Thu., October 31, 2013 5:15pm (EDT)

Peak Halloween: Is The Holiday Over The Hill?
By Linton Weeks
Updated: 9 months ago

Is Halloween our national October obsession with candy, costumes and decorations over and done?

Sure, Americans will create landfills full of candy wrappers tonight. A recent USA Today story, citing research from the NPD Group, reports that a majority of preteens and about half of all teens and adults eat candy on Halloween. Everywhere you turn there are spooky sites and scary shops and stupefying superstores. Yards yowl and howl with imposing inflatables. People dress their pets dogs, cats, gerbils in costumes.

But perhaps you can feel it. Among the zillion zombies and countless Count Draculas, the naughty adult get-ups and the macabre makeup for kids. We may be reaching a cultural turning point.

The numbers tell part of the story. The National Retail Federation predicts some 158 million Americans will be celebrating the holiday this year, down from 170 million last year. "Total spending on costumes, treats, festivities, and, yes, even pets will reach $6.9 billion," the NRF states, "compared to $8 billion last year."

All of a sudden, there is a surplus of superheroes. A glut of ghouls. And way too many monsters and masks and Halloween movies. Have we reached spookiness saturation? Is the fall fright fest falling? Could Halloween be waning?

Here are 5 other signs that Halloween may be over the hill:

1) People Are Opting Out. Not in large numbers, but in ways that are telltale. More than 5,000 people "like" the I Hate Halloween page on Facebook, many for religious reasons. Young mother and blogger Kayla Danelle and her family won't be celebrating. "Perhaps it's because this is the first year that I have had to explain all the scary witches, ghosts, Grim Reapers, black cats and mummies to my precious little 2 year old boy" that the family sees everywhere they go, she writes. "And then having to comfort him in the middle of the night because he's waking up screaming and shaking in fear because of nightmares about these things that a month ago he knew nothing of." At Ohio University, students are protesting offensive Halloween costumes. At Millridge Elementary School in Highland Heights, Ohio, there is a Fall Harvest Party today "for those NOT celebrating Halloween".

2) Older People Are Taking Over. Adults have "hijacked" Halloween, writes Ana Veciana-Suarez in a recent Miami Herald story. She points out that nearly two-thirds of adults will celebrate the holiday in some way and Americans will spend nearly $7 billion, according to the NRF. "Men and women, Gen X and baby boomers," and red, blue and purple states "are equally likely to participate in the revelry," she notes. "Pets, too. Fourteen percent of us expect to shop for a four-legged costume ... We will fork over more for adult costumes $1.22 billion than we will for children's. And here's the really scary part. The top five most popular costumes, or at least the most searched ones, include a twerker (thank you, Miley Cyrus) and a meth dealer (courtesy of AMC's Breaking Bad)."

3) Concerns About Obesity. America "has the highest rates of childhood obesity in history," Jason Kessler writes in Bon Appetit, speaking for many health-conscious people. "Let's stop this insanity and just say no to Halloween candy." He just may be the canary in a culinary coal mine. And earlier this week a woman called the Morning Playhouse show at Y94 radio station in Fargo, N.D. and told the hosts that she plans to hand notes in sealed envelopes addressed to parents to overweight trick-or-treaters encouraging the parents to "ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits."

4) Halloween Can Be Dangerous. Perhaps not so much for people, as Time and other websites have pointed out, but for pets. Quoting claims data from Petplan pet insurance company, CBS News reports that "our furry family members are 25 percent more likely to get sick from eating chocolate during the week of Halloween than any other week throughout the year."

5) It's The No. 1 Holiday. In a recent survey by ooVoo, a social video chat provider with scads of subscribers, Halloween is now the most popular holiday among people 25 and under. With 51 percent of respondents that age preferring Halloween, Christmas came in second with 39 percent, and Valentine's Day third with 7 percent. "The rise in popularity of Halloween among millennials is a clear indicator that they crave casual fun in a world where they feel pressured by other popular family activities," Larry Lieberman, chief marketing officer of ooVoo, said in a statement.

So, you may ask: If Halloween is at the top of the popularity charts, how can one say it may have reached its pinnacle? Well. It has nowhere to go now but down.

The Protojournalist is an experiment in reporting. Abstract. Concrete. @NPRtpj


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