Last week I was in the pub with some friends (I don’t have many stories that start like this, honest!), and one of them told me that Halloween was now the third biggest ‘holiday’ in terms of money spent.
“In the US, you mean?” we asked her.
Nope, right here in the UK, apparently. Bigger than Mother’s Day? Bigger than Valentine’s Day?
Apparently so. Only Christmas and Easter now outsell Halloween for sweets, decorations, outfits and other paraphernalia.
I was stunned. I thought about the characteristics of those spending extravaganzas and noticed something sobering – the ones which are solely about expressing our love and appreciation for our nearest and dearest fare much worse than those concerned with self-indulgence.
Yes, I know a huge part of Christmas is about giving, but around a third of every individual’s Christmas spend goes on food, decorations and entertainment. And how much of your spend goes on people you wouldn’t give to except that you feel you ought to? The office ‘Secret Santa’? The neighbour you never speak to from one December to the next? The uncle who has everything and is impossible to buy for so you traipse complainingly up and down the supermarket aisles, looking at nifty screw-driver/torch/hot water bottle combos, or bottles of scotch in a novelty Wallace-And-Gromit stocking… you get the picture.
Even more sobering was the statistic than only one in five of us take part in Harvest Festivals any more (and I confess, I fall into the 4 out of 5 group – my (City-centre) church doesn’t hold a Harvest festival, and the season usually passes me by without a second thought).
We spend more money dressing up like witches and skeletons for the purpose of stuffing our faces with orange, black and purple sweets than we do on sharing the many blessings God has lavished on us with those in need.
I am ashamed of myself and of my culture.
Yes, as Christians we should be concerned about the glorification of death and evil every 31st October, but I think we should be equally concerned about the self-centred nature of so many of our festivals and celebrations.
I find this incredibly hard. I love Christmas, I love giving huge piles of lovingly-chosen, beautifully-wrapped presents. I love receiving gifts that tell me I am known and I am loved. I love stuffing myself with chocolates, turkey, roast potatoes, cheese, ham, sausage meat…
I’m fighting the urge to self-righteously explain that I did not spend a penny on Halloween this year, nor did I celebrate it in any way, but I know that’s only because of the other associations of the holiday. Were I in America, I would be spending vast sums later on this month on my Thanksgiving food and decorations, and very little time giving to those who could not reciprocate.
It is illustrative that the symbol of Christmas is a God who has given up the riches of the universe to be born in humility and poverty for our sakes, while the symbol of Halloween is a manically grinning, open-mouthed pumpkin…which is hollow inside.