Mark Andrews: Spooky lanterns and tasteful wreaths? Nah, I'm getting a Halloween sprinkler
We are supposed to be in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Rising mortgage rates, soaring energy costs, and the Guardian's uplifting 'Heat or Eat Diaries' just to brighten the mood.
So given that we're all skint, you might think people would be tightening their belts a bit this autumn, y'know, cutting down on the non-essentials, and focusing on the things that we really need rather than the frivolities, right?
Well, not entirely. According to the financial website Finder, British consumer spending on Halloween will this year break the £1 billion mark for the first time. That's a 55 per cent increase on last year, and nearly five times what it was 10 years ago.
And while such surveys should always be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism, there does seem to be a ring of truth about this one. Just walk around any suburban road, and the chances are you will stumble across at least one house decked out with black-and-orange streamers, hollowed-out pumpkins, spray-on cobwebs and various other tat. I don't recall seeing that 20, or even 10 years ago. Sometimes, it looks like people have put days of work into making their homes look like the set of a Hammer Horror movie. And as Dolly Parton once said, it costs a lot of money to look that cheap.
It seems that outside London and Northern Ireland, it is the people of the West Midlands who are the biggest offenders, with 57 per cent of adults – yes, adults – planning to blow their hard-earned on this type of thing.
Now you might think this would be mainly parents or grandparents, just a bit of fun for the kids. But the figures from Finder suggest it the biggest spenders are Generation Z, with 87 per cent of 18-26-year-olds spending an average of £47 on this kind of weirdness. I wonder if they are the same people who you see wandering around the pubs on a Friday night in tweed suits and flat caps, occasionally reciting the refrain 'by order of the Peaky Blinders!' in the belief that it makes them seem quirky and interesting.
Anyhow, it seems that for the majority the motive is less about entertaining children, and more to do with showing off to your friends on social media. Over the past couple of weeks my inbox has been packed full of tips from companies, which just happen to have some rather expensive lines of Halloween decor, on how to make your house more 'Instagrammable' for the night in question.
For example, one advises solar-powered lanterns should be the starting point: "Outdoor lanterns not only provide an eerily enchanting glow, but also add a chic and luxurious element to your front doorscape." Bonus points are available if you add faux flickering candles or hazy orange bulbs for a sophisticatedly spooky atmosphere. Apparently.
It adds: “Instead of piling an abundance of orange and purple plastic into your porch, this year, we would love to see more natural materials being used. Hay bales and dried corn plants can be sourced from local farmers to re-create the classic eerie corn field horror movie atmosphere, or autumnal florals, foliage, and wreaths can be used to create a more light-hearted, elegant display." Hay bales and dried corn plants? Sounds more like Boris Johnson's wedding reception.
Anyway, having read all that, I think I'm just got to put the finishing touches to my Halloween doorscape. There will be no autumnal foliages and wreaths, and definitely no purple and orange plastics. Instead, I'm going for the minimalist, industrial approach, with a floral irrigation sprinkler system above the doorway, minus the hanging baskets. It probably won't earn many likes on Instagram, Facebook or whatever, but it will serve a useful, practical purpose come Tuesday night: anyone who comes Trick or Treating to my house will benefit from a reinvigorating outdoor shower.
Very chic in Scandinavia, I understand.