Thursday, October 23, 2008


Halloween is just around the corner. So, say some experts we know, is a recession/depression. Keep your ghosts and goblins; we're plenty scared already.

Common wisdom tells us that Americans spend more Halloween than any other holiday except for Christmas/Chanukah. Guess what. As with most common wisdom, that little factoid is patently untrue. (FYI: You also can't catch cold by sitting around with wet hair, and chewing gum doesn't take seven years to pass through the human digestive system. Watch this space for more mythbusting.)

Here are the facts according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Americans spend an average of $60 each for Halloween, a third of that amount goes to purchasing candy, adding up to a whopping $5 billion a year. That total places Halloween sixth among holiday sales leaders, behind the following: Winter holidays: $457.4 billion, Mother's Day: $13.8 billion, Valentine's Day: $13.7 billion, Easter: $12.63 billion and Father's Day: $9.01 billion. (Any way you slice and dice it, that's a lot of cards, flowers, neckties, jewelry, and chocolate.)

Our guess is Halloween won't start catching up with all the other holidays until merchandisers manage to convince us that exchanging pricey gifts is an integral part of the Halloween tradition. Handing out pencils and candy to marauding trick-or-treaters, dressing up, and decorating our homes can't compete with all that gifting, greeting card, and florist action.

If you're interested this year in cutting your Halloween spending without cutting any of your Halloween fun, we have some suggestions. We're not going all Martha Stewart on you. We just like making our own costumes and decorations. Keep it simple and fun. After all, Halloween isn't just for kids, and it doesn't have to mean a trip to the costume shop.

Start with a brainstorming session. Think conceptually, not literally. Consider what you already own. Decide whether you want to costume a group or as an individual. A young lady of our acquaintance masqueraded last fall as the nursery rhyme Three Men In A Tub. A few friends, a trip to the thrift store and a rummage in some closets, a little face paint, a cardboard box, a lick of paint, a few balloons, a fertile imagination, and check out the award-winning results:

We're big fans of starting with basics. This winsome caterpillar started with a simple green T-shirt, shorts, and tights. Add a little tape, face paint, and pipe cleaners to get:

A group of friends wearing basic white lab coats dirtied up and worn backwards, gloves with the fingers cut off, teased hair with lots of hairspray, dark eyeshadow liberally applied, black nailpolish applied and wiped off while still wet, and you've got a bunch of scary asylum inmates.

Basic thrift store finds shredded and painted make a lovely harridan. A little white and black face paint, some hairspray, and...well, a picture's worth a thousand words.

Halloween costumes don't have to be scary. A pretty dress, a few well-chosen props, exaggerated makeup, and you've got a living doll.

And don't forget the family pet. Oh sure, you could easily drop twenty bucks on some lame costume at the store or you could come up with something truly worthy. We found these particularly entertaining homemade dog costumes online; we wish we knew who to credit. We don't. But we hope they inspire you to think outside the box.

You get the idea. Don't waste your money on a store-bought costume. Use your imagination. If you don't have an imagination, look around the internet and borrow someone else's. Then please share your costumes with us here.

Happy Halloween.


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