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Is Halloween classed?

HSBurke's picture

In light of recent Halloween festivities, I was asked to write a memo for my Urban Soc class about the sociological aspects of Halloween. One of the factors I chose to focus on reminded me of ESem, so I chose to post a bit here. Let me know what you think! 

"What has occurred to me while writing this memo is that Halloween is also a very “classed” holiday. In order to participate, you must either A) buy candy to pass out or B) buy/craft a costume to wear. The very essence of the event all but excludes those who are money and/or time poor. In this way, the difference between a suburban Halloween and an urban Halloween can be quite different merely based on the socioeconomic background of the residents. I have always been fortunate to experience a very festive, community Halloween. However, celebrating the holiday in the city vs. in a suburban area is unique due to differences in access between urban and suburban dwellers."


S. Yaeger's picture

Freckles, you raise some

Freckles, you raise some interesting points here, and you made me think back on Halloween in the neighborhood where I grew up, which was very urban, vs what I saw of Halloween in an affluent suburb of St.Louis when I was living there.  To begin with, the holliday has changed so much since I was young in that store bought costumes have become more of the norm, and have become way more intricate and expensive.  I only had one store bought costume as a kid, and it was a plastic mask and a plastic smock that you tied on over your clothes.  I was miserable in it because the mask was not comfortable and because it wasn't "accurate' enough for my 6 year old self (I was nerdy even then).  

Anyway, one of the differences between class lines that I noticed is that my childhood halloweens consisted of trick or treating on foot in our neighborood, and then either going to the hospital down the street to have them Xray our candy, or having our parents obsessively check it for signs of tampering.  Almost all of us wore homemade costumes, and we often traded them through the years with siblings and neighbors, so that you'd see a lot of repeats.  We rarely dressed as licensed characters, and favored more general costumes like "witch" and "werewolf".  If a kid on the street couldn't afford a costume, or didn't have time to make one, we would just take them along anyway.  Because many parents worked nights, it was not uncommon for one person to be sitting on a step with candy from several houses(I know now that many of those situations included the parent on the step actually buying the candy for other houses), or to see one parent escorting an entire gang of kids.  There was a definite sense of community and inclusion, which I think might have been a product of the fact that the area was prettty dangerous, even then, and being a community was the only way to make that night safe.

When I moved to St.Louis and began talking about Halloween with my friends there, I was surprised to learn that, in the most affluent areas, kids don't go trick or treating at all.  Rather, they attend parties where there is catering and games and then they are given a "treat bag" to take home.  If a kid can't afford a costume, or doesn't have a ride, or can't pay the fee for the organisation that puts the party together, they stay home.  My friends who had grown up in these areas were appalled that my parents let me go traisping around the city to collect candy from strangers.  They wondered how my parents knew that I would be safe in this environment.  In truth, they were kind of classist buttheads, but that's beside the point.

 The point is that it was a sense of community that kept that night going, even when we had little resource, and different sense of communtiy that informed those fancy parties in the suburbs.  They were just very different communities.  I'm curious to see how all the different people in our class have celebrated.

LJ's picture

Wow, it's so funny that I

Wow, it's so funny that I never thought of Halloween in this way but it's true. Almost all of the holidays are classed. One that particularly comes to mind is Thanksgiving. It can be very expensive to put a meal like that together and I'm sure many people do not get the "turkey dinner" we all picture.