Opinions and Rants #37: The Top 5 Ways Halloween Has Changed

This is when I get to put on my velour bathrobe, wag my finger like an excitable geezer, and start sentences with "In my day..."

Before writing this post, I didn't think there was any significant difference between Halloween now as compared to when I was a young whippersnapper.  Obviously the candy has changed - I got Good'n'Plenty, kids today get Nerds.... big deal.

But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized there really has been a marked change in the holiday.  The Halloween of 2011 is significantly different than the Halloween of '74. Although, I wouldn't say it's unrecognizable, I would say that certain differences should be pointed out...

1. Halloween costumes for females are slutty looking; whereas, girls just dressed silly back in the day. 

Let's be clear - I'm not complaining. I'm just pointing out a fact - chicks in the seventies, as foxy as they were, didn't use Halloween as an excuse to dress sexy.  Think about it: in the days of hot pants and tube tops, they didn't need an excuse.  Every day was an opportunity for hotness. I'm just sayin'.

2. Most neighborhoods are quiet and desolate on Halloween night; whereas, every neighborhood was abuzz with trick-or-treaters back in the day.

I'm not sure exactly why this is, but it seems like a lot of neighborhoods are straight up empty Halloween night these days.  Maybe it's because they're deemed unsafe, or maybe it's just because all the families got in cars to hit the "popular" spots.

A big reason is that a lot of kids don't trick-or-treat at all.  My understanding is that a lot places do something called "trunk or treat", where a bunch of people (usually a church congregation) park their cars in a big parking lot, and the kids go from car to car to "trunk or treat". Goddamn that sounds lame.

3. Back in the day, stores might decorate, but it was nowhere near the commercial smackdown that it is today. 

Don't get me wrong, Halloween was celebrated in the seventies - more so than today in many ways. It's just that soul crushing levels of marketing and consumerism hadn't quite kicked in yet.  Fast forward to 2011, and you're liable to lay down a couple hundred on the holiday and not think twice about it.  My parents bought a pumpkin, a shit costume for me and my brother, and that was it.

4. The fear that Halloween was "The Devil's Holiday" was the opinion of a very small fringe of religious fanatics; today, it's a commonly held belief.

I don't recall there EVER being a Fall Festival or Harvest Carnival growing up.  We weren't afraid of Halloween back then.  It was all in good fun.... or so we thought.

There's a King of the Hill episode that deals with this recent phenomenon of Satanic paranoia perfectly.  Poor Hank's Halloween carnival has been closed down in favor of a so-called "Hallelujah House".  Hank can't figure out why everyone suddenly thinks Halloween is evil when all he wanted to do was trick or treat with his kids.

To me, "Harvest Festival" sounds much more pagan than "Halloween" anyway.

5. Halloween was made for kids - not teenagers and adults.  Now it's for everybody.

Look. I'm young at heart, and I'm glad the holiday is for everybody nowadays.  I'm just stating a fact: if you were in high school, Halloween used to be a time to egg houses, smash mailboxes and leave dog shit on people's doorsteps.  No dressing up allowed.

If you were an adult in the 1970s, there were probably not a lot of Halloween parties to attend - you could catch a late nigh horror flick, but that was about it. Halloween was a kids' holiday in the seventies, plain and simple.

If you've ever seen the Freaks and Geeks Halloween episode, you've seen this fact played out beautifully.  Sam Weir wants to hang on to the magic of Halloween; however, he's in high school now and supposed to put away childish things.  A heart wrenching episode, that I guess wouldn't apply much to 2011 where Halloween is no longer such a kiddie thing.

If you would like to extend this Top 5 list with some of your own Halloween Differences, please drop them in a comment. I'd love to hear it.

Oh, and I almost forgot - Happy Halloween!


  1. I think you nailed it. I live in England now and Halloween here is just starting to gain momentum. I do fear that the folks here have no clue what it is all about other than grown-ass folks showing up on my doorstep at 10.30 pm (they don't understand the whole 'porch light is not on' thing) and wanting me to dump all sorts of candy in their pillowcase. The options are: do it or get an egging.

  2. Good stuff, Gilligan--fyi, Halloween just so happens to be my birthday, so when I hear people dissin' the name, I take it personally!

    I never see 'real' trick or treating anymore either. And in the places that do have it, you always see the kids accompanied by adults, which is probably a good thing but back in the early 70s, we'd "adopt a pack" of kids, in the belief of 'safety in numbers'.

    I miss the days of being out there & having some ghost run up to us, outta breath--"the old lady in that big house on the corner is handing out candied apples!" and a dozen kids in cheap costumes would take off running...

  3. 1. Our small town college newspaper had an article on how "slutty" young women should get on Halloween. Yes, they quoted girls saying "slutty" and "OK" in the same sentence. I was kinda shocked.

