celebrate. Recent trips to costume stores show that the shelf space given to adult costumes now outweighs the space given to children’s costumes. I actually wonder if the trajectory of the holiday is such that the children will soon be forgotten altogether.
It’s fascinating to me—and more than a little repulsive—that on Halloween you can walk into a legitimate, professional workplace—a bank or real estate office where millions of dollars change hands every day—and find women dressed in ill-fitting, sexy costumes. You can find men dressed like skeletons or superheroes. Just for one day we can all act in ways that any other days would get us fired (or institutionalized).
I’ve often wondered why it is that Halloween has transformed from what it was to what it is today. Along the way I’ve developed a theory. It may seem a little far-fetched, but hear me out and let me know what you think. First I’ll give two background factors or forces, and then get to the heart of my theory.
There is no doubt that, culturally, we are in a time of immaturity. There is little expectation of maturity for children and adults alike. As I’ve written in books and often shared at conferences, many people seem trapped in perpetual adolescence. Once thought to last for only a year or two, many people now believe that adolescence—that time that falls between childhood and adulthood—should now last for decades. There are some out there who honestly believe that you cannot rightly be considered an adult until your mid-thirties. It is a disturbing trend and I think it plays into the obsession with Halloween. Immaturity and dressing in costumes seems to go hand-in-hand. That is not strictly true, but certainly playing dress-up has more to do with childhood than mature adulthood. I’m not saying that you have to be immature to dress up for Halloween; but it helps.
So there is one cultural force that lies behind my theory.