Taking Candy from a Baby

Tomorrow is Halloween, a night traditionally (typically; usually) associated (connected; related) in the United States with young children dressing up (putting on clothes) in costumes (clothes that make you look like someone else) and going door to door (house to house) asking for treats (sweets; candy). (We talked about it here, here, and here.)

Halloween has usually been thought of (considered) as a holiday for young children. Not any more.

When I was growing up, you stopped celebrating Halloween sometime in junior high (grades six to nine). Adults sometimes had parties where they would also dress up in costumes, especially in college, but the focus of the holiday was almost always on the children.

According to a recent article, however, this has changed dramatically (significantly; a lot) in the past few years. Consider the following facts on what has been called the “adultification” (making of something into an event for adults) of Halloween:

  • Adults will spend $8,000,000,000 on Halloween costumes and parties this year (yes, you read that correctly: eight billion dollars!).
  • In 2005, when asked if they were going to celebrate Halloween, 52% of adults said yes. This year, in 2012, it’s 71.5%.
  • Ten years ago, fewer than three out of 10 Halloween costumes were purchased (bought) for adults. In 2012, it’s more than six out of 10. More Halloween costumes are now sold to adults than to children.
  • The average Halloween customer (buyer) will spend $123 on a costume this year. That’s more than double what was spent only one year ago!
  • Halloween is now the #2 holiday for spending on decorations (things you put in a room to change its look or appearance), after Christmas. It’s also the #2 holiday for spending on alcohol, after New Year’s Eve (celebration on December 31st).

Why this sudden popularity of Halloween for the 18 and over (adult) crowd (group of people)?

Some attribute (give as the cause or reason) it to the success in the late 1970s of the Halloween franchise (a collection of related films, books, and products).

Others have claimed (stated; said) that Halloween is something you celebrate with friends, whereas (while) the other holidays are more for your family. The thinking goes (The idea is) that as families become less important in the lives of adults, friends take on (acquire; get) more and more importance in one’s social life (non-work activities).

I last celebrated Halloween more than 30 years ago by going to a friend’s party. Most of the people there didn’t even wear a costume (I didn’t).

I don’t plan on celebrating this year, either. But apparently (it seems), I am in the minority (a group with less than 50% of the population).


*The title of this post comes from an old expression, “It’s like taking candy from a baby,” which refers to something that is very easy to do. Here I am talking about literally (actually) taking candy from the babies and giving it to the adults!

Photo credit: Jack-o’-Lantern, Wikipedia CC


This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Taking Candy from a Baby

  1. Denny says:

    Hello Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.
    I live in New Hampshire and have two daughters. They love dressing up for Halloween. That is the second time I see Halloween holiday living in US. This time I bought the idea and went to a party in a special way. I put on a costume of a Native American and they liked it a lot. I had an impression that several adults in my neighborhood spent a lot of money buying stuff for decoration.

    Thanks again Jeff, and please keep the ESL Podcast up!

  2. Vito says:

    Jeff, as always it’s great.

    To tell the truth I don’t like this day because I always experience hair rising sounds that come from the street into my room and fill it with something mysteriously frightening. Moreover, I can’t stand monsters and other creatures that are considered to be a symbol of Halloween just because I figure it’s stupid and not funny at all. But anyway I will find a reason to get stinking drunk tomorrow and I’m going to drink for you and your magnificent project that gives me true pleasure and develops my desire to learn English very hard and persistently.

    Being the member of your virtual society is an honor to me and I have really become hooked on listening to your podcast and reading these interesting and informative articles every day.
    P.S. Your so-called “horse” voice takes my breath away and makes me feel relaxed and happy, really. 😀

    ESL forever. Jeff for president!
    Have a nice week and let tomorrow be without accidents.

  3. Sergio says:

    Hi Jeff!

    I discovered this site a few time ago.
    But, I like so much to access it.

    I can learn about English language and about culture too!Thanks!


  4. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff,
    Very interesting take on Halloween and all that it presents. 
    But, in my book,  it is not here ,.nor there.
    Some people use these kinds of official festive days as an excuse to let some steam off . 
    I mean , Halloween with all its unusual Customs ,shindigs ,and funny rituals could be a good break from the humdrum routine of everyday’s life in order to be a bit different for a change.
    Contrary to the general idea of Halloween  as a creepy night in which poltergeists and evil spirits  arise to play havoc and horror, halloween is  a festive occasion full of fun and laughter,a good opportunity for adult individuals to let go and let loose 

    I Personally believe that is one of the reasons why Halloween has gown in popularity among adults. 


  5. A+M says:

    Dear Jeff

    In my view, in this era due to having more expectations of life, adults need more happiness. Perhaps it’s because of “keeping up with the joneses” in their life!

    I have been following your pods specially ESLs for 2 years ago.
    Eventually, what I’m going to tell about you and your group is that you have a real “beautiful mind’, without exaggeration.

    A+M from beauuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful IRAN:)

  6. Nele says:


    in Germany, since a few years, less young children going from door to door, ring the bells and shout: sweats or treats.
    Most people didn’t know what this exclamation means. Here is no tradition for this doing. But you can see costumes and a lot of decoration stuff in the shops.

    Today, here is Reformationstag, reformation day. Martin Luther postet the 95 thesis, as a consequence the separation of churches followed (Protestant church and Catholic church). In some areas today is a holiday, in other areas not.

    Best regards Nele

  7. hubert says:

    Jeff, you have described one example of wider phenomenon. In the past every teenager wanted to change sneakers to dress shoes. I remember, I envied that my father wears a tie. Now every manager want to show that he can wear sneakers also. It is bad trend I think.

  8. Peter says:

    Dear Jeff ,
    Thanks for the references to the past holloweem entries at eslpod  archives. I read them to my heart’s content :))
    I carved out a big pumpkin and set it right outfront on the left side of the drive way.
    I carved a very scary ,smily face on it ,and I plan to set up  a candle right in the center of the pumpkin . No wait , candles may flutter if it is windy a bit. I didn’t think it through. Perhaps I should use a small battery-powered bulb.
    Oh , I was thinking out loud, sorry
    I meant , I have it ready and I have a big jar of candy for kids. They better show up anytime befor  7:30  since my own brand of hollowing starts at 730:))))
    I leave home for church street at 7:30. 
    You know,there is a street called Church street located in the core of down town.every year ,in holloweem eve people form all over Toronto get together there dressed up in deligtful customes. They  spend the night out doors  socializing ,and mingling.
     They compliment one another’s customs . They make jokes about one another,and make funny ,scarry voices. All in all , it is a fun night. And , more importantly ,a  night with a high potential to meet girls :))
    Seriously , Halloween is a great event to meet girls.
    There is on more thing,just recently, I  noticed sth new regarding halloween. 
    Over the past two weeks, There were flyers all over the place  advertising face painting rather face disguising  by professional make-up artists,a new way of making big money:)
    There is sth rather strange about halloween ,though. 
    It is a popular event that almost every body ranging from kids to elderlies participate in it,yet the government does not recognize this as an official rather statuary holiday.
    People have to go to work the whole day, but they are allowed to wear customs at work. 
    I always take a day off in halloween,no matter what
    This year around ,due to  financial snags ,I made a mask  out of odds and ends at home: ,a funny face  :)))

    By for now

  9. Betty says:

    I think I should write something here before 31 October finishes here in Hong Kong.

    I have 12 minutes to do that.


    Dear Jeff

    I really like this article. I do not like adult dressing up for Halloween. I don’t know the history of Halloween but I thought it celebrates ghosty things which is not something we human being should do.

    It is natural for children to get excited because this is the only time they are allowed to go to their neighbours’ house, knock at their doors and say ‘Trick or Treat’.

    Why do adults want to celebrate Halloween? I cannot understand!

    Thanks again, Jeff, another year has gone, Happy Halloween?

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  10. Tania says:

    Hi! I was in my capital Bucharest for three days.
    Is it late to say “trick or treat”?

  11. Tania says:


    “What is the late November doing?
    And hollyhocks that aim too high
    Red into gray and tumble down
    Late roses filled with early snow?”

    East Coker by T.S.Eliot

  12. CE says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I am really happy to see this article. In my country, or say Asia, Halloween has become a popular day for people to have fun.
    We are not so crazy about costumes but we will definitely get together with friends with simple dress code such as something in orange or some Halloween-theme decorations. It is a lot of fun!
    I also like Thanksgiving though. Although this holiday is like another holiday which people tend to spend with their families, I like it purely because of its name.

    Thanksgiving is coming up and thanks to the wonderful program produced by you and Lucy.

    CE from Japan

Comments are closed.