DARKE COUNTY — Halloween is just around the corner. For youngsters, and even grownups, the festive occasion is all about costumes, candy, get-togethers and ghoulish fun.
The holiday, though, has a long history, dating back to medieval times, and perhaps even further.
“Halloween,” as we call it today, is an abbreviated form of “All Hallows Eve.” The day after, Nov. 1, is “All Saints Day” in the Protestant and Catholic Christian calenders. Debate among historians is ongoing, but most generally agree that October 31 was originally a pagan harvest festival of the Celts, which over time was Christianized.
Regardless of its origins, Halloween has become a national happening in the United States, and that means money. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that Americans will spend an estimated $6.9 billion on the holiday this year.
“After a long summer, consumers are eager to embrace fall and all of the celebrations that come with it,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We expect those celebrating Halloween this year will look for several different activities to do with their family and friends. Consumers are ready to take advantage of promotions on candy, decorations and costumes, and retailers are ready to serve them.”
Perhaps surprising, perhaps not, though traditionally a holiday geared toward children, spending on adult costumes now exceeds that for money spent on childrens’ costumes — $1.2 billion for adults versus $950 million for kids.
The NRF says that the top costumes for children this year will include princesses, Batman (among other superheroes), animals, and Star Wars characters. For the grownups, witches, animals and Batman characters should be seen in force this Halloween.
Not only is the holiday being celebrated by millions of kids and adults, pets have now become a substantial part of the proceedings. The NRF reports that 20 million Americans are planning to dress up their pets for Halloween, spending an estimated $350 million on costumes for “Rover” and “Mittens.”
In all, more than 157 million Americans (and their pets) will take part in celebrating Halloween in some fashion this month.
Locally, Halloween remains a popular holiday, though in contrast to many years past, not all the fun takes place on October 31.
Virtually all municipalities have shied away from holding trick or treating on the night of Halloween itself, moving towards scheduling a “Beggar’s Night.” Further, the prospect of costumed children roaming the streets has been shifted to safer daylight hours, as opposed to the traditional night-time hijinks.
With this in mind, Darke County Sheriff Toby L. Spencer has issued a checklist to ensure that Halloween is both safe and fun for youngsters. Spencer advises:
• You, or a responsible adult, should always accompany children ages 12 and under when trick-or-treating.
• Ensure costumes fit well, are flame retardant, and never obscure visibility.
• Have your trick-or-treater wear reflective clothing and/or carry a light or glow stick.
• Children over the age of 12 who are responsible enough to go without you, should stay in groups, follow an agreed-upon route, and watch for cars.
• Teach your children to never enter any home without you or without your permission and only approach homes that are well lit.
• Remind your children to stay in well-lit areas, never take shortcuts, and never go into isolated areas.
• Let your children know to tell you or a trusted adult if they see anything weird or unusual.
• Teach children to bring treats from home before eating them. Eat only factory-wrapped treats unless you know the giver well.
• Teach your children to say NO and GET AWAY from any person or situation making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused; even if it means yelling, kicking, attracting attention or any other means of resisting. TRUST THEIR FEELINGS, and be sure to TELL a trusted adult.
• Consider safe alternatives such as parties at home, schools, or community organized events.
Whether walking the sidewalks with the kids on a candy quest or hosting a costume party for family and friends, The Daily Advocate wishes the citizens of Darke County a fun, safe and spook-filled Halloween!
Erik Martin may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.