do I really have to wear a Halloween costume to work?

A reader writes:

I am the assistant to the executive director of a nonprofit human services agency. The culture of the agency includes having the employees and the volunteers wear costumes to work on Halloween. In all of my long work history, wearing costumes to work on Halloween has never before been a part of the workplace culture. Part of my work involves interacting with the public, and my personal standards include the belief that it is not correct to for staff to wear Halloween costumes in the workplace, especially when interacting with members of the public.

When I joined the agency four years ago, I wore a black pantsuit on Halloween and purchased a witch’s hat, and kept the latter item visible next to my desk. I have followed this practice since that initial year, without engendering any negative comments from my manager or other staff members. Halloween is almost upon us again. In the last staff meeting, my manager reminded everyone to wear costumes on Halloween, and said that the staff members who wore costumes would get to go home early on that date, while anyone not wearing a costume would have to stay until the normal 5:00 closing time.

Going home early on Halloween is not a special treat for me, as I have work that needs to get done. I plan on following my usual practice of wearing a black pantsuit and bringing the witch’s hat to work. Although almost all of the rest of the staff, including the manager, show up each Halloween in new and specially purchased costumes, I believe that I am observing the letter of the office culture custom, if not the spirit. Am I under any obligation to go beyond my usual practice of wearing a black pantsuit and bringing the witch’s hat to work on Halloween?

I wouldn’t think so, not in any reasonable office. I mean, some might think that you’re being a bit of a party pooper, but it’s not something that should have any real ramifications for you at work. In fact, it seems clear that it’s not a requirement, based on your manager’s wording that people not wearing costumes will just work until their normal ending time.

That said, for what it’s worth, I think you’re probably being a bit too much of a stickler when you say that people shouldn’t wear Halloween costumes to work, especially if they’re interacting with the public. There are certainly some jobs where that’s true — for example, if you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t be giving patients bad news about their health while dressed as a giant banana or something — but for most jobs, it’s not inherently unprofessional to wear a costume, and if the culture of a particular office is one where people do that, that’s a perfectly reasonable way for that office to run.

None of that obligates you to dress up if you’d rather not, and anyone who gives you crap about that is being a bit of a jerk, since different people have different preferences around this stuff. But at the same time, just as they shouldn’t be judgy about your personal preferences on this, I’d urge you not to judge the people who enjoy dressing up as incorrect either.

{ 482 comments… read them below }

  1. Charlie*

    I love the image of the giant banana doctor so much. “Mrs. Johnson, I’m terribly sorry to give you this news, but….wait, what are you laughing at?”

        1. Golden Lioness*

          Love love love Dr. House! He should be grumpy cat for Halloween… He already has the grumpy part down! LOL

    1. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      I’m a doctor, and I do dress up a bit for Halloween. I don’t wear a full on costume, because they tend to be a bit hard to move in, but I’ll wear an orange shirt and some jack-o-lantern earrings and a sparkly spider hair clip or something. Kids love it, elderly folks tend to especially love it, and I’ve never gotten a negative reaction to it yet.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        I’m not sure whether to warn you about tractors and pageant moms or swans with sparklers.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I would love it, too. Normally I’m too lazy to dress up myself, but it does make me smile to see people who put a little thought into doing something fun.

        (We have some people down the road who always pull out all the stops on Halloween. A couple of years ago, they built a full-size replica of the big curly cliff from the Nightmare before Christmas poster and put up a big LED-illuminated moon behind it–he dressed as Jack, she dressed as Sally, and their kids were Lock and Stock. Last year, they had a big spinny hypno-disc thing–I think it was the moon from the previous year, actually, with a spiral painted on it–and a screen where they (silently) projected clips from The Twilight Zone. They’re very conscientious, too, about not making too much noise and about turning off the glowy bits at a reasonable hour of night. I would never, ever have the energy to do that kind of thing, but it makes me so, so happy that other people do, and for no other purpose than to provide a bit of whimsy. This year I’m already looking to their yard to see what they’ll come up with….)

        1. Bad Candidate*

          I’m kind of wanting like a Youtube link or something here. LOL We do a pretty big display too. Now that we own a house. My husband does a big light display set to music with singing faces and coordinated pumpkins. He even took today off to finish setting stuff up. It’s mostly his hobby, though I love Halloween too.

        2. Adlib*

          We don’t have kids but live in a suburb. We get a TON of trick-or-treaters, and my husband has a grim reaper/skeleton costume. He sits on the porch motionless and scares the kids. It’s so hilarious! He got some teens really good last year, and one girl threw her candy all over the yard. He’s nice to little kids who sometimes want their parents to come up because he’s pretty scary looking. It’s a good time!

          1. ZuKeeper*

            When our daughter was little we lived in a neighborhood that went all out for Halloween, decorations, “haunted houses” in the garages and the perfectly still creepy guy in the yard of one house waiting to scare the kids, haha. He was great with the littles though, and didn’t scare them. Even when we moved, we would go back for Halloween. Now we live in a condo and we don’t get trick or treaters :(

      3. Moonsaults*

        My doctor’s office always had decorations and the staff, doctor and nurse included would have something themed on at least. It really brings out the “spirited” side to a place that a lot of people are anxious going into. It reminds folks that medical professionals aren’t all just robots sent from another galaxy to poke us with needles and tell us bad news!

        1. SaraV*

          I got my bottom set of braces put in on Halloween. My orthodontist wore a bright orange dress shirt and a solid black tie. They called my mom back while they were finishing, and she commented something to the doctor “Nice to see you dress up for the holiday.” Completely deadpan, he responded “What holiday?” Yep, I liked my orthodontist…as much as you can like your orthodontist.

          1. halpful*

            ooh, I remember getting halloween-themed elastic thingies on my braces. :) it really helped me feel less awful about having a bunch of metal glued to my teeth. I hope they’re still doing that…

    2. Bad Candidate*

      “I’m very sorry to tell you this, but all of our efforts to save him have been… fruitless.”

      1. egg*

        I love Vernon! That is an amazing image.

        I once had a sick-child visit to the pediatrician on Halloween, and it is totally fun and reasonable for pediatricians to wear Halloween costumes, but the doctor we saw (not our usual one) was a man dressed up as Mrs. Doubtfire. I thought it was hilarious but my kid (then about 4) was REALLY confused.

    3. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I keep picturing the doctor in the banana suit as the doctor from the Simpsons.

    4. Merely*

      The vet who euthanized my much beloved pet on Halloween was wearing Spock ears. It made the experience a little more bearable.

    5. CAndy*

      “Mrs Johnson, I’m afraid to tell you that you are looking a bit yellow and it could be jaundice. I also have to report that your potassium level is too high”

    6. Stickinthrmud*

      I disagree with ask a manager for the first time. i think the enployee feels pressure to dress up and that really takes the fun out of it. Encouraging is one thing but this feels like punishment if you don’t participate. The employee works there the boss doesn’t own her. I once worked for a boss who certainly had a mental illness and got a sick joy controlling the lives of his employees in and out of the office. This was one of his requirements for his managers. Everyone called it mandated fun and only he enjoyed it because he forced it on everyone. What a jolly he got that everyone had to follow his every whim. It didn’t stop at Halloween. Nearly every holiday had a requirement. Ugly Xmas sweater day, etc. Once we had to jump through actual hoops to get out bonus checks. Seems like fun until you are forced to do stupid things over and over. It wasn’t fun for him it was a sick joy that made us all uncomfortable.

      1. Kate*

        Hi Stickinthemud,

        From your post, it sounds like you are saying your boss had a “mental illness” that made him enjoy controlling others. If that isn’t what you meant at all, please ignore everything below.

        I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that unless he is a sociopath or psychopath or something like that there is no such mental illness.

        As someone with two mental illnesses, please don’t armchair diagnose people or talk about mean crazy people with issues as being mentally ill, unless you know for a fact that they are. So many mean or violent people are described as being mentally ill, even though that is unlikely or unknown by the person talking about it, it really is stigmatizing and perpetuates a negative stereotype about the mentally ill.

        Thank you,


        1. Stickinthrmud*

          Kate –
          You bring up a really good point. I didn’t realize I was negatively stigmatizing mental illness but I can see why you say that and appreciate that you pointed it out. Thank you. I need to think about how I describe the situation in the future. I sincerely appreciate the way you pointed this out. I think that was the kindest internet correction in the history of the internet and it was incredibly effective. So thank you for that.

          I am not qualified to diagnose anyone with a mental illness. I believe as do others that he is a sociopath and suffers from depression which I believe triggers some really unfortunate and aggressive behaviors. Friends have tried to encourage him to get help but he refused probably because of the mental illness stigma you describe. It is a weird feeling to be both compassionate for someone and wishing they would get help while also being extremely annoyed by the way they behave.

      2. Elliot*

        I think it depends on the environment. OP says she works in human services. I work in human services and Halloween costumes are mandatory for staff who work directly with clients. I’m not a costume person, I hate spending the money especially, but I am still participating and wholeheartedly on board with doing it to give our clients a better holiday. It’s the nature of my organization and a weird little quirk in my field.

  2. Roscoe*

    OP does seem a bit judgy here. IF you don’t want to dress up, don’t. But for people that enjoy it, don’t act like they are unprofessional. I don’t even really understand this question. It seems you have your custom, and its fine. You don’t really want to go home early. Are you just looking for validation that what you are doing is ok. If that’s it, then yeah, its fine. But I have to wonder are you also trying to act like you are above everyone else. If that is the case, its not cool

    1. Charlie*

      I can understand it feeling a little frivolous, just from a workplace vibe standpoint, but yeah – if this is just to validate OP The Super Serious Worker, not goin’ there.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I’m judgy about adults dressing up for Halloween. It just seems… really dumb to me.

      That being said, I don’t think anyone can tell. My office has a very strong Halloween culture — there’s an epic cube-decorating contest, we have kids come through to trick or treat, colleagues are definitely in costume — and it’s actually fun.

      1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

        I’m judgy about adults dressing up for Halloween. It just seems… really dumb to me.


        I’m an adult, and I’ve loved Halloween since birth, and I love dressing up for the holiday (though I don’t do it at my current workplace). Playing dress up is never dumb – but then again, I’m an actress on the side, so I guess I would like it.

        1. Sniffles*

          FJ – your response is exactly why many people don’t speak up. Glad you enjoy dress up & silliness but you do get that not everyone does. Enjoy yourself but don’t pick on those of us who don’t “celebrate” this “holiday”.

          1. vaultdweller101*

            No one’s picking on you. Don’t wear a costume. You’re an adult. I’m sure you enough confidence in your own choices to stand behind your completely valid decision to not don a costume or celebrate Halloween. It’s really not that big of a deal.

          2. catsAreCool*

            I don’t think there was anything in Fortitude Jones’ reply that picked on anyone.

            I wasn’t wild about Victoria Nonprofit thinking of adults dressing up as dumb, but she has a right to her own opinions.

      2. Lana*

        Yeah, I feel the same way. I just don’t get it. It seems really childish to me. I mean, my own children aren’t allowed to wear costumes to school and they’re children. So that would even make sense. So if a child can’t get away with it – why on earth are grown adults wearing costumes to work? I am not against adults dressing up. Have a costume party if you want. Go to a bar on Halloween night in a costume. Walk around the neighborhood with your kids and get all decked out or just answer the door dressed up. But work? I makes no sense. I don’t get it. I think it’s weird.

        1. seejay*

          Cause some of us like costumes and making them and being creative and don’t get the opportunity to do so except to work.

          I for one like the fact that my workplace celebrates Halloween.

          1. Jayn*

            I’m looking forward to the chance to wear one anywhere besides home this year (LO’s first trick or treat). I enjoy making costumes but haven’t really had a chance to wear them in nearly a decade, since I don’t go out on Halloween and haven’t really been to a convention either.

        2. The Kurgen*

          My workplace goes all out for Halloween with a cubicle decorating contest every year, costumes, etc. There’s a decorating theme with prizes for whomever best illustrates that year’s theme. I think it’s ridiculous for adults to do this in a professional environment but that’s just my preference. I do participate but only because if I don’t, I would be judged as being “not a team player”. I’d much rather bring in treats and celebrate by being myself.