    2. Trunk or Treat started as a "safe" way to trick-or treat. Our church does it and we serve hot dogs and have a bounce house and blow-up slide and stuff. The church we attended in another town had a Harvest Party also as a "safe" alternative to kids wandering the streets after dark. That one had a lot more going on, games and stuff like a school carnival. All part of the over-protective parenting that's going on.

    3. I think it was about 1997 that I read that Halloween was the 2nd biggest money holiday for retail stores, after Christmas.

    4. Started during the 70s, but grew, and in some ways is less strong than it was in the 80s. Now it's more like "Lets call it a Harvest Party so we don't offend those who might get offended." Part of our cultures over-sensitivity to offending.

    5. When I got out of the Army in Oct 1987, I was invited to a dress-up Halloween party. Probably my first time to dress up since middle school (and even then it was just to hand out candy). After that it was pretty common in college for us to dress up. Usually just using what-ever we had or could borrow (like make-up), we certainly didn't spend more than $10 on costumes.

  4. I know why my neighborhood is often empty on Halloween. It's because it's been found that pedophiles - even convicted ones on the sex offenders list - have been decorating to lure in children to molest/rape. The more heavily decorated the home, with a few exceptions, the more likely the home owner is a pedophile.

    Creeps need to be given the death penalty. They ruin childhood.

  5. Oh, and on the subject of the whole Satanic thing - now I believe in God, but I always love pointing out to Jesus Freaks (the kind that according to the Christian Bible, are really going to Hell because what they practice is very UNChristian) that Christmas and Easter are based on Pagan holidays too. Including things like gift giving and bunny rabbits. Heck, even the Christmas tree is a Pagan thing.

    And the new reasoning for "Harvest Festivals" it's because "It's more politically correct." A bunch of schools have banned Halloween this year saying "We're forcing American culture on immigrant children." GRR!

  6. Whatever happened to the cute little decorated white paper bags filled with candy, that people used to give out? Today, most people come to the front door with a basket of candy and give you one piece.
    When I was young, we started trick or treating as soon as we came back home from school, at about 3:30. We would head back to the house right when it became dark. That was when most mom's didn't work, and were strickly housewives. :)

  7. @Celestial - Watch Halloween (1978), the kids start trick or treating right after school lets out mid-afternoon. With both parents working these days, you can't get started till much, much later. Definitely a huge difference.

  8. I became aware of how much Halloween had changed a few years ago, when I decided to do some shopping after work on Oct. 31. I figured the mall would be deserted, since all the kids would be out trick or treating and all the adults would be at parties.

    So I get to the mall, and it's crammed with kids in costumes, running in and out of stores getting candy. I asked a salesgirl, since when do people take their kids trick or treating in a MALL? She looked at me like I was from another planet. I still have no idea how long this has been going on.

  9. While I agree with most of your observations on Halloween, some may be the a little off kilter.
    #2 for example. As a child you lived in a neighborhood where kids Trick-or-Treated, therefore all kids went out Halloween night. You did not go to areas without Halloween spirit. Today you live as an adult and may just live in Halloween desolate areas. I grew up in Navy housing and Halloween was a mass riot. Now I leave in an older area devoid of kids. We have a few, but we are not a child centered area.

    #4 - "The Devil's Holiday" has always been with us. I would receive those very "comic books" every year. However,you right, Babyboomers seem to have embraced the "Devil" and run in fear of Halloween, changing the names of School Carnivals to ward off the evil influence. I don't get it.

  10. When I was a kid, we usta stay out until all hours of the night (that is, when the holiday, called "Trick or Treat" night and celebrated on the 30th {dang south!!} fell on a Friday or Saturday...of course we didn't have to worry too much about "Chester the Molester" or some sick s.o.b. putting razor blades in the apples, though ther WAS that cranky old @#$#@!! up the street who'd shoot at ya if'n you stepped on his property...

    Ahh, good times, good times...;-)

  11. It's getting deader here too. My town does the mall TorT thing, as well as a church run TorT at the local sports arena. Also back in the 70s, hardly any stores were open past 6 and not as many people worked the night shift. Tonight, I cannot take in any trick or treaters anyway because I have to work anyway.

  12. I agree with everything in here except...When I was a kid the stores were all decorated for the holiday; today, almost not at all. Christmas they go nuts for but anything else seems to be kaput around here.

  13. p.s.

    I wonder what it was like to be a school teacher when I was a kid. We went out on Halloween, none of this go out on Sunday from 2-5pm stranger danger BS.

    Was Nov. 1 a rotten day ofr teachers? All their classes tired from running around all night and gutbombed from too much candy? i would love to hear from someone who taught elementary school in the 60's/70's on that one.

