Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Move over, kids. Halloween is for grownups

By Grace Wong, for CNN
updated 8:38 AM EDT, Tue October 30, 2012
A group of demons and witches gather for a night of havoc ... Are adults taking Halloween a little more seriously nowadays?
A group of demons and witches gather for a night of havoc ... Are adults taking Halloween a little more seriously nowadays?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In recent years Halloween has evolved from child's play to an adult-themed affair
  • Around the world, more money is being spent on Halloween costumes than ever before
  • Festival's secular inclusiveness seen as key to its growing popularity

Send us the scariest snaps from your Halloween celebrations.

(CNN) -- It was once dominated by children, but today Halloween is a decidedly adult affair -- replete with raucous parties, naughty get-ups and expensive ornamentation.

An estimated 71.5% of Americans are planning to celebrate Halloween this year, up from 52.5% in 2005, according to the country's National Retail Federation (NRF)

"A large portion of the growth is coming directly from adults who begin celebrating as early as a month prior to Halloween night," says NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. "We are definitely seeing that it is no longer only a children's holiday."

The trend is going global, too. Within the last five years the holiday has grown considerably outside of the U.S., according to Lisa Morton, author of "The Halloween Encyclopedia" and "Trick or Treat?: A History of Halloween."

Artist turns trash into Halloween wonder

In Great Britain, "there's been an almost 700% increase in adult costume sales since 2009," she says. It's also growing in Japan, where costume play has a longstanding tradition.

Elections: Now cheaper than Halloween

All grown up

The shift from children's to adult holiday can be traced to the 1970s, when Halloween street festivals in several gay neighborhoods in the U.S. began to transform into adult parties featuring lavish and over-the-top costumes.

In the mid-1980s, Halloween gained even more traction among adults, helped by the Coors Brewing Company, who ran an ad campaign featuring TV horror host Elvira. According to Morton, the marketing ploy helped make the ghoulish night a "beer holiday" in the mold of Superbowl Sunday and St. Patrick's Day.

Retailers capitalized on the party mood and responded to the demand for theatrical dress up. Pin-up pirate, naughty nurse, even sexy Big Bird -- you name it, and there's a sultry version of the costume available today.

Skimpy Halloween get-ups have been available for as long as costumes have been sold commercially, but in the last decade the prevalence of sexy costumes has really exploded, according to Lesley Bannatyne, author of "Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America's Fright Night."

Spooky snaps: How to shoot frighteningly good photos this Halloween

Why the desire to flaunt so much skin during this particular celebration, which falls at a time of year when temperatures in the northern hemisphere take a downward turn?

"Whatever box you're in, Halloween is when you get out of it, and for some, sexiness or outrageousness is their expression of getting out of it," Bannatyne says.

Halloween also benefits from being seen as a secular celebration, open to all and flexible enough to adapt to the prevailing cultural current, she adds.

Scaring up big business

What folklorists say began as ancient pagan festival celebrating the Celtic New Year, has today evolved into a multibillion-dollar commercial opportunity.

Whatever box you're in, Halloween is when you get out of it
Lesley Bannatyne, author

The NRF estimates Halloween spending in the U.S. alone will hit a record $8 billion this year, with the average U.S. consumer expected to shell out $80 on costumes, candy and decorations.

Know your ghosts from your goblins? Take the Halloween quiz

In the UK, Planet Retail forecasts Halloween sales will reach nearly $549 million, up 12% from 2011. Adults are helping drive that rise.

"In the last few years, there have been more adult parties going on at the weekend and it has become more of a big event," says Nicole Parker-Hodds, an associate analyst at Planet Retail.

Halloween is a holiday that morphs with the times, says Morton: "It goes through cycles and changes its identity about every 40 years."