        3. Marillenbaum*

          Because grown adults are just that, and can decide to buckle down and get work done while also wearing their Red Riding Hood costume. Especially since the office is quite chilly, and that cape is remarkably practical at keeping warm!

        4. NoNoNoNoNo*

          It’s wimsy.

          It’s a break in the normal workaday super-serious-all-the-time default way things are 99% of the time.

          It’s just a way to have a little bit if fun…as an adult. To indulge a little nostalgia from a time before everything became all about paying *the bills,* always being responsible for everything and everyone…while still taking care of business.

          It’s not that complicated. It creates a shared cultural *thing* with other adults all celebrating a holiday that has no religious or patriotic undertones.

          It’s all about the fun and memories of simpler, happier (hopefully) times from childhood when dreams were still possible…and candy.

      3. AnonEMoose*

        You don’t enjoy it – that’s cool. But there’s no reason to judge those of us who do.

        I know people who dress up as Klingons – and Storm Troopers – and Darth Vader – and super heroes – and super villains – and just about anything else you can think of. And not just at Halloween, either. Most of them have jobs, and mortgages, and families, and all that other stuff. It’s just one of the ways they have fun.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Some people (not saying anyone here is one of them) who seem to feel that way. And who therefore feel free to denigrate people like science fiction fans, gamers, etc. as “childish” for having hobbies that are not exactly part of the mainstream. Or for being passionate about something that isn’t sports or work or whatever they’ve decided is “normal”.

            Drives me nuts, because to me it’s a form of bigotry. Just because you don’t understand it, or don’t enjoy it, doesn’t make it “weird” or “childish” or whatever. It’s ok that it’s not your thing…but don’t yuck someone else’s yum. (Generic “you” here, of course!)

            1. Lana*

              I don’t think there’s anything wrong with LARPing or anything like that – but not at work. It’s the work thing that makes no sense to me. For example, a man I work with showed up last year in a yoda costume that looked like a pajama onesie. If I ran into him at a local comicon or something I wouldn’t think twice about it. But at work it was jarring having to talk to him and do business with him when he’s essentially dressed in a onesie with green pointed ears.

            2. seejay*

              My mother keeps asking me when I’m going to “grow out of” certain things that she seems to think are childish. Apparently there’s a magical number in which people are supposed to stop liking certain things, switch to doing other things and become something else. I seem to have failed that part of life since I’ve yet to pass the part where I get married, have kids and settle down.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                There is a persistent–not terribly common, I think, but persistent–meme among fannish teenagers on Tumblr that it’s okay for them to be really into Captain America, or Star Wars, or whatever, but that it’s pathetic if it’s “adults,” because adults “ought” to have super awesome lives and be too busy for squealing over the newest Marvel movie or whatever. (Where they define “adults” tends to be a bit of a, heh, moveable feast–the thirteen-year-olds are convinced they’ll be too cool and busy with their awesome life to be fans by the time they’re, like, nineteen; the eighteen-year-olds, seeing their twenties rise up before them, often push it back to 25 or 30.)

                It always makes me want to say, “Oh, you sweet summer child.”

                1. seejay*

                  I definitely think that there’s a time/place and *way* for adults to behave with certain things that are geared towards children or teens and I have a bit of an issue with some things that are clearly geared towards small children that attract an adult fandom, especially when said adult fandom gets into it as adults and not something they are still a fan of because they grew up with it, but totally agreed… there’s no cut off period where adults should just stop enjoying things they’ve always enjoyed because of some societal expectation or belief that “it’s intended for X audience”. Sure, we might grow out of it, grow bored with it, or find something else that occupies or interest, but age shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

                  If anything, a lot of companies are realizing that adults are the ones that have the money to invest in their products. Why else would Lego put out $400 Star Wars kits with 1500 pieces? Parents aren’t going to buy that for their 10 year old, nor is the average 10 year old going to be able to put that together. That’s a dad toy. (or for someone with disposable income, etc etc)

                2. all aboard the anon train*

                  I was just about to comment with this! I’ve seen a lot of push back recently that anyone 25+ or 30+ must have “better things to do with their time”. Tumblr fandom is a blackhole of drama and soapboxing at this point anyway. I honestly don’t remember it being such an issue when I was young and in fandom. The “adults” were the cool ones with real life experience and who usually wrote fic that wasn’t trash.

                  There are other issues at play with this drama (which verge into some pretty serious accusations), but it’s ridiculous. Also, who do these kids think created those things they love? Adults. It’s not cool for me, as a 30 year old, to love Star Wars or Captain America, then I guess it’s not cool for those 25+ actors/writers/directors to make those movies because they must have better things to do than play pretend.

                3. PlainJane*

                  Ugh. I hate the hierarchy of hobbies and the idea that you’re supposed to grow out of some but not others. As someone mentioned upthread, being a sports fan seems to be perfectly acceptable from birth to death, but heaven forfend you should be into Star Wars or whatever. I’m a diehard fan of a certain 80s metal band (won’t name them, not out of shame but to preserve my anonymity) and have been known to schedule my vacation around their tour schedule. No I’m not a groupie. No I’m not emotionally stunted. My thing is no less mature or legitimate than wearing face paint and putting flags on your car every weekend of football season.

                4. VintageLydia*

                  @all aboard

                  I didn’t even get into fic until my late 20’s and noticed all my favorite authors were 30 or older. How many high school or coffee shop AUs does X fandom really need? Not that I begrudge the writers their fun. Pretty much every good writer has some really bad writing and fan fic in their past. But I’m really really thankful for adult fandom as a consumer of fan created works.

                5. Aurion*

                  @all aboard the anon train: Amen to everything you said. All the best fan fiction I’ve read (as in, ones that stood the test of time and remain great even after I go back and reread it years later) were written by people 25+. Usually 40+, in fact.

                  Tumblr is such a mire of drama. I remain baffled as to why it became the fandom hangout.

              2. Maxwell Edison*

                I’m in my late forties, and if I ever say I’m too grown up for Disneyland, comic cons, Marvel movies, horror comics, Muppets, building sand castles, etc., just take me out back and shoot me. To quote a comic I read ages ago: “Sure, it’s stupid. But the stupid things in life are the only things worth doing.”

                1. Elle*

                  Agree wholeheartedly, my late forties friend! Life is too damned short not to enjoy every minute of it. Do what you enjoy and makes you happy!

                2. kittymommy*

                  One year Disney World was doing a free visit on your birthday so my friends and I decided we would all get year passes, and go on each of our birthdays (they gave a credit on a gift card for our birthday if we visited). We decided that we would each pick a Disney princess, get our crowns and wands and wear them when we went. Disney gave us each the basic wand, we individually bought fancy light up wands (princess appropriate of course, Belle can’t carry Snow White’s!!). Everytime we went with the celebrating princess her tiara, light up wand and her royal court other visitors freaked out. They loved it. People took pictures with us! It was honestly the best fun I have ever had at amusement parks. We were all in our 30’s. And not early 30’s.

              3. Nerf*

                It seems that once you have the kids, it’s totally acceptable to force whatever you do actually love that may seem childish on to them so you can “relive” it through their eyes. My father thinks it’s ridiculous that my childless husband and I go all out at Christmas with decorating and wrapping gifts for each other (he literally puts my mom’s gifts in brown paper bags) because “Christmas is for kids”. If we had kids, then it would all be just fine and dandy by him.
                I’ll just go ahead and keep on living Christmas through my own eyes, thanks. Don’t need a fresh set to legitimize what I do.

              4. Blue Anne*

                Also – I get people teasing me about being a granny because I knit. Can’t win. What is it that I’m “supposed” to be interested in at 27? Romance novels and hiking, nothing else?

            3. Blue Anne*

              Yes! I agree completely. I hate, hate, hate it when people tell me that comics are childish. I mean, quite aside from the fact that it’s okay to enjoy things you enjoyed when you were a kid, some of this stuff addresses really adult issues…

              1. AnonEMoose*

                Clearly those people have not read “Sandman” or “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” or…some of those are seriously NOT for kids.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Yes! I mean, a lot of this stuff, it was totally inappropriate that my parents let me start buying them when I did. (But then, that was even more true of normal books. I definitely, definitely should not have been reading Game of Thrones or Black Jewels as early as I was.)

                2. seejay*

                  I just had this discussion over the weekend with my partner about how my mom rented “The Last Unicorn” for my sister and I when it came out on VHS. She thought it was a cute cartoon about a unicorn. Knowing what I know now, I don’t think it was an entirely appropriate cartoon for a 5 and 7 year old. O_o

                  But as an adult, I’ve read the book (twice), own the movie, and have a framed art picture (not from the movie, but done by a different artist based on the book) and have a whole new appreciation for it, partially based on the love I had for it as a child and growing up with it, and as an adult and approaching it with an adult perspective.

                3. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

                  Sandman is brilliant. I was seething after I read the omnibus because I didn’t think of it first, lol.

                4. AnonEMoose*

                  Out of nesting, but replying to Fortitude Jones – if you haven’t, definitely check out “Endless Nights,” and “Overture” (the prequel – which is also brilliant. Because Neil Gaiman.)

                5. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

                  @AnonEMoose Ooooh, I’ll have to check those out. I haven’t read them yet. (I think I know what I’ll be doing on All Hallows Eve…)

              2. asteramella*

                I think people forget that comics are created BY ADULTS who love comics.

                Comics are my side hustle. The adults who create comics professionally are adults who love the medium and the craft. They sure as hell didn’t get into comics for the money…

          2. Adlib*

            I ran around my yard this weekend with a mini-kite in full view of neighbors driving by. Zero fluffs were given.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I could definitely stand to be less judgmental in general, so I’m always happy to take that feedback and get better!

        2. Gandalf the Nude*

          I’d get more excited for Halloween if I didn’t already dress up at 5 different conventions over the summer!

          1. Anna*

            Amen. I’m also thinking I’ll just bust out the Agent Carter cosplay I did for Dragon Con and call it good.

          2. YawningDodo*

            Haha, that’s the position I’m in after this last weekend. “Halloween? Eh…I mean, I guess I can re-use a con costume for handing out candy.” If I wear a costume to work it’s going to be a dead simple one because I kind of hit my limit on complicated/uncomfortable costumes.

            1. Jolie*

              Simplest way to pull a Halloween look :

              Step 1. Pull out of your wardrobe whatever looks vaguely goth-y, cabaret-ish, punk lolita or funky (think : what would Helena Bonham Carter wear? Corsets, puffy skirts, fishnet /patterned /striped stockings and anything with black or red lace are good items to include) If nothing fits the bill, go for a simple LBD instead

              Step 2. You will need black and white face paint, plus your usual make-up, including a dark red lipstick preferably (bright red is fine too). Mix white paint with your foundation and apply it. (You’re going for the whiter side of goth pale, not mime white outright). Apply lipstick generously, with a little touch of black blended in. Colour your eyelids up to the crease entirely in black, then on/above the crease in lipstick. Add a bit of white near your eyebrows in the outer corner, like in “make your eyes pop” contouring tutorials. Apply mascara generously. Paint your eyebrows black if desired.

              Step 3: In lipstick, draw a question mark on your left cheek and an exclamation mark on your right cheek.

              Step 4: puff up your hair in a messy, volumised style. Or tie it up in two pigtails à la Harley Quinn. If desired, chalk a few highlights in different colours.

              Here you go – Tim Burton-esque riddling madwoman look.

                1. Future EdTech*

                  Be Leslie Knope!

                  I think for people who don’t enjoy “childish” costumes can easily find ways to “dress up”. It’s just more of having an imagination from your closet and be able to pull off the impression when prompted on it.

                2. SimontheGreyWarden*

                  When I was 16, I took my decade-younger sister out trick or treating. I put on one of dad’s suits and carried a briefcase and told people I was from the IRS. No kids got it. All the parents did. I got so much candy.

          3. Lissa*

            I want to be excited about Halloween, and I love seeing the costumes, but I’m so uncreative I just get jealous and sad, ahha. I love geeking out, I am just really not crafty or good at thinking of fun costumes!

