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How Halloween has changed in the past 100 years

  • Adult costumes

    Dressing up as a salacious version of a cat, a ketchup bottle, or even Mr. Rogers feels like a very modern shift. The tradition actually began in the 1970s with the LGBTQ+ community in New York City. Greenwich Village’s annual Halloween Parade was the birthplace of the tradition, where it then went on to infiltrate general Halloween culture.

  • Rise of Halloween theme park events

    Knott’s Berry Farm in 1973 decorated the theme park for temporary Halloween events and experiences. Knott’s Scary Farm would go on to inspire other seasonal theme park events. Six Flags puts on Fright Fest annually, and Disneyland decorates the Haunted Mansion every year in true nightmare fashion.

  • High participation in candy distribution

    People may remember houses in their neighborhoods growing up that didn’t celebrate Halloween, opting to shut off outside lights to signal that treats would be found elsewhere. But those houses have become rarer with time. In 2020, the National Retail Federation projects that 62% of American consumers plan to hand out candy.

  • Increase in dressing up pets

    Why not let Fido and Fluffy join in on Halloween fun? Dressing up pets in costumes may date back to 327 B.C. in China, but doing it for Halloween has only become more popular with time. In 2019, 29 million people plan to dress their pets in Halloween costumes, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

  • 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' rewrites Halloween origins

    The release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1993 introduced a new reason behind the season. No longer was this a holiday celebrating fall and treats (the religious meanings long out of favor). Children growing up in the 1990s now thought of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, initiating Halloween every year from Halloween Town.

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  • Banning Halloween from public schools

    The late 2010s saw a wave of schools outright banning Halloween costumes and celebrations from school grounds, sometimes opting for “harvest” celebrations instead. The most frequent reasons for the bans were safety, the fear of scaring children, or general exclusivity. 

  • Resurgence of homemade costumes

    Homemade costumes have seen a recent resurgence in popularity, likely thanks to the growth of Pinterest, Ravelry, and niche communities centered around crafting. Social media and popular parenting blogs may also be a contributing factor.

  • Push for politically correct costumes

    The conversation around Halloween has shifted in recent years to costumes that did not offend. Schools have instituted guidelines and warnings to students, while criticism from some social commenters claims the holiday has become too political.

  • Increased awareness of Dia de Los Muertos

    Perhaps thanks to a growing Hispanic population in the United States (and films like “Coco” and “The Book of Life”), there’s been a rising awareness of the Mexican holiday of Dia de Los Muertos. Taking place on Nov. 1 and 2 of every year, this festival honoring deceased loved ones is often celebrated in tandem with Halloween.

  • Rise of superhero costumes

    The National Retail Foundation reported in 2019 that for the first time in 16 years, superheroes beat out princesses for the most desired children’s Halloween costume. It's back to princesses in 2020, with more than 2.7 million children dressing as princesses, more than 1.8 million as Spiderman, more than 1.6 million as superheroes, more than 1.3 million as a ghost, and 1.3 million as Batman.

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