My three year old son has had a fierce preference for orange since he first learned his color words. He wears mainly orange clothes and eats orange foods. Unfortunately, Cheetos, rather than sweet potatoes are his favorite - but rarely indulged - orange fix. (He does do carrots and cantaloupe, though, on a regular basis.)
So, perhaps it was inevitable that he would choose Halloween as his favorite holiday. For nearly a year - since last Halloween, really - he's been anticipating the costumes, the pumpkins, and the candy. Especially, the candy corn.
Apparently, he's not alone. Halloween, as just about every parent knows, is HUGE! According to the National Retail Federation, overall spending on Halloween this year is expected to reach $4.75 billion. (Per capita consumer spending, though, is expected to be down dramatically from last year because of the recession.) And the Census Bureau estimated last year that 36 million American kids, between the ages of 5 and 13, go trick-or-treating. Many other older and younger kids (plus their parents) go trick-or-treating too, bringing the numbers up even more.
Now, I'm no Halloween Scrooge. I enjoyed dressing up, trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, and watching It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown when I was a kid. (I always pitied and admired Linus' persistent belief in the Great Pumpkin's imminent arrival.)
But the holiday's ever-expanding scope is, frankly, frightening.
Now, there are life-sized yard decorations and elaborate costumes, including ones for pets. In addition to a costume party or two, there are haunted train rides, enchanted forests, pumpkin treasure hunts, goblin gallops, scarecrow making workshops, and skeleton spectacles. Plus, there's lots of eco-unfriendly Halloween-themed junk, uh, merchandise.
While some of the kids' activities undoubtedly are fun, the Halloween hoopla seems a little much for this busy working mom. Part of the problem might be that Halloween comes at a particularly inconvenient time of the year. My daughter's birthday - a major celebration in our small world - is the week before Halloween. And I usually attend an overseas meeting just beforehand, so we're already overloaded by the end of October. This year is particularly crazy because I have two major work projects due in December - only five weeks away! But even if Halloween fell during a quieter time (if such a period exists), I'd still be spooked by the amount of time, money, and energy Halloween now consumes.
Our family is not immune. So far, I've procured the desired costumes - the boy, a pirate, the girl, a mermaid- but I still need to hem the pirate's pants and find the mermaid some sparkly blue tights. (Except for alterations, I, like my CurrentMom colleague, Lyn, am not sewing for Halloween.) We've visited our local seasonal Halloween emporium and draped the outside of our house with spooky faux cobwebs we purchased there. We've hung skeletons and ghouls all around, and picked no less than seven pumpkins. (And my husband suggested this morning that we need an even bigger one for our jack o' lantern.) I've even looked up Martha Stewart's recipes for creepy treats. (Of course, I haven't made any of them yet!)
This week, I'm consulting on our trick-or-treat route and working on scoring a pound of black licorice strings for a school-based edible spider project. (Eeek!) I skipped work Monday morning to accompany my son and his class to a "pumpkin playground" miles away from his school and our house. Tonight, I need to get his costume ready for a performance of The Not-So-Spooky Halloween Show. And on Friday, I plan to telework from home in the morning so I can view the Halloween parade at my daughter's school and claim my coveted volunteer slot at the post-parade after-party. ( Hopefully, my husband will staff the conflicting parade at my son's school downtown.) I'm glad that I can take part in these activities but I'll be putting in time during some very dark hours to compensate for my part in the Halloween hubbub.
By the time we reach Pumpkin Day on Saturday, we'll probably all be pooped and my plentiful (not!) Halloween spirit will be sagging. Still, when I see my kids all costumed and hear my son's delighted screams, I know I'll enjoy the Halloween frenzy.
Photo courtesy of cohdra on morguefile.com.