Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Look What's Been Happening to Halloween - If You Dare

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Look What's Been Happening to Halloween - If You Dare

Article excerpt

IN THE OLD days, when Halloween was still mostly for kids, you could be a ghost or a witch or a hobo or a gypsy or a cowgirl or a monster or a fireman. You could be scary or ugly or cute. You could be anything.

You don't have that latitude anymore, as a woman I know discovered last year to her chagrin. She'd been complaining of chronic datelessness, so her brother had invited her to his Halloween party to meet some guys - then gave her endless grief when she showed up in whiteface, bowler, toothbrush mustache and too-big suit as Charlie Chaplin's little tramp.

What was she thinking? he wanted to know. Didn't she know costume shops were full of sexy costumes - fishnet-stockinged upstairs maids and witches in unitards and petticoated medieval wenches and low-necked lady vampires? How many guys did she think were looking to meet a cute girl with a mustache? Halloween has grown up. It's celebrated by adults as much as by kids now, so the rules have changed: You have to make sure your costume conveys the proper impression. And that's only the beginning. The Celts who inhabited France and the British Isles started Halloween way back. This time of year, they used to build big bonfires and burn animals and even people in them to appease Samhain, the cruel god of death and darkness, so he'd let the sun come back in the spring and bring their world to life again. When the Romans showed up and took over, they celebrated a day of the dead and a feast of the apple goddess around the same time. Later, Christian missionaries recast this blend of pagan holidays as the eve of All Saints Day - All Hallows' Eve, which smushed together into Hallowe'en, then plain Halloween. The holiday still has all their fingerprints on it, but in turn-of-the-millennium America, it is - naturally - mostly about shopping. Not just plain, ordinary shopping, which some people are starting to turn up their noses at as boring or greedily materialistic, but themed shopping, which Mike Bernacchi says makes all the difference. Bernacchi, who teaches marketing at the University of Detroit Mercy, says Halloween isn't just a day anymore; it's a whole shopping season, perfectly timed to provide "wonderful transportation from the back-to-school buying season, which is the second-biggest shopping season, to the Christmas season, which is the biggest. …

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