The science of Halloween

LiveScience.Com has several articles and features up relating to various aspects of Halloween:

The last of these takes a look at the increased consumer spending during the month of October, which is threatening to catch-up with the Christmas season as the top-selling holiday.

Heather Whipps' article states that Halloween fans in the U.S. will spend approximately $5-billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation - up over $1-billion from last year.

  • "Consumers see Halloween as a seasonal celebration to bridge the gap between the end of summer and the winter holidays," said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of NRF, in a company statement. "Halloween offers a little somethign for everyone and, this year, epople of all ages will be joining in the fun."

The most popular costumes for adults are witches, pirates, and vampires, and costume shops have been offering larger sizes and sexier outfits to suit adult tastes.

The unfortunate flip side of this is that children are having less fun, because some skulls are banning Halloween activities over sensitivities to religiious beliefs. Surprisingly, we're not just talking about conservative Christians; in 2004, for example, a Washington state school board objected that the traditional black-hat-and-broomstick depiciton of a witch might offend modern wiccans.

Of course, some Christians continue to insist that the holiday is an ancient pagan revel that violates the tenants of Christianity. However Danny L. Jorgensen, a profession of religious studies at the University of South Florida, points out that Halloween "is not the same as the original pagan holiday - whatever that may have been." In fact, many costumes of the American holiday have their roots in the culture of Irish-Catholic immigrants, and in the 9th century All Hallow's Eve became part of the Christian calendar - a day to honr the saints.

Whipps quotes Jorgensen to the effect that this makes the holiday, to the extent that it is religious at all, as much Christian as pagan: "Halloween, almost by definition, was appropriated by Christian cultures - void of its sacred significance - as some sort of special event, if not a religious one."