iKids and Halloween 2: The Sprituality of Boo

See iKids and Halloween 1: The Business of Scare to learn more about the popularity of this holiday.

Halloween in all its glory is not just a day when people dress up to have fun. It is the holiday that best expresses the spiritual beliefs and norms that are being increasingly adopted by the American culture. Halloween is now America’s fastest growing holiday with sales topping 7 billion dollars for costumes, candy, and trips to haunted venues. Since 2009, Halloween spending has increased over 55%, easily dwarfing the growth of sales for other holidays like Easter (25%), Valentine’s Day (18%) and Christmas (13%).

It’s no mistake that J.K. Rowling, the author of the widely popular Harry Potter series, is releasing a 1,700 word story on Halloween about Dolores Umbridge, a Hogwarts professor and a witch who left a permanent scar on Harry Potter.

The casting of spells, the use of magic, and returning from the dead to take on evil forms are very much front and center when it comes to the American culture. One of the main factors in its growth is that Halloween is no longer just for children. While in generations past, Halloween was all about trick-or-treating in the neighborhood with your children, now its about a holiday when adults can dress up and have fun. In fact, two-thirds of all adults will participate in a Halloween activity of some type this year.

As the popularity of Halloween is on the rise, let’s take a look at three factors that underlie its growth:

  1. The Spirituality of Boo is Non-judgmental 

    In an age when terrorists commit unspeakable acts in the name of their religion or when people feel judged by religious intolerance, the belief in the supernatural is freeing.   No one is going to beat you up because you think you saw a ghost or if you think vampires will rule the world in the future. Rather than adhere to a strict doctrine, you are free to make up your own belief system and to change your mind as you will. Even better, it doesn’t necessarily even to have to make sense.

  2. The Spirituality of Boo is Experiential 

    Going to a scary movie or visiting a haunted house is an experience. In my city one haunted house venue advertises on the radio, “Kill live Zombies!” I assume they have a maze filled with actors dressed as the undead and customers shoot them with laser guns. The adrenaline rush of surviving an ordeal is reviving. It makes you feel like you are alive.

  3. The Spirituality of Boo is Stress-free 

    Unlike Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, you don’t have to make plans to visit your relatives,  you don’t have to shop for the perfect gift, and you don’t have to make anyone happy by doing something you don’t want to do.  Halloween is the one holiday when you can have fun with your friends and no one cares how you do it.

    So as you celebrate this risk-free, fun filled holiday, there is one more thing to consider. What if zombies, witches, ghosts, and ghouls are real? Boo!!!

iKids and Halloween 1: The Business of Scare

In the spirit of horror movies, this will be a two part series

Scaring people is big business and this year is sure to break records as Halloween is celebrated on Friday, October 31st. This will generate record numbers of parties and trick-or-treaters as Halloween grows in popularity. How big is the business?

The National Retail Association gives us the numbers:

Total Sales of costumes, candy, and decorations: $7.4 billion ($6.9 in 2013)

Children’s Costumes: $1.1 billion (#1 Princess, #2 Animal, #3 Spider-Man, #4 Frozen Character

Adult Costumes: $1.4 billion (#1 Witch, #2 Animal, #3 Batman Character, #4 Pirate

Pet Costumes: $350 million (#1 Pumpkin, #2 Hot Dog, #3 Devil, #4 Bumble Bee)

Percentage of Americans attending a Halloween party: 33.4%
(approximately equal to the number of people who attend worship on a Sunday)

78% of 18-24 year-olds will dress in a costume (73% in 2013)

Perhaps the most interesting number that comes from their data is 33 million Americans will visit a neighborhood haunted house, a Halloween themed zoo, or a haunted theme park. What are people looking for? The more realistic the better. Universal Studios in Orlando gives us a flavor of what is offered. Their Halloween Horror Nights features experiences like, “The Walking Dead”, “Dollhouses of the Damned,” “Giggles and Gore, Inc.”, “Cannibal Colony”, and “Bayou of Blood.”

Why are people, primarily young adults and teens, flocking to these venues? According to The Haunted Attraction Association, in a press release on “The Psychology of Fear Final”, there are four primary reasons people like to be scared:

First, a longing for sensory experience and satisfaction. The adrenaline rush that comes from navigating a maze of zombies in real life rather than on a video game is irresistible to people who long for things that are real.   Using millions of dollars of state-of-the-art special effects, haunted theme creators amp up the sound and the images to create a life-threatening experience.

Second, people desire to experience something outside of the ordinary. John Edward Campbell, Assistant Professor at Temple University, says the pleasure people feel after surviving a scary experience, “provides a cathartic effect, offering you emotional release and escape from the real world of bills and mortgages and the economy and relationships.”

Third, its safe entertainment. While people know they will be frightened to death, intuitively they know they are still safe. So rather than feeling fear, they feel excitement.

Fourth, people are curious. The dark side has always had its appeal and haunted attractions look to fill the bill with the most elaborate experiences they can design.

While young adults and teens find their way to these venues, programs catering to children look to fit the bill by offering specials on TV like “Toy Story of Terror” and the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

The Disney Channel seeks to grab the attention of its young viewers by offering Monstober, a full month of Halloween themed TV shows and movies. Nickelodeon tries to do it one better with Shocktober, which features “Haunting Halloween Specials all month long.”

So brace yourself for the days ahead. Images of ghosts, witches, and screaming victims are sure to fill our imaginations as TV networks and horror venues seek to deliver the most scares per minute whether its on our screens or in a theme park, zoo, or haunted house near you.

So what’s the take away?

American young people are seeking vivid experiences, ones that grab hold of them and tell them they are alive, even if they have to slaughter vampires, kick ghouls, and run through mazes of terror to discover their hearts are still beating.

Coming up next week: iKids & Halloween 2: The Spirituality of Boo.

7 Ways to Uncouple from “Now”

The operative word for the digital age is “Now.” Whether its getting a prompt to “Like” or a disquieting nudge because you haven’t answered that email, it seems that little is being done to remember the past or prepare for the future. Our devices are not created to encourage us to ponder, reflect, and discern. They are designed to get us to search, to click, and to hyperlink – always looking for the next best thing.

This is true for our iKids as well. As we shuttle them from school to practice to church to camp to after-school events…are we giving them time to take a break? Where in our hurried lives do we hit the pause button and breathe?

So in attempt to break free, here are 7 ways to take a break from the tyranny of now.

  1. Read a novel. Our smartphones and tablets are full of ways to distract us and the reading we do is nothing more than scanning short bursts of information. Taking a break from screens and reading a real book helps our mind imagine, relax, and refresh.
  2. Learn to cook Moussaka. About six months ago my family and I went to a Greek restaurant and I tried moussaka for the first time. For some strange reason I went home and decided to learn how to make it. It was out of my comfort zone and cultural background, but now that I have cooked it a number of times, it’s not half bad. If moussaka is not your thing, find a recipe that takes a lot of preparation and challenges you. The act of cooking a complex dish gives you a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the time it takes to make something good.
  3. Take a media fast.   We are so hemmed in by our screens and by our need to respond, that we don’t know how to live without a smartphone in our hand. So take up the challenge to shut it down for an evening or even a day. Turn off all media and give yourself time to think and reflect (fasting in Biblical times was related to food, fasting for us is giving up our media intake for a period of time).
  4. Write a letter. If you don’t remember how to do this, it entails getting a piece of paper and a pen and clearing a spot on a table to write. Writing by hand is slower because it makes you use the artistic side of your brain. When you write with a pen or pencil you are literally drawing a picture – one that others can recognize – that communicates a message to someone else. This is not the same as typing or texting. Writing by hand gives you an opportunity to think and to reflect as you share your thoughts with another person.
  5. Read a book to someone else. This is different than #1 above. By reading aloud to another member of your family or a friend the words take on another meaning. It also moves you to engagement.   This last week I picked up Love. Period.: When All Else Fails by Rudy Rasmus and starting reading it to my son. It has been a very rewarding experience as we are learning together and being challenged live out our Christian walk in today’s society.
  6. Listen to a story.   Take the time to talk with an older adult who grew up before the digital age. This might be an older relative or a member of your church. As you listen, you will see that they talk in stories and they focus on relationships. Talking to an older adult gives you an opportunity to break free from the onslaught of being “on” all the time and to hear about a time when relationships were built face-to-face and time moved at a slower pace.
  7. Pray. A long time ago I took a class on spirituality and we were taught a very simple prayer that has stayed with me. It goes like this, “I belong to God.” That’s it. Find a quiet moment and give yourself time to repeat this phrase as you pray it over and over again. It’s a very powerful prayer because it will remind you created you and will give you a sense of the timelessness of God’s presence in your life.