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Commentary: Halloween less lavish this year

Scripps Howard News Service
While the economy is recovering, we as a nation have still not recovered our swagger, at least judging by this Halloween.
Surveys report that there will be fewer parties, fewer haunted houses, less candy, fewer decorations and more handmade and reused costumes. The celebration will be especially subdued among those who traditionally party the hardest on Halloween, the 18-to-24-year-old crowd. The National Retail Federation says their individual spending will fall from $86.59 last year to $68.56 this year.
But we’re still carving pumpkins. The government says almost 93,000 acres of land were devoted, up from around 26,000 acres in 2007, and most of those pumpkins are destined to become jack-o’-lanterns.
Saturday night there will be Transformers, Harry Potters, superheroes and zombies as well as plenty of the traditionally most popular costumes ó vampires, princesses, police officers and pirates. It may be reading too much into it, but the federation says nurse costumes this year fell from fifth to 13th most popular while politicians dropped off the list altogether, which the federation sees as possible evidence of public fatigue with the health-care debates. The exception to the lack of interest in politicians seems to be Sarah Palin costumes.
New this year, and especially symbolic of the times, is a mask of Bernie Madoff, the crooked investor who bankrupted himself and wrecked the finances of thousands of others in a giant Ponzi scheme.
Another sign we’re still somewhat subdued as a nation is the seeming ebb of those debates over the precise nature of Halloween. After protests from evangelicals that Halloween introduced Satanism and witchcraft into the schools, many principals cancelled the celebration or recast it as a “fall festival.” One school district in Washington, veering in slightly the opposite direction, cancelled the kids’ Halloween party because he felt it might be offensive to Wiccans. Cooler heads seem to be prevailing now; dressing as a fairy princess and Spider-Man does not lead inevitably to human sacrifice.
One hopes that next year the 18- to 24-year-olds will be back celebrating Halloween with their usual overkill; that Bernie Madoff is a bad memory; and that nurses will be restored to their rightful place in the hierarchy of costumes.

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