Halloween: the horror of consumerism

What are the roots of the day and what does it mean to us now?

We always get so excited about Halloween as students: alcohol, dressing up, partying… what’s not to love? But to some people, its just a huge excuse for big brands to rake in fortunes on overpriced Halloween merch and convince us to buy stuff we don’t need. Maybe the commercialisation of Halloween today is the scariest thing about it!

Although COVID has robbed students of one of the best university nights of the year, Halloween will always hold a special place in our hearts. Whether you’re digging out your classic bunny outfit or decorating your house with cheap Tesco decorations, Halloween will still be a good laugh and you will probably spend a load on fancy dress, despite this year’s circumstances.

“The Festival of Samhain” Credit: History.com

But what is the actual story behind the festivities we know and love? Here’s a quick history lesson for you! Halloween’s creepy origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived around 2000 years ago, celebrated their new year on November 1st. They believed this day marked the beginning of the dark, cold winter and associated it with human misery, death, and despair (cheery, I know). They also believed, strangely enough, that on this dreaded day the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead collapsed… resulting in paranormal activity or ‘the return of the ghosts’. Fun times!

Now, there’s probably a bad horror out there about this story for you to indulge in if you’re staying in for movie night this year, but what does Halloween actually mean to us now? For University students, Halloween would usually be a particularly good excuse to get black out drunk and go to overpriced events where Michael Jackson’s thriller would be playing over the speakers. It’s the perfect excuse for clubs (RIP) and bars to lure in party addicted students and convince them that spending a tenner on some neon green drink is a good idea because ‘it’s halloween’. Seems reasonable at the time.

But today, “inexpensive” is no longer a word that we can associate with Halloween. After buying the costume, the house decorations, the alcohol… it all adds up to a number that seems a little unnecessary.

But there’s still something slightly unsavoury — and not in a ghoulish sense — about the way Halloween has become just another means for huge corporations like Disney to cross-promote their blockbuster characters.

That effort now has even more help from social media, with sites such as Pinterest helping drive demand for costumes from millennials, who seem to have a disturbing penchant for any kind of dress-up that features “sexy” in the description. We see the Kardashians and other celebrities spend thousands on costumes, it becomes a bit of a right of passage on Instagram. If you didn’t post your bunny outfit with the caption ‘spooky’, did you even really do Halloween? If it’s not instagramable, It’s not worth it.  

Happy Halloween, kids!

Header image credit: USA Today