Real Wealth Society

Monday, November 06, 2006

I’ve been thinking about Halloween by Fred Cederholm

Column for on/after Oct 29th, 2006

I’ve been thinking about Halloween. Actually I’ve been thinking about commercialization, demographics, candy, origins, pumpkins, and poems. Halloween has become highly commercialized and is second only to the Christmas holiday in terms of hoopla, products, decorations, and spending. The Halloween merchandise now hits shelves before Labor Day weekend. Halloween is really big business.

You see in 2006 36 plus MILLION 5 to 13 year olds will be going door to door in their quest for goodies and treats. The US Census Bureau cites that there are now over 108 MILLION occupied housing units across the nation – all potential stops for the “trick-or-treaters.” You don’t have to be in Transylvania CountyNorth Carolina, TombstoneArizona, Pumpkin CenterNorth Carolina, Cape FearNorth Carolina, or Skull Creek – Nebraska to join in the fun. Halloween is observed everywhere.

There are over 500 US establishments which manufacture non-chocolate confectionery products. These employ over 22,200 people and ship over $7 BILLION of their goods a year. There are over 1,200 US establishments which manufacture chocolate and cocoa products. These employ over 43,300 people and ship over $12.5 BILLION of their goods a year. California leads the nation in producing these products with Pennsylvania following in second place. The average American consumes over 26 pounds of candy during the year and the typical kid gets the lion’s share of theirs around Halloween time. I’m sure doing my part because I’ll be ready with milk chocolate products from Hershey, Pennsylvania for all the ghosts and goblins who come to visit little MacIntosh and me in Creston.

The observance of Halloween type festivities date back hundreds – even thousands -of years to western cultures tracing their origins/histories to the Celts and the Druids. The term “Halloween” and its older spelling “Hallowe’en” traces its beginnings to All Hallows’ Evening - AKA All Saints’ Day. This was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory III in the 8th Century. The Druids also regarded November 1st as New Year’s Day called Samhain – meaning the end of Summer and the conclusion of the harvests.

The Celts believed that this time of an ending/beginning was also one of transition where the laws of time and space were briefly suspended – in limbo, if you will. This allowed spirits – both good and evil, or saints and sinners – to roam the earth amongst the living for a brief time. Bonfires and candles were lit to appease these restless ones, to ward them off, and to illuminate their way back home.

A central icon of the Halloween events is the pumpkin. This vined orange gourd is both carved and decorated for Halloween, and/or eaten in pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over 1.1 BILLION pounds of pumpkins are produced annually in the United States with almost half of that amount coming from Illinois alone. California, Ohio and Pennsylvania follow as in distance second, third, and fourth places - each producing in excess of 100 MILLION pounds of pumpkins a year. Pumpkin and pumpkin products generate over $105 MILLION in sales each year. Locally, we can see massive fall pumpkin displays every year at Rainwater’s near Rochelle, Jonamac’s near Malta, and the mother-load of all them all – the carved pumpkin exhibition/competition on the Court House lawn in Sycamore.

Carving a pumpkin is a rite of childhood – enjoyed by children of all ages. There is so much room for creativity, not to mention the fun of watching a little person up to their elbows in a gooey mess. Happy, sad, scary, or funny are all within the realm of possibilities. I must confess that in these later years, I’ve resorted mostly to those manufactured fiber/foam ones with the little electric lights inside to brighten up the windows of my house. I even have a line of plastic pumpkins on stakes with flickering tea-light candles inside (along the front and side of the house) to direct my “trick-or-treaters” to the side door. These are all cute, but they are not the same as the real, hand carved creations which only last for one season - kind of like the snowmen created which can only live on as a memory or a photograph.

As a child I learned the poem “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate.” How many of you learned or remember that one? What did each of those five little pumpkins have to say? In early grade school, I actually wrote this little ditty: “Ghosts and goblins, witches, bats - bright orange pumpkins and black cats – Halloween is really neat – but the best is TRICK or TREAT. Boo!” Not too bad for a little guy, is it? I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.

Copyright Questions, Inc. 2006 all right reserved.

To “audit” this column of to learn more about the subjects discussed, please check out:

Facts for Features: Halloween Oct 31, 2006


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