Halloween, like any holiday where there’s money to be made and fun to be had, is a big deal in North America—and not just for kids. Some adults (mostly on the younger side, one presumes) see it as an opportunity to indulge in equally outlandish dress and behavior; older adults decorate their homes and yards for up to a month in advance and stockpile candy in anticipation of roaming hordes of trick-or-treaters.

Neo-pagans and Wiccans do their seasonal thing (think, fellowship and decorative gourds, not human sacrifice). Some Catholics hold All Saints’ Eve parties for children or the whole family (those of Mexican extraction turn it into a six-day fiesta and commemoration); other religious denominations shun it altogether.

A lot (like me) do little more than carve a Jack O’Lantern and allow their kids to do an hour or two of trick or treating in the local neighborhood. (And no, I don’t steal their candy; they’ve all shown a remarkable ability to memorize how many of each item they’ve collected, and yes, they do count.)

Wal-Mart and other “Halloween superstores” –the latter set up shop just for the spooky season—make a killing (pardon the usage) on everything from pumpkin-shaped lights (think, Christmas lights, but orange) to costumes, to elaborate yard displays, to loads of candy.

The New York Times opinion pages has a discussion (featuring six writers) about Halloween, under the heading “Monsters Versus Sexy Nurses.” It’s an enlightening read from various perspectives, touching on subjects such as mortality, love, sex, fears, family, religion/spirituality, fantasy/escapism, and just plain old joie de vivre.

Strangely enough, “sexy Halloween” is frowned upon in the liberal media. The Atlantic rounds up the arguments against the trend of girls — including young girls — wearing ever sexier costumes on this annual feast of foolishness.

Is there a unifying theme? Not in a pluralistic society where you must attach your own meaning to any given holiday or event. That is, of course, if Americans on the eastern seaboard are thinking of anything these days other than surviving the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Good Morning America and Today shows have simply cancelled their television costume specials in the aftermath of the hurricane, citing “sensitivity”.

Not that Nature will stop some of those folks from enjoying Halloween: Governor Chris Christie tweeted Monday night that he may reschedule (by executive order!) the holiday in New Jersey.

Are you celebrating Halloween? What’s the focus in your family?

Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...