Trick, or Treat?

When thinking about Halloween in America, images of trick-or-treaters, corn mazes, candy, black cats, and haunted houses come quickly to mind. Halloween is the day when children and adults can don a mask and escape everyday society. Or is it?

Halloween is a very lucrative holiday in the United States. American consumers spend an average of $5.8 billion on Halloween. Halloween superstores spring up every fall and offer costumes for adults, children, and even the family dog. Candy sales are already in the billions and are expected to grow. Industries have tapped into this Halloween-mania. Horror movies are released every Halloween season, and haunted houses and haunted hayrides are offered in towns across America.  From costumes, to candy, to Halloween excursions such as haunted corn mazes, Americans have not shied away from reaching into their pockets.

Why are Americans spend so much on a holiday that they do not know the origins of in the first place? For one, people love to be scared. Halloween also  offers people a chance to be afraid and face their fears in a controlled manner. Many Americans also feel that Halloween gives them a chance to break free of society’s norms. Halloween, however, is anything but that. In fact, Halloween embodies many American values, such as gender norms, materialism, conformity, and the freedom of self expression. This Halloween, for example, it is almost certain that a little girl will dress up as a princess because that is the theme her group of friends has decided on, and she will be happier if she receives a large candy bar rather than a measly lollypop. While Americans may think they are embracing the abnormal on Halloween, they are only perpetuating their own society’s values.

What does Halloween mean to you?

Do you think Halloween is a chance to break free of societal norms or reinforce them?

In what ways do industries centered around Halloween ensure that people conform to societal norms?

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