Two Halloween pumpkins carved with the image of Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama. [Agencies]
Global stocks markets are plummeting, house prices are slumping and jobless figures are rising but Americans are not about to let a financial crisis dent their Halloween fun. About three quarters of Americans plan to celebrate the ghost and goblins holiday, and despite the credit crunch most are going to delve deeper into their pockets this year to buy candies, costumes and decorations.
The average American will spend $47 on Halloween, 18 percent more than last year, credit card company Visa Inc says, based on the findings of its polls of American consumers. Although the surveys were conducted in late summer, October's financial meltdown is unlikely to curb Halloween spending.
"I think people are still going to be spending on Halloween," says Jason Alderman, director of Visa's financial education section. "It is one of those holidays that people derive a lot of pleasure for a relatively little amount of money. In these challenging times when a lot of people are worried and a pall is cast over a lot of families, this is a relatively inexpensive way to try to forget those troubles."
The National Retail Federation (NRF) puts the amount an American would spend even higher: $66.54. It predicts total spending for the holiday will be about $5.7 billion, based on its September survey by BIGresearch in which 8,167 consumers were polled.
"The bottom line when it comes to Halloween, in general, is that it's a relatively cheap and inexpensive holiday and consumers are ready to focus on fun and forget about what is going on," says Kathy Grannis, a spokesperson for the NRF.
Even though it's a children's holiday, youths aged 18-24 are expected to be the biggest spending group, dispensing $86.59 each. "It's huge for the youth who want to go out and participate in costume parties, whether it is on their campus or in a local restaurant and bar," Grannis says.
The observance of Halloween dates back thousands of years to Celtic rituals but the first official citywide Halloween celebration was thought to have taken place around 1920 in Anoka, Minnesota, which now bills itself as the "Halloween Capital of the World".
The Haunted House Association (HHA), which represents up to 200 ghostly homes, is also predicting a banner year, with about 18 percent Americans visiting scary houses, 2 percent more than last year.
"What really occurs in times of trouble is people's craving for entertainment," says Ben Armstrong, a founding member of the HHA and a co-owner of Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta. "People don't want to drive a long way ... they want to get their entertainment on a local level and that is what haunted houses provide."
The NRF poll shows more than 70 percent Americans will hand out treats, nearly 50 percent will carve a pumpkin, 35 percent will dress up, and a third will have a party or attend a party and 33 percent will take children trick or treating.
Witches, cats and vampire costumes will be popular for children, adults - and pets. But Batman is also expected to be a popular choice for all three groups, thanks to the Hollywood hit The Dark Knight. The presidential election on Nov 4, too, will have an impact with 574,000 adults planning to dress up as a political figure, according to the NRF.
Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is expected to be a top choice for Halloween. She topped the list of most searched political masks on Yahoo, followed by presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain.