Halloween is not what it used to be. Over thirty million people will spend an estimated $480 million to purchase Halloween costumes for their pets. According to the National Retail Federation, that is only a small part of the nine billion dollars that Americans will spend on this year’s celebration.
During the fifties and the sixties, Halloween was a simple thing. Parents bought pumpkins for their children to turn into jack-o-lanterns. Elementary school classrooms had parties. The local television station played old horror movies. On the evening of October 31, children put on costumes and went through their neighborhoods to collect candy from their neighbors.
Halloween was for children. The only serious concern of the average adult was to make sure that the children brushed their teeth well after consuming too much candy.
Today’s Halloween is a very different celebration for humans and animals.
An Adult Halloween
Indeed, it is a much more adult celebration. Almost half of all Americans intend to decorate their homes. Over half of those who plan to wear a costume will be adults.
One questions how a minor holiday for children became an adult celebration.
One reason is childhood and adolescence have extended beyond all natural limits. According to the Pew Research Center, about fifteen percent of millennials live in their parents’ homes. Many more young adults live by themselves or in cohabiting relationships, without taking on the adult responsibilities of marriage and children. Postponing adult responsibilities, many of them will celebrate this children’s holiday.
Indeed, Halloween celebrations lend themselves to the frenetic intemperance that John Horvat II discusses in his book Return to Order. Christmas and Thanksgiving tend to be celebrated within families. Halloween is about getting together with friends. Halloween celebrations allow the reveler to put on an artificial persona in the form of a costume. This provides an emotional excuse to act irresponsibly. The result is all but irresistible to those raised in a society of self-absorption.
Pets Instead of Children
This self-gratification explains why people are buying costumes for pets. An Internet search reveals a wide variety of choices. One site offers nearly two hundred pet costumes, most of them priced between five and twenty dollars. Other sites feature custom-made costumes costing hundreds of dollars. The pet can be costumed as a superhero, a fairy tale character or another type of animal. There is even a costume that dresses up a dog as a hot dog, complete with ketchup, mustard, and bun. Interestingly, most of the animal models are dogs as opposed to cats, whose temperaments make them far less likely to put up with this nonsense.
Anyone who has ever tried to put clothing on the family dog knows that the animal does not enjoy wearing it. The pet has no idea of the meaning of the costume. When it is removed, the pet is relieved. Why do people spend money to subject their beloved pets to this torture?
This trend is all about satisfying the desires of the owner. There are only two possible motivations that are within the realm of reason. First, the owners do this to provide entertainment to their friends. The second reason is that dressing up pets helps them meet some disordered emotional need of their own. The first reason reflects a warped sense of entertainment through the mistreatment of pets.
The second reason reflects a tragic substitution on the part of owners. This is because an increasing number of people are opting out of marriage and children. Some people see pets as substitutes for children. Caring for the young is instinctual. Those instincts are embedded in human nature by Our Heavenly Father to create familial bonds and ensure the survival of humanity. These impulses are holy.
In the disordered modern culture, these holy impulses have deteriorated. Some affection for pets is normal. However, some take this to an extreme by shifting parenting instincts to the care of pets.
This can be seen in the pet costume industry that provides matching or complimentary costumes for both pet and owner. Dressing siblings or friends in similar ways occasionally happened when Halloween was still an exclusive celebration for children. Sometimes the proud mothers of newborns entered the spirit of the occasion by devising mother-and-child costumes. Spouses invited to the sort of costume party might wear complimentary costumes. However, this trend now applies to pets.
In the photograph albums of many families are yellowing pictures of children dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Those photographs were taken decades ago by young parents taking a wholesome and vicarious delight in the joy of their children. Today, young people are far less likely to have children. They are still taking pictures. Instead of pictures of costumed children pasted in photo albums, now they are pictures of costumed pets posted to Facebook or Snapchat. It is a sad commentary on the present times.