  14. Hallowe'en in my Detroit neighborhood was great. For mischief the night before, maybe we'd soap a window or two, but nobody was even watching for trouble, and nobody made any. Detroit was a great town to be a kid in, in the sixties. My neighborhood now, not far from there, has lots of kids, great kids in costumes, the little ones with parents in tow. It's great. It's too bad so many people have bought in to the booby-trapped candy myth (see the Wikipedia or Snopes articles about that). So, where I'm from, Hallowe'en is much the same as it was. Yeah, young women use it as an excuse to flaunt... but... um... I like that.

  15. In my case, I used to go out quite a bit for Halloween as a child. Then (I think I was about 8 at the time), I came home with a huge take for the night, but there was an apple. Being a kid, I wouldn't have eaten anything remotely healthy on Halloween anyway, but my Mom (who was a nurse) noticed several small holes in the apple. Upon cutting it in two, it was pretty obvious that somebody had injected a blueish substance into the apple. Mom kept me in for Halloween after that, as a couple of my other friends also got apples that appeared to have been messed with in the same manner. I couldn't remember which house I had gotten it from; a complaint was filed by some of the parents but they never found out for sure who did it.

  16. A bunch of schools have banned Halloween this year saying "We're forcing American culture on immigrant children."

    Oh, for Christ's sake! You aren't "forcing" anything on the immigrant children. If they don't want to take part, they don't have to. If anything, this "forces" foreign values on American children, by taking away part of our culture. Besides, have you ever met a kid that doesn't like Halloween? I would think most kids would want to embrace a tradition that is that much fun.

  17. There also seems to be a lot of time limits now (6-7 pm), or a neighboorhood block party - instead of trick kor treating.

    When I was a kid in the 70s, we use to fill up garbage bags with candy, and then when I was a teenager in the early 80s, we use to dump bags of garbage on people's yards. LOL

  18. In my neighborhood, vans of kids come from other neighborhoods. I'd say that more than half of the trick or treaters are surly 15-year-olds. This feels too much like extortion to me.

    I grew up in the northeast but live in Texas now. Trick or treating when it is 85 degrees doesn't feel natural.

  19. The major change is that Halloween has been rebranded as an adult holiday. When I was a kid Halloween was a one day affair for children, now it is an entire "season" where adults dress up in costumes and attend numerous parties. This also accounts for the number of teenagers trick or treating now. No one "lets go" of Halloween after a certain age anymore. I liked it better the old way.

  20. The huge halloween megastores (usually opened for a couple months in an empty K-mart or something) are what I don't like. Sure, it's a one-stop shop for all your halloween needs (except candy), but some of the stuff is ridiculous, like the life-size electronic animated figures that cost hundreds of dollars.

    Halloween in the city is nothing like it is in a small town. I live in a suburb on a short, very friendly cul de sac, yet every kid under like 14 will be accompanied by a parent watching from the street. I grew up in a small town (1000 people) and don't remember my parents ever going with me from the time I was old enough to remember. Usually just me and a friend would hit the entire town from 6:30 until probably 9:00.

  21. I don't understand why some people here seem upset that adults want to celebrate Halloween. Considering it started out as a Pagan holy day where it was believed that the dead wandered the earth and needed to be fed it's not exactly a children's holiday in it's roots.

    I love wearing costumes. Maybe it's because I'm an entertainer and Halloween is like a chance to play a major role without risking being rejected. Maybe it's because it gives me a chance to be creative. I've been "making" my own costumes now - some stuff I've actually made, some I've pieced together from various sources like The Salvation Army or costume pieces that were being sold cheap the day after Halloween the year before.

    One thing I've always wanted to do that I've never gotten to do is go to a costume party/masquerade ball.

  22. Freaks and Geeks is amazing.

  23. When I was a kid, my parents didn't want to buy us those cheap crappy costumes, they preferred to have us make our own. Cannot tell you how many times I went out dressed as a hobo! (so not PC these days). One year I borrowed my dad's old softball uniform, which was way too big, but I wore it anyway. We also had three old ladies living next door to us, and they gave us a couple of wigs, which me,my brother and sister got a lot of mileage out of.

    My favorite memory of Halloween was when one year, this crazy lady, who had a house filled with american flags, wearing a red, white and blue outfit, made everyone sing the Star Spangled Banner before she would give you candy. You don't see that kind of crazy nowadays!

    Also, whatever happened to mischief night, the night before Halloween? Kids always looked forward to egging someone's house or throwing around a roll of toilet paper in the trees of someone's yard. Does mischief night even exist anymore?

  24. I went as a hobo one year, but it was store-bought hobo accessories; big plastic cigar, beard, and maybe a wig. Not really in the true hobo spirit.

  25. "The more heavily decorated the home, with a few exceptions, the more likely the home owner is a pedophile."
    LOLOLOLOL! I hope this was a joke, either way it is hilarious.