          4. Isabel C.*

            Hee! Yeah, I LARP, so while I enjoy Halloween, I’m not inclined to go to great lengths. (I’m also in that weird area of life where I’m past trick-or-treating but don’t have a lot of drinking-and-dancing parties to go to, and I don’t have kids, so…)

        3. Liane*

          Yup, another one here. I am actually a minor officer in the Rebel Legion Star Wars costuming club. Along with the 501st Legion, we do charity events, parades, etc. year round. Right after 9/11, many of the 501st and the Klingon costumers played a big role in blood drives with their “Blood War.”

          1. AnonEMoose*

            The 501st Legion is awesome! At one of our local comic shops (yes, we have multiple comic shops here – yes, we’re spoiled) it gets so crowded on Free Comic Book Day that they actually have a cop directing traffic in the parking lot. One year, I saw her taking a selfie with some of the troopers from our local chapter of the 501st. She had the biggest grin on her face. Some of the other cops have said they like that assignment because, while it’s busy, the crowd is neither rowdy nor drunk.

          2. RFan*

            Rebel Legion Echo Base here!
            Also, executive, cosplayer & speaker on graphic novels & comics. Child free and enjoy Halloween too!

            For my workplace, we have a Halloween parade w hundreds of babies- preschool. I encourage staff costumes, but also say Halloween colors, sweaters, etc. no one is required to participate, but it takes minimal effort to do something.

      4. Golden Lioness*

        I love dressing up. I’ve done over the top Carrie (with a half gallon of blood poured all over my head and shoulders for good measure. It’s not just Halloween either. I love Renfest as well.

        I understand and respect is not your cup of tea, and I would not force you to dress up, but that doesn’t make it childish.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            Mine too! When they came out with the remake I had to be Carrie that year. It was very current.

            I actually didn’t spend as much money as other years. I bought a long pale pink dress a wig and a plastic tiara, then I stained the top of the dress with fake blood and after I put the costume on I threw a lot of fake blood on top of me and smeared some in my face and arms… Simple, but looked awesome, in fact I was entered into a contest by an organizer that spotted walking me around (was not aware that was going on) and made the final by popular vote!

            The 2 most interesting comments I got were:

            1) A non-fan that had never heard of Carrie ask me if I was a car wreck victim, and
            2) A cop told me you look like something I’d investigate (loved this comment! thought he was very clever)

      5. Collie*

        Cube-decorating? Do you have a giant decorative cube that gets dressed up for the seasons? (Genuine question here — my wheels are turning for my own work and I want to know more!)

        1. Nanani*

          Pretty sure “cube” is short for “cubicle” here (a small office space with partitions that aren’t full walls, usually one of many many such in a large space)

        2. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

          We did cube decorating at Evil Law Firm for Halloween and Christmas. I never partook in the Christmas fun, but one year for Halloween, we had a theme of “Horror Films You Love,” and I decorated my cube in a Pet Semetary theme. It got a lot of raves.

          1. Amadeo*

            We didn’t really do it at a newspaper where I worked, oh, I expect this was about five or six years ago now, but the sales department was ramping up for Christmas and at the beginning of October had put up the tree and hung paper stockings all over the place.

            We, the creative team, rebelled by going all out in our ‘bowling alley’ with Halloween. Fake spiderwebs (everywhere EVERYWHERE), jack o’lanterns, lights and a skeleton prop someone found somewhere that we put at an empty desk. I’m honestly astonished that we weren’t scolded for it, but I suspect the publisher figured it wouldn’t have been worth the effort.

            1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

              Lol, Halloween should definitely overtake the commercialism of Christmas. It’s more fun.

              1. Amadeo*

                Oh, I am of the Christian faith, and I’ve no issue with Christmas – after Thanksgiving, please and thank you. Definitely NOT at the beginning of October! I was all about the spiderwebs out of sheer irritation that someone had hung a paper stocking on the front side of my cube before the last week of November!

                1. Amadeo*

                  @Fortitude :( I’m sorry, I don’t think I could either! You are welcome to my internet sympathies.

                2. DragoCucina*

                  Oh, I’m the seasonal guard at work. No fall decor before mid-Sep (most stays up through Thanksgiving), October is Halloween, November Thanksgiving, and absolutely no Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Specific Christmas decor stays up until January 6th. Last year we put up a winter tree (blue and silver snowflakes) that stayed all through January. My rule is not to rush the seasons.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  For craft stores, it’s fine, since people have to start early to finish Christmas bazaar stuff on time. But anything else? NO. LET ME HAVE MY MARSHMALLOW GHOSTS PLEASE.

        3. North Dakota Jones*

          I think decorating work cubicles, in this case.

          I personally have a Portal Weighted Companion Cube that gets decorated at Halloween and Christmas. It cannot, in fact, speak.

          1. LBK*

            Now I’m imagining the Borg cube all decked out for Christmas – giant bows and garlands, perhaps some holographic tinsel.

      6. Lemon Zinger*

        I feel the same way as you. If you’re an adult, there’s no reason to observe Halloween THAT intensely.

        But I’ve always been “that” person, so I’m used to people thinking I’m no fun.

        1. Anon for this*

          Personally, I can’t bear brats knocking in my door on Halloween. It’s my birthday, and whilst I’m not big on celebrations, it ruins my night to be interrupted. Still, it’s amusing to say oh, is that for my birthday party?

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Other than the fact that they think it’s fun? There are lots of things that I don’t get at all and don’t know why people observe it that intensely–being a sports fan, for example. But I’m not going to tell people there’s no reason to do it. If it doesn’t hurt anybody, and it makes you happy, that’s a reason to go all out on doing something.

          1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            Seriously this. I find watching sports so mind-numbingly boring that I considered “sports fan” to be a dealbreaker when I was dating, and have never understood what is so fascinating about watching a bunch of dudes get paid millions because they do well at playing children’s games. Playing them can be fun! Watching other people play them- nope, just don’t get it! But it is a perfectly acceptable in our society to be an adult sports fan and take it to ludicrous extremes.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Well yeah, there is. If you want to, that’s reason enough.

          A couple of the best things about being an adult are:
          1. Doing things your own way
          2. Not giving two sh!ts what other people think

      7. justsomeone*


        The phrase you’re looking for is “Good for you, not for me” and please leave the judgement aside. I am also an adult and I love dressing up for Halloween and love being able to not be “myself” for the day. It’s harmless and makes people smile.

        Not everyone does, but that doesn’t mean they get to judge me for having a little fun with my wardrobe once a year, on the day specifically set aside for it.

        1. Isabel C.*

          Yeah, this. YKINMK but YKIOK, sort of thing.

          And as far as “unprofessional” goes, it’s no more so than wearing a SportsBall cap/having beer on Friday afternoons/bringing in cookies around the holidays/etc, which plenty of workplaces do. If the standard of yours is not to do that, don’t do that, but…it’s 2016, guys. Most workplaces are not grimly businesslike places of Dickensian decorum.

      8. Panda Bandit*

        You don’t have to dress up. I think it’s fun. I have a lot of respect for people who make their own costumes, though no judgement on the store bought costumes. They’re very convenient and we can’t all have a workshop and the time to make things.

      9. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        I personally ADORE Halloween. I love costumes even though I don’t usually go all out, but I love seeing what other people come up with. All things Halloween are fantastic.

        Now Christmas, I just don’t care (said as a person raised going to church who would still identify as Christian if asked). Or Thanksgiving for that matter. A lot of people are really into the holidays at the end of the year. Halloween is MY holiday. It’s more important to me than any of the other holidays. Seriously. For all of those who just can’t imagine not celebrating whatever your favorite holiday is, remember that Halloween is that holiday for some of us and being able to wear a costume to work is NO different than the Christmas decorations that go up in November and stay until New Year’s.

        1. SimontheGreyWarden*

          I grew up with parents who were just as likely to have to work Thanksgiving/Christmas as not (no white collar jobs until I was older). Halloween was the big holiday for my family. As an adult I have a steampunk business so I spend a lot of time and money (business money, not family money) on costumes and garb. I dress up probably about 23 weekends a year with events and cons and the occasional renaissance faire. I still love Halloween because it reminds me of childhood. I’d never force anyone to participate but you can pry my costumes from my cold, dead, zombie hands.

      10. HRish Dude*

        I’m most judgy about trick-or-treaters who are old enough to buy their own candy.

        If you drive your car to my door, you don’t get candy. Or you get Necco Wafers.

            1. Nerf*

              I mean, I was given $2 a week when I was two years old. It increased by a dollar every year thereafter until I got a job. So at three, I could have saved up a month’s worth of allowance and gone crazy buying $12 worth of candy.

              1. Nerf*

                Actually, now that I think about it, I think it tapped out at $10 a week. By the time I was $10, we were selling eggs from our chickens and all the money we made from that went to me (and when I say “me”, I actually mean 85% of it went into a college fund and I was allowed to spend the rest), which is pretty much what happened since the first time I received that $2.

          1. Panda Bandit*

            Are there really that many toddlers who get an allowance? Nobody in my family got an allowance until they were teenagers.

            1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

              I never got an allowance at all, which sucked in that I never learned to manage money til I was living on my own (and with undiagnosed ADHD and dysclculia, that really blew chunks.)

        1. SimontheGreyWarden*

          So, growing up, my dad was ‘that guy’ who made kids do a trick to get a treat. Good jokes got chocolate, everyone else got generic candy. I’m long out of the house but my parents still sometimes have older high school kids who dress up in costumes and come to their house specifically to show off a ‘trick’. One year three guys in Supremes costumes showed up and sang a song for him; one year a guy did a handstand/cartwheel/backflip thing out on the yard; they show back up to tell bad jokes and even bring their kids now. And yeah, my parents would give them candy long after other houses in the neighborhood stopped. But we never had pumpkins smashed or TP on our trees, so there’s that. It’s a weird in-between thing where teenagers want to still be kids, but they want to be adults, and they can’t do any of it without someone thinking they’re getting into trouble – which often leads to them getting into trouble.

          1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            In one neighborhood I lived in, most of the families had two bowls of candy to give out- generic for the little kids, and full sized candy bars for the older kids and adults who took the little kids from door to door! I loved taking my niece Trick or Treating there! (and yes her mom & I always dressed up too!)

      11. Liz*

        I’m into cosplay, so opposite end of the spectrum on that!

        However, I don’t like costumes at work because they tend to just be a mess and get in the way. I’m all about the all black outfit with a cat ear headband and call it a day.

        1. YawningDodo*

          Yeah, last year I went to work as Carol Burnett’s take on Scarlett O’Hara. It was a fun idea and I enjoyed making people laugh, but talk about an outfit that got in the way. I have a standing desk in my own office so it didn’t disrupt me or my coworkers from getting things done, but I learned a lesson about keeping my Halloween costume for work simple, because it was a heck of a relief to take it off at the end of the day and then I wasn’t in the mood anymore to put another costume on to hand out candy.

    3. pope suburban*

      Yes, I got a bit of that vibe too. I kept waiting for the part where “my coworkers pressure me and won’t let it drop,” and then…that didn’t come. It doesn’t sound like it’s a very big deal one way or the other. Given that, this letter is a little bit baffling, and comes across as pretty judgmental.

    4. KR*

      Hey now, the OP is allowed to have their own feelings about Halloween. It’s hard to say you personally find something silly or unprofessional without sounding judge-y. OP was asking if their minimal involvement would hinder their work performance – I didn’t get the sense that they were actively shaming their coworkers for it.

      1. Roscoe*

        SHe can have whatever feelings about the holiday she wants, my problem is saying everyone else is unprofessional. It would be like if I worked in a business casual environment and wore a suit everyday. Its fine for me to prefer the suit. Not fine for me to deem everyone else as unprofessional, when I’m the one going against office norms.

    5. Parcae*

      I am the world’s most notorious Halloween-hater. I hate dressing up, I think Halloween decor is ugly, I loathe horror movies (even mild ones give me nightmares), and I will get behind the idea of trick-or-treating the second everyone starts handing out Doritos instead of chocolate bars. But Alison is right– this stuff is mostly harmless. Looking down on people for enjoying something may feel satisfying, but it’s an activity best left behind in junior high.

    6. Jersey's Mom*

      My husband and I met at a Halloween party and were later married on Halloween. Everyone came in costume except for the Minister (who then claimed that her Minister outfit was a costume) and our parents. The place setting “gifts” were rubber animal noses. We had guests (and a groom) from another wedding crash our reception. It’s been almost 23 years and everyone still brings it up…..good times….

  3. Lefty*

    Just to add to the “costumes might be ok side”: I once had a dental appointment with a dentist wearing a full vampire costume and a “Dr. Acula” name tag. It was funny to have the dentist enter the room and introduce himself, “Actually, I’m Dr. Lannister- but the costume came with this name tag”. It actually helped to alleviate some of my anxiety about dental appointments!

  4. Jesmlet*

    The expectation to dress up for Halloween at work would be a bit of a nightmare for me. I’m just not particularly creative with that stuff and tend to prefer to stay low-key. With that said, if everyone else is dressing up, it’s not unprofessional to join in, in fact it could be construed as negative to stick out in that way. Dress up or don’t, that’s your prerogative, but there’s nothing inherently wrong about going all out for Halloween in your line of work. Maybe switch it up this year and bring in a pair of cat ears to go along with the pantsuit instead.

    1. Nerf*

      Or borrow a page from Jim Halpert and write “BOOK” across your face and be Facebook. Or cut out three black circles and tape them to your shirt and be “Three Hole Punch [insert your name here]”

      1. Cath in Canada*

        A friend of mine was born in late October, and used to have birthday parties that were also what he called “token effort Hallowe’en parties”. People would wear a hat or a wig with their normal clothes, or something else super easy; elaborate costumes or make-up were discouraged. It was actually really fun to see how creative some people could get with just one “piece of flair”! I have a Princess Leia hoodie that I wore a couple of times, and that I also wear to work on Hallowe’en (without the hood up, it just looks like a white top).

        1. Jen S 2.0*

          I want to be friends with this person. I am allllllllll about the token effort Halloween costume.

          1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

            You could always put a “Hi, my name is…” label on your shirt and go as God.

            1. Lily in NYC*

              My dad once put a bunch of those stickers on his shirt with different names and went as an “identity crisis”.

              1. the gold digger*

                A bunch of us just wore random costumes and presented ourselves as Seven Incarnations of Shirley MacClaine. We won the costume contest.

                Shortly after Monica Lewinsky, I wore a blue dress with a Q-tip pinned to it. (I wouldn’t do it knowing what I know now because I feel so much more sorry for her now than I did then.)

                And I once wore a bridesmaid dress with a nametag that said, “Yes! I AM wearing it again!”

              1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

                I was waiting for somebody to get that reference! Buffy FTW!

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            You can always be Guy Without Socks
            Or walk on your tiptoes and be Jen’s Taller Sister
            (there are other NewsRadio fans here, right?)

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I’ve worn a plain orange t-shirt with pi drawn on it in magic marker and gone as pumpkin pie. Another favorite is to wear a bunch of random stuff– a formal skirt with a flannel shirt, for example– and go as a witch trying to dress like a Muggle. Or, if you’re a bit overweight like me, dress is a nice suit and glue a zipper to your forehead and go as a Slitheen.

      3. Dweali*

        To go with OPS black pantsuit put on 1-6 white dots and they are a domino…or what I did one year was wore some already owned black pants/sweater and bought black duct tape and a white marker wrote a few phrases then I went as a white lie (no, those pants don’t make your butt look big, etc) took the tape and pen with me and let people write their own

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Right, Dollar Store has the best witches hats on headbands this year. Throw those on with some leggings, boots and a long sweater, I’m totally covered for the Halloween spirit.

      Though I will admit, I caved and got a pair of light-up headband horns at Target for $3.

    3. animaniactoo*

      My best received one yet – I have extremely thick hair. Grows like mad, so some years it’s short and others it’s long. When it’s long, I brush some of the front half over my face so I literally have a cloud of hair hanging straight down all the way around my head. Works like one way mirrors – I can see out but people can’t see in. Add tophot and cape/duster coat, walk around saying “mrmrmrmrrmmmrr”.

    4. calonkat*

      I have a Sims plumbob headband that I wear to work on Hallowwen. That way, whatever I’m wearing is my Sims outfit! Downside is that absolutely no one at my workplace (outside of IT) “gets” my costume.

      But, there are days I wear my 4th Doctor hat and scarf to work for warmth, so I suppose that could be a backup plan.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would!! :)

        I wore my Gryffindor scarf and a Union Jack long-sleeved t-shirt and carried my wand (yes, I have a real turned wood wand from Alivan’s) along with a paper bag on which I stuck a Honeyduke’s label and came to work as a Hogwart’s student.
        Somewhere I have a graduation gown–I need to dig around and find it for heightened authenticity.

    5. Anon1*

      A pair of sparkly bat deelyboppers* works wonders with little effort.

      *I’m not sure anyone actually uses this term anymore. It’s a headband with things on springs.

    6. Finman*

      Best costume in this situation, get a piece of foam (orange is better), cut it into a triangle, attach it to your shoulder and bam, you have a chip on your shoulder. Fits the attitude and the punnyness of halloween fun

    7. JB (not in Houston)*

      I once had a t-shirt that said “Halloween Costume” on it. I’m pretty sure those shirts are still around, and if not, it would be easy and cheap to make one. I wore that for years because I love dressing up but can never think of a costume idea until a few days after Halloween.

    8. YawningDodo*

      Honestly, I think the OP’s solution is a perfectly tasteful one, and it solves the problem of not wanting to wear a costume at all (she doesn’t have to ever put on the hat if she doesn’t want to, but having it there implies “I’m in a witch costume but just don’t feel like wearing my hat right now”). Then it’s just a black pantsuit. Satisfies both the office culture and the OP’s personal preferences.

      Only a few people in my workplace dress up for Halloween, and most of those who do keep it really simple and low-key. I’ve gone all out for a Halloween costume at work a couple times and for the most part it’s been more of a pain than it’s worth — and I say that as an avid cosplayer outside of work. This year I’m going to keep it simple and will probably wear mostly normal clothes with, as others suggested in the “token effort” vein, one or two pieces of flair. That might be cat/wolf ears and/or a set of vampire fangs, depending on what I feel like doing. Costumes don’t need to be elaborate to be fun.

  5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    It DOES seem uncool that the manager lets dressed-up colleagues go home early. Either folks need to stay or they don’t. If they don’t — and it seems they don’t, given the flexibility given to the costumed — then maybe that should just be an early close day (or maybe folks should just work a more flexible schedule in general).

    1. Roscoe*

      I don’t fully agree with that. I mean there are plenty of things that people get to go home for. My company is having a volunteer day in a couple weeks. It doesn’t go until the end of the work day, put people volunteering can go home early (even though they could be back in the office). If not, you have to work a regular day. I’m not volunteering, and its fine.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Well, in that case it’s a perk that the company is giving to people who do something they think is valuable. (Although I suppose that’s true for the Halloween costumes, too!)

    2. Bananistan*

      To me, it sounds like management is rewarding folks who wear costumes because they really want people to participate. Which might be silly or dumb, but it seems weird that OP is so firm in her stance that Professionals Do Not Wear Costumes when her company is actively encouraging it.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        Especially since Professionals Do Wear Costumes, Every Single Day- their professional attire. Since I am pretty sure most people do not wear it relaxing at home or on weekends, it could reasonably be called their “Work Costume”. It surprises me when people do not realize this.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I think it’s similar to saying “hey, you have the option of leaving early to go to this team bowling event at 3 p.m. but if you don’t, you should stay and work the rest of the normal day.”

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Really? Unless I’m reading something wrong, that doesn’t sound like the situation at all.

        In the case of the optional team bowling event, the team-building (or whatever the company is trying to accomplish with the bowling event) is happening at the bowling alley. If you choose not to participate in that, you do your normal job. But here, the costume-wearers aren’t opting into an event that takes time away from work; they’re just wearing costumes as they do their jobs. Whatever value the company believes it’s getting out of them wearing costumes is happening while everyone is at work. Leaving early is just a perk.

        I’m finding myself arguing hard against the company/people who love Halloween/whatever, and I don’t mean to! I don’t actually care what this company (or mine) does. But I do like to understand things. :)

          1. Anon1*

            I’m reminded of a letter you handled involving an office where people had to pay to wear jeans on Fridays. You came down on the side of this being unfair (I think) because it affected those paid less more greatly to participate in an office perk. I don’t see how “put together a costume [i.e., pay for stuff] to use this leave-early perk” is any different.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Well, a costume needn’t cost anything. Folks have been giving suggestions all over this thread that just take regular clothes + a sign, or something along those lines.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Well, my company has a thing where we can pay to wear flip flops and shorts in the summer. But all the money goes to charity–and it’s completely optional. (We wear jeans every day anyway, unless there are clients on campus.)

            2. Lance*

              Costumes can be very cheap, and you’re not paying the workplace, or someone in the workplace, for the privilege of coming in with one; you’re only paying whoever/wherever you might get the costume from.

        1. Observer*

          It’s highly likely that the ED thinks that it’s good for client relationships. I’m not a fan of Halloween, for many reasons, and I would probably not dress up at work on Purim either (I’m and Orthodox Jew for context.) I don’t recall any of our staff dressing up in the last couple of years, although in the past a few have. But, we used to have kids from a nearby day care come by on Halloween for treats and one staff member in particular used to dress up especially for the occasion, and give the kids treats dressed up. She often took off the bits and pieces after they left.

          No one saw it as unprofessional, and most of us recognized that this was a bit of unconventional bridge building with an under-served community, and with an organization that we needed to have a good relationship with.

      2. Aurion*

        I disagree, because the bowling event would be a team activity sponsored by the company, and the employees would be staying together and socializing as a work group, even if bowling isn’t remotely related to the work. But letting people go home early doesn’t even have any veneer of being “team-building for work.” The employees are doing their own thing and scattering to the winds.

        This part of the letter really grated on me as well. (I also don’t dress up for Halloween.)

        1. Colette*

          I think the idea is that participating in the costume event will help the team bond, and possibly help their interactions with clients, so they want to encourage that. It’s probably more valuable to at least some of the employees than a bowling happy hour event.

          1. Aurion*

            Sure, having the costume can be fun. Coworkers can compare costumes, clients can have a good laugh at the guy with the TARDIS costume, etc. I don’t participate, but I can totally see how that can be a bonding or fun thing.

            But all that happens on work premises. Whatever value the costumes bring to the atmosphere or company has already happened. Allowing only the costumers to leave early seems to be punitive against those who don’t choose to dress up. I don’t choose to participate for my own reasons (one of them being that I really dislike Halloween as a holiday due to past experiences, though I keep that to myself and do not rain on anyone else’s parade). And I can certainly admire other people’s costumes, ooh and ahh over their Sherlock impression, etc without slapping on a witch hat. In fact, telling the non-costumers “you can’t leave early but everyone else can” seems to be more detrimental to team spirit than not having the event in the first place, especially as some people refrain from participating due to religious reasons.

            If people find Halloween fun and want to celebrate, go for it. But it should be completely opt-in, and treating non-costumers differently seem to be the opposite of opt-in. Punishment for something completely unrelated to job performance isn’t good for morale.

            1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

              Agreed with this. That’s why I like the idea of just putting a name tag on saying “Costume” and calling it a day if you’re not into dressing up.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I agree. I think the company either celebrates Halloween or it doesn’t. This means everyone goes home early or no one goes home early.
              I get it, they are trying to get participation levels up by offering an incentive. I do get it. But this in effect makes participation mandatory if you want to leave early.
              Most people want to wear costumes, fine. But don’t make the people who don’t want to wear costumes get shorted in the process. And definitely, just as non-costume people should try not to judge those with costumes, the reverse is true also. The people with costumes should not judge the people without costumes, so saying things like “party pooper” is totally unnecessary. Maybe the person could not afford a costume. Or maybe their home life is such that they have no time and no mental energy left to create a costume. There’s dozens of other real reasons why a person might not have a costume. People should not feel put