Trick or Treat. Is Halloween a modern consumer event or does is retain a deeper meaning today?

Hausarbeit, 2011

13 Seiten, Note: 1,7

Smitha Chiramel (Autor)



1. Introduction

2. Halloween today
2.1 Halloween and consumer behavior
2.2. Halloween fans
2.3.Globalisation of Halloween
2.4. British consumer views
2.5 Trick or Treat
2.6 Halloween Parties
2.7 Halloween and the media

3. Conclusion

Works cited

1. Introduction

Halloween parties everywhere, Halloween costumes, Halloween movies, children playing Trick or Treat: Halloween has found its way to be an important and popular festival nowadays. And it seems to gain more and more importance in our festival calendar.

Similar to Christmas the preparations start weeks before, the stores are full of Halloween decorations waiting to be bought by the customers. American spending on this festival has reached a maximum.

Spending money on this calender custom has become a crucial point, it is often called an outcome of today’s fun generation.

Originally being a spiritual festival, what is it now? Is it just commercialisation or has it any religious, social or cultural significance nowadays?

Thus the key question my paper will be about is to find out if Halloween is just a pure Consumer event, or does it have any deeper meaning to people. What parts of Halloween are of relevance for people nowadays? I would like to find out if this festival is celebrated to make our lives just a bit more fun by spending money and investing in marketing to attract customers or is it more than that. I will proof that Halloween cannot be reduced to a trend.

To make my paper transparent, I have decided to focus on Halloween parties, Halloween in different countries, Trick or Treat customs, Halloween fans in Germany, Halloween and the media, and economic aspects.

2. Halloween today

2.1 Halloween and consumer behavior

Halloween from an economic point of view shows that this calender custom plays a major role in our festival calender year. Halloween has become a flourishing business. As McKechnie and Tynan state in their Jourmal of Marketing Management

(…)Halloween is undoubtely highly profitable: in the United States it is the sixth largest spending event in the retail calendar (…) while in Britain it represents the third largest spending event. Furtheremore, on both sides of the Atlantic, the level of growth in Halloween-related consumer spending can be best described as exponential. American spending was estimated to exceed 5 billion in 2007 (…) whereas British spending was estimated to surpass 160 million in 2007(…). (2008: 1012)

Undoubtedly there is need for Halloween related goods on the side of the customers and thus production from the side of the marketers. Santino claims that Halloween consumption has become a mix between “mass-production“ and “ home-made“. (10)

The figures relating to the spending behaviour of people on this holiday clearly shows that commercialisation of this custom has taken place. This commercialisation is often related to the Americanized way of celebrating this custom. In the following I list some of the Halloween Activities Consumers participate in:

Wearing a costume (33,4%), Carving a pumpkin (42.4%), Going to or having a party (30,2%),Giving out candy(71,2%), Decorating the home or yard( 47,3%), Trick or Treating(31,8%). ((

We see that people spend money for different activities on Halloween. Not everybody does the same thing on Halloween. This relates to the different meanings people attach to this event.

It is interesting that despite the fact that Halloween is similar to Christmas concerning the money spending, concerning Halloween there are so many different ways of interpretation and ways of celebrating. As Santino claims the original meanings of death and evil are still maintained but not in a serious manner as it was before. The element of death which originates from the Celtic Samhain is used in a commercial way, thus making fun of it by using masks or skeletons is more important than the consideration of the traditional meanings attached to this custom. Different groups are using Halloween to act in public as they normally would not do. Thus, Halloween gets a carnivalesque character which is for example enacted in street festivals. (Santino 11) Halloween is a festival that is celebrated in different ways according to age or region you live in. Also, internationally this custom has found its own way of creating meaning on this day. In the following I will analyze the consumer behaviour at the example of Germany.

2.2. Halloween fans

According to Höhn Halloween in Germany for example gets his special status through the celebration as an event. (213) People getting involved in this event can be categorized, according to Höhn, into 3 types. First of all there are “Novizen“, then “Grusel- Fans” and last “Neo – Pagans“. (215) The first one goes to theme partys without seeing any deeper meaning in this. The topic of death or other spiritual symbolisms are neglected. Having fun is the main issue in these kinds of celebration. This is primarily reached by wearing costumes. (215) Höhn states that for the “Novizen“ Halloween is a change from every day routine.

The origins or any religious meaning is not recognized by these Halloween fans. Halloween as basically a consumer event is known to the “Novizen “. They are aware of the fact that people make money with Halloween. Nevertheless, this does not decrease the fun factor for them. (216)

The “Gruselfan“ tries to show his dark side. The evil is welcome to him on this special day. He is not interested in theme parties in public but likes to give his own parties which have their own character through special decorations for instance. Höhn says

Die Vorbereitungen können also ein enormes Ausmaß annehmen, es werden keine Kosten und Mühen gescheut. Von ausgehöhlten Kürbissen über Kerzen und Fackel, schwarzen Tüchern, künstlichen Spinnweben, Gruselkeksen´ mit Botschaft bis hin zu, ekelig´ - bunt gefärbten Snacks ist alles dabei, was eine Halloween – Fete von anderen Partys abhebt. (217)

This fan type clearly takes Halloween more serious than the “Novizen “. It has some personal meaning to him which he shows by putting so much detailed work and effort into his preparations for this custom.

Höhn concludes that for the “Grusel – Fans “ the commercialisation of Halloween is not in their interest. (219)

On the other side one has to see that they do not celebrate Halloween on the basis of religious beliefs. The third type are the so called “Neo–Pagan”, a religious group which represents the Celtic traditions. Höhn explains that this group is clearly opposed to the first two groups as they do not accept any kind of commercialistion of Halloween. This is made clear by using even another term for this festival. They do not call it Halloween but use the old term which was used in Celtic times: Samhain. (221)

According to Höhn a main element of the “Neo – Pagan “ way of celebration is the calling or praying to gods. The festival has the sense of a ceremony or a ritual. The group sees a deeper meaning in this custom:

Persönliche Sinnfindung steht bei der Bastelreligion der,Neo – Pagan ´ im Vordergrund. Ihre Inhalte und Rituale sollen ihnen in einer als willkürlich und beliebig erlebten Zeit Handlungssicherheit und Halt bietet (fehler). Wo ansonsten im Stom der Schnelllebigkeit wenig Möglichkeit bleibt, sich seiner selbst und seiner Umwelt zu vergewissern, haben die, Neo – Pagan ´ sich einen sinnstiftenden Raum kreiert, in dem endlich einmal Zeit bleibt, um über Verluste nachzudenken, was ich daraus gelernt habe, über Sachen, die nicht gut gegangen sind, über Menschen, die ich verloren habe und über den Tod und den Sinn unserer Existenz. (224)

Thus, we see that spiritual elements like the concern over death plays an integral part in the “Neo – Pagan“ understanding of the 31 of October. They are totally the opposite of the “Novizen“ who resemble the consumer culture by partying without seeing any religious aspect in it and not putting too much effort into their preparations for this custom, as the other two groups do. As Butler states in her work Neo-Pagan Celebration of Samhain this group is strongly interested in taking contact with the spirits or the dead ones, for example relatives who have passed away. (70) This reminds of occult practices. Also the “Grusel-Fans“ discover spiritual aspects of life on Halloween. But they are not as deep-minded as the Neo- Pagan interpretations. One observes that for the second group it seems to be important to live their spiritual side of personality by using mediums like Horror- movies or decorations which deal with the theme of death for instance. Also the evil is an important matter. All three groups cannot be put into a category of people who just buy Halloween items to make a day a bit more nicer by buying a Jake o Lantern for example to decorate their foregarden or window.

As Höhn suggested Halloween for the three groups has become an Event-Happening. This development is due to the commercialisation trend of this festival. The three fan groups try to handle this event in their own meaningful way (225). The degree of commercialistion decreases from the first group to the third one. We see a difference between fun factor, tradition, religious beliefs. Höhn chracterizes modern Halloween as an Event-Mix. (228) It is not only party but also does not stick merely to the old traditions which were common.

2.3.Globalisation of Halloween

Halloween has become an international festival these days. In times of Globalisation the Americanised Halloween has migrated back to Europe. The example of Russia and the Netherlands show how this custom has become a vital part of people’s life. Halloween has been introduced to Russia as part of the “global popular culture“ (Prokhorova:145) The introduction of this custom was not only seen in a positive way. Criticism was about the evil character of it. (148) As Prokhorova puts it, Halloween in Russia, especially for the young generation, means going to partys. These partys are not held in a private surrounding but are big events, for instance in nightclubs. Thus, there is not much individual character to it:

Hardly anybody cares about the origins, the roots, or the essence of Halloween; the opinion polls conducted on internet forums show that people celebrating it take it as an occasion to dress up, to change their social mask, to relax and have fun in the company of their peers.( 152)

Similar to the celebration in America, people take this custom to live new identities, change for one day. Thus, “changing the social mask“ is an important element here. (152) This social significance is lived in a fun-oriented, carnivalesque way.


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Trick or Treat. Is Halloween a modern consumer event or does is retain a deeper meaning today?
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Calender Customs
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
424 KB
trick, treat, halloween
Arbeit zitieren
Smitha Chiramel (Autor), 2011, Trick or Treat. Is Halloween a modern consumer event or does is retain a deeper meaning today?, München, GRIN Verlag,


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