Its reincarnation as a commercial fun fest for adults may be fleeting, but for now, business keeps booming.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:42 AM EST, Mon December 2, 2013
No matter the time of year, or place, a bounty of vegetables is often all it takes to get people singing, dancing, cow racing -- even parading around giant phalluses.
updated 2:06 PM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Fireworks boom, bulbs flash, and flames flicker as tens of millions of people across the globe celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
halloween costume no eyes
Still think Halloween is just for the kids? You won't -- not when you've seen CNN's gut-twisting, down-right disgusting mob of morbid maniacs.
updated 5:42 AM EDT, Fri November 1, 2013
Our list of doomed sites include a haunted school, political prisons and an abandoned hospital. No...we wouldn't go in there either!
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu October 31, 2013
Catch the best Halloween costumes from tinseltown featuring Heidi Klum, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus and all their A-list friends.
updated 1:18 PM EDT, Mon October 21, 2013
There are still many places in the world that treat magic as serious business. Check out our guide to the world's witchiest hotspots.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Mon October 14, 2013
The best photos of the eighth and annual gathering of geeks in the city that never sleeps. The sold out event allowed fans to mingle with stars.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Wed October 9, 2013
When animals come together en masse, very often so do humans. Here's our guide to the animal migrations that bring people out in flocks.
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Fri September 20, 2013
Surviving the all-day drinking sessions of highly potent wheat beer at the (in)famous Oktoberfest in Munich is marathon, not a sprint.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Fri September 13, 2013
For one weekend in September more than 155 million people in six neighboring countries across Central America pull out all the stops to honor the birth of their nations.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Wed August 28, 2013
Some hobbies take genuine talent, others just don't, but the real skill is turning your weird past-time into an international event.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
For Muslims, Eid al-Fitr is one of the most festive periods in the religion's calendar. We asked you to send us your best Eid photos, here are your best shots.
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Thu August 8, 2013
Award-winning British chef Aktar Islam shares his best Eid food memories. Find out what culinary delights are on his table.
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Humans have a strange relationship with food. This seems to be a global truth that is perhaps best evidenced by the array of unusual food festivals the world over.
updated 6:42 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Each year, proponents of the healing powers of mud (and those that just like to getting down in the dirt) descend on Daecheon Beach in South Korea for the annual Boryeong Mud Festival. Last year, 2.6 million people participated, many diving in to the mud marathon, mud wrestling, and several other mud-related activities on offer.
There is something innately messy about summer. That must be why some of the world's filthiest festivals bide their time until the warmer months.
updated 5:14 AM EDT, Fri August 9, 2013
From Bastille Day and 4th July to Chinese New Year and Disney Land, your shots of the world's greatest fireworks.
updated 5:32 AM EDT, Fri June 21, 2013
We asked you to send us your best solstice photos. From skinny dipping, fire jumping and dancing like a rocket -- here are your best shots.
updated 5:53 AM EDT, Mon June 17, 2013
Linked to fertility -- both of the vegetal and human variety -- the solstice has spawned celebrations meant to fan the flames of love and lust.
updated 6:43 AM EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Why did the midsummer maypole cause offense and who celebrates midsummer by running naked through the streets?
updated 1:07 PM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
For some it was an exhilarating holiday to an exotic place, finding new love or conquering their greatest fear. For others, it was witnessing an historic event.
updated 10:39 AM EST, Mon December 17, 2012
The champagne is on ice, the fireworks are exploding overhead -- but isn't your New Year's Eve party a bit, well, last year?
updated 10:54 PM EST, Thu December 13, 2012
Edinburgh is cast aglow at its annual New Year's Eve (Hogmanay) festivities with a torchlight procession involving more than 25,000 locals
For many people, New Year's Eve can be disappointing -- there's so much hype in the lead-up to the event, it often falls short of the mark.
updated 8:45 PM EST, Tue December 11, 2012
If your Christmas is too often one of tacky decorations, over-cooked turkey and bitter family feuds, now may be the time to plan yourself a Yuletide getaway.
updated 5:36 AM EST, Mon December 24, 2012
Jen Best from Liberty, Misouri, snapped this adorable picture of her six month old nephew, Grayson, playing with fairy lights after seeing the idea on Pintrest.
Christmas is synonymous with decorations, markets and extravagant quantities of food. But traditions differ greatly depending on where you are in the world.
updated 10:22 AM EST, Sun December 23, 2012
For something intended to bring pleasure to loved ones, Christmas shopping in the Internet age can be a peculiarly joyless and atomized activity.
updated 3:31 PM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
For some, Hanukkah is "the potato pancake holiday" -- a holiday that takes the mundane potato and gives it a massive makeover.
How much do you know about Christmas traditions around the world? Find out with our quiz.
updated 8:07 AM EST, Tue November 26, 2013
The biennale will attract artists such as Sudarshan Shetty, whose previous works have included this aluminium and wood sculpture known as
The port-city of Kochi, on India's west coast, isn't known for its arts scene but that will change as it's first arts bienale.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT