Every year as October comes around, people begin to prepare for this autumnal holiday that traditionally marks the end of the harvest season. Low-budget and low-quality horror movies are released, candy starts to be sold with more orange packaging, and stores begin to fill up with so-called Halloween-themed decorations. But none of this truly gets at the essence of the holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the twelve-foot Home Depot skeleton just as much as any person should (I adore it), but the kind of mindless consumption encouraged by the companies that now dominate our perceptions of social events like Halloween will never be enough. Capitalism steals my bones by stripping this holiday of its uniqueness, and in their place it wants to give me the faux plastic bones of banality present in every modern holiday. I will not stand for this indignity. Halloween should be thrilling and macabre, yet there is nothing spooky about merely buying costumes and candy. 

Halloween Today 

Halloween today is little more than a gaudy and wasteful day in which people buy large amounts of individually wrapped treats, single use costumes, and plastic adornments. Spending for Halloween is its main driving factor. In 2022 alone Americans spent over $10.6 billion on Halloween—what the people of the US spent for this one night celebration is roughly equivalent to the entire annual GDP of the nation of Chad. $3 billion of this spending was focused on just candy, that is an amount spent on candy which is 46 times as large as the annual GDP of Tuvalu. Advertisements which appropriate the ideals of Halloween are released in a continuous sludge every spooky season. Corporations, through targeted and prolonged ad campaigns, have transformed this once bone chilling celebration into but another money grinder.  

In a similar vein, the media released surrounding Halloween has somehow become the most inane and unsatisfying repeats of the same films over and over for decades. Film franchises like that of “The Conjuring,” “Saw,” “Halloween,” and “Paranormal Activity” release movie after movie that ultimately all just do the same thing ad infinitum with no real creative exploration simply because producers know this kind of film will make money. They not only disappoint as horror films, but they sully the concept of Halloween films. Halloween currently appears to be an ode to consumerism, but it can be so much more than just consumption.  

Halloween of Yore 

“Samhain” is an ancient Celtic festival that was celebrated at the end of the Celtic year and coincided approximately with October 31st. Samhain was the end of the harvest season, and it was the beginning of winter — a season of death and decay. It was believed by the Celts that during this transition into winter, evil spirits were able to roam the Earth once more. Groups in Britain believed that fire warded away spirits, and as such, large bonfires in which those gathered exchanged stories and partied were held to keep ghosts away while still having fun. The Celts also believed that the use of strange disguises would confuse malevolent entities and as such, keep them safe. Food was also a major part of this celebration as offerings would be left out to appease the traveling spirits of the night. Through the passage of time, conquest, and cultural assimilation, the festival of Samhain would eventually become what we call Halloween.  

It was predominantly through the efforts of the Catholic church to subdue pagan beliefs that the holiday would be morphed and eventually given the name we associate with it today. As was common practice of the Catholic church throughout its history, it subsumed the local holidays and costumes of the people to which it proselytized — and Samhain was no exception. Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as “All Saints Day.” Saints in the Catholic church were considered to be holy or hallowed individuals, and the 31st of October started being referred to as “All Hallows Eve,” which overshadowed the pagan tradition of Samhain. Despite this, many of the same rituals stayed a part of the “new” holiday being introduced. It’s almost like they took an existing festival and gave it a new name. As the centuries went on, people got tired of saying All Hallows Eve whenever they wanted to have a fun spooky time, and the name eventually transformed into Hallows Eve and finally Halloween.  

While the name Halloween might be relatively new, the celebration itself has been around for millenia. Consequently, there is a wide variety in the traditions associated with Halloween and its related festivals. In France, it is typical for children to use flowers and money to decorate tombstones; in Germany, people hide their knives so that ghosts with grudges against them have fewer weapons; in Mexico, people visit cemeteries, create altars, and recite prayers; and in Sweden, children get a week off school while adults have shorter work days during the week of Alla Helgons (All Saints). 

Halloween is an incredibly diverse and storied celebration. However, with the advent of capitalism, monetization of every aspect of this event has become the predominant approach to this fascinating festival worldwide as even the most fascinating practices quietly wither away under the boot of American cultural hegemony.   

Halloween 2.0 

Halloween is dead, and we have killed it. This does not mean, however, that we can’t redesign something spectacular in its place. We ought to make something creepy and novel to fill the void present here, a Halloween 2.0. Our current social structures make it nigh impossible to circumvent consumerism in every holiday, but because Halloween is objectively the most interesting holiday, we ought to put more effort into our approach towards reconstructing it. I, for one, think that Halloween should be absurd and full of creativity. It should be a time to do weird things on the basis that you are simply defending yourself against ghosts. What better justification is there to start hiding all of your utensils while covering your table corners with stuffed animals than that of “evil spirits are coming for me?” The response is easy because there is no better or spookier justification. Do not simply procure the twelve-foot giant skeleton from Home Depot, but work cooperatively with your friends and random strangers to develop a story for this skeleton while you perhaps decorate it in its own disguise to hide it from evil spirits. Cover yourself in mud and run around in a forest for the night as you search out lost souls seeking a way out of this world. Consult frogs on how to put a jinx on your friends. Do all of this and more as you let your imagination run wild. We should embrace the strangeness of Halloween and demand that everything about it be both magnificent or perfectly terrible. Films, stories, and events alike should all embrace the strangeness of this Frankenstein’s monster of a holiday. We should not settle for less when it comes to such an important holiday.  

Halloween is the best holiday and we ought not allow its good name to be besmirched by merch. Capitalism has been stealing our metaphorical spooky bones for far too long, and it is high time that we embraced the extravagance, eccentricity, and esoteric aspects of this storied festivity. I will be engaging in as much spooky behavior as I can this year because I personally don’t want to be stabbed by grudge-holding Central European ghosts. And I strongly encourage you to do the same this season.