The business of halloween



ASK someone on the street and it’s more likely that they’ll tell you that the upcoming long weekend is about getting ready to visit our loved ones who’ve passed on to the next great adventure on All Saints’ Day on November 1st, and by extension All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. For a lot of younger people, this long weekend is all about the tricks and treats of Halloween.

As the weekend nears, many businesses have a fairly profit thanks to the need for candies, costumes, and props for people who’re planning to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. The business of Halloween is a full-on industry that’s quite entertaining.

Where it all began

While some decry it as a purely western tradition, and its origins are thought to be based in the Celtic festival of Samhain, it also has some effect on the country’s religion. November 1st was decreed to be the day to honor all saints and martyrs by Pope Gregory III, incorporating several aspects of Samhain into it, particularly honoring our dead. The term ‘Halloween’ itself borrows from the original Middlle English name for All Saints’ Day: All-Hallowmas, with All-Hallows Eve being the night before.

Its rise as a festival made for communities and parties came into being upon the colonization of America, due to the mixing of beliefs and customs from European ethnic groups and Native Americans. Parties to celebrate the harvest became the norm, along with gatherings where ghost stories were told, and all kinds of mischief perpetrated.

The tradition of “trick or treating” comes from early All Souls’ Day parades in England – where the poorer citizens would beg for food and families would give them “soul pastries” in exchange for prayers for their dearly deceased, encouraged by the Catholic Church to replace the tradition of leaving food and spirits for the souls of their dead. This eventually evolved into children going door-to-door as part of the festivities, receiving ale, food, or money.

The modern version of Halloween as we know it took root in communities during the 1920s to 1950s, making it an effective and inexpensive way for entire towns to participate in the festivities which was geared more towards children. The costumes come from the superstition that if one goes out in costume, ghosts and spirits wouldn’t abduct them thinking that they were the same.

The spirit of business

As an industry today in America—according to an article by Winnie Sun for Forbes—an estimated total of $7 million is spent annually on Halloween, making it the second largest commercial holiday. This traces its origins to the 1950s when candy companies began to notice the uptick in profit. This was because candy was regarded as a cheaper, more convenient offering to trick-or-treaters. Candy makers like Hershey’s and Nestle definitely took notice, rapidly launching several varieties of candy bars over the course of the next two decades.

These days, the holiday is a veritable cash cow—mainly because it really isn’t just for kids anymore. Adults spend a fair amount getting into the spirit of Halloween with costumes and parties, last year alone according to the National Retail Federation, 70 percent of 18 to 40 year-olds would be out in costume.

Niche markets for Halloween-related items also pop up during these times, with sales and discounts happening nearly every week, along with commercial establishments catering to the adult population with themed music and parties. To say that the long weekend is going to be very lucrative weekend is by no means a stretch. In the country, the long weekend is lucrative for transport businesses as many people travel to provinces to honor their dead, along with grave caretakers who tidy up in preparation for the visitors.

Final thoughts

While the Philippines has only recently adapted to the Western version of Halloween, it may surprise you that we’ve always had our own version of trick-or-treat called Pangangaluluwa that mostly follows the same tradition, with the exception of children impersonating the dead relatives to receive their treats.

For a holiday based largely in the honoring of one’s dead, it has become pretty lively all around the world not just for the people looking to have fun, but also for the many businesses that contribute to its propagation.

Miggy Castañeda writes about personal finance for, a financial comparison website aiming to help Filipinos save money through diligent comparisons of financial products.


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