Halloween Background Images
STUDY 1: GHOSTS OF PAST AND LAST
The first study requested descriptive data on Halloween events for U.S.-born older students (64 men and 64 women). These students were asked to describe how they spent the very last Halloween (data was collected in January), how they spent Halloween when they were teenagers, and how they spent Halloween in preschool at primary school. There is no room for verbatim answers (although see Others in Ainsworth 1973, Hunter 1983, McDowell 1985 and Mook 1969), but these answers were coded into categories as shown in Figures 1, 2, and 3 for the three age periods involved in the questions.
The preschool activities of these students on Halloween showed slight differences. Eighty-five percent of women and 87% of men said that “trick or treating” was their main activity. Another 7% of each gender reported that they went mostly to parties. And the remaining 8% (women) or 6% (men) reported that they were either not involved or were engaged in other activities (scary films, pranks, costume parades, make Halloween decorations or participate in Halloween events at school) as The main focus of their Halloweens.
As can be seen in Figure 2, this picture has changed significantly in adolescence. Only 14% of women and 18% of men reported doing tricks or treatments, and only 4% and 6% respectively reported that they were wearing a suit in some other context. For both sexes, parties and drinking were the dominant activities. Jokes were slightly more common among men (16%) than among women (13%), and watching scary films was slightly more common among women. Less than 10% of respondents did not report Halloween events. Among the outstanding “other” activities (mainly women) they distributed candy at home, highrides, visited “creepy houses” and told stories about ghosts.
During the current period of the very latest Halloweens of these young adults, there is another dramatic shift in activity. About a quarter of each gender now does nothing special for Halloween. The trick or treat that continued into adolescence is virtually nonexistent among these young people (but see Hunter 1983 for how adults drank or drank alcohol). More than one fifth of women and one third of men still report parties and drunkenness, and significantly more than in adolescence – 26% of women and 13% of men report costumed activities. Unlike students in some other campuses, those who studied did not have a local tradition of street parties.
Smaller numbers now give out sweets or take children (their or their brothers and sisters) for a trick or treat, and there are practically no jokes. Thus, while some young people are “quitting” Halloween, most continue to somehow support secondary data on more adult participation in Halloween. The functions of these activities will be discussed in the interpretation section.
STUDY 2: HEALTH SUITS
An observational study of children’s and adult Halloween costumes was conducted with photographs taken by 196 people: 30 aged under 6 years old, 102 aged 6 to 11, 32 aged 12 to 17, and 32 aged 18 and older. Sex was approximately evenly balanced in each group. The places where these costumes were photographed included tricks or treats in the middle-class area, a costume contest in the middle-class mini-mall, a parade in the village town of Halloween, a Halloween race, and several private adult clubs. Costumes were classified into 40 categories.
Sexual differences were noticeable. Women were much more often dressed as a witch / wizard, an inanimate object (e.g., pumpkin, pizza, doll, star) or as a stereotypical character of a female role (e.g., nurse, Snow White, harem girl, cheerleader, ballerina), Men were much more often dressed as superheroes (e.g., Superman, Batman), monsters (e.g., Dracula, Freddy Krueger, zombies), stereotypical roles of a male character (e.g. a tramp, sports player, cowboy) or as a scary animal (e.g. a dragon, a lion, a leopard).
It is easy to see that these costumes correspond to culturally stereotypical sexual roles. Costumes of the youngest (up to 6 years old) group were most often chosen by parents who dressed them either in “cute” costumes or in animal costumes (as if the child was a doll or a pet). At this age, girls begin to dress in “women’s” costumes, while “men’s” costumes for boys become commonplace in elementary school. Men of primary school age also begin to wear aggressive outfits of ferocious animals.
At an older age, they often become superheroes.