America’s capacity for happy excess seems to be returning, undiminished even.
Kicking off the fun, so to speak, was the U.S. Department of Commerce that reported second quarter economic growth figures of 2.5 percent. That may not sound like much — and it’s not really — but it’s a better performance that we’ve seen in a while.
The National Retail Federation, which obsessively watches consumer spending, says the average person will drop $72.31 on Halloween weekend, up more than six bucks since last year. Moreover, 70 percent of Americans will observe Halloween, a record percentage tallied by the NRF, and in a sign of affluence of some kind, 15 percent of them will dress up their pets.
Spending on a holiday that we stole from the pagans and will never give back will likely total almost $6.9 billion. As evidence of how big a deal Halloween has become, the nation spent $3.3 billion in 2005 when we were between bursting economic bubbles.
We used to think Christmas shopping ads were rushing the season — and they’re already on the air — but Halloween has become an off-season staple of theme parks. The New York Times writes that Universal Orlando started on Sept. 23 with its eight haunted houses plus assorted “scare zones” (every big city has those, year round) and it will go on for 25 nights.
Halloween has gradually been taken over by grown ups. One popular adult costume, based on a new TV series, is the sexy Pan Am stewardess outfit. But Halloween is still largely the province of kids, the killjoys in the schools notwithstanding, and princesses, ninjas, witches, superheroes and pintsize Lady GaGas will still trudge up the sidewalk with their bags to collect candy that their folks will surreptitiously try to confiscate.
We wouldn’t be surprised to find some little tykes come home with genuine Greek government bonds from some investor with too many of them and no other way of unloading. Who knows? They could be worth something someday. It is, after all, a night of witchcraft and black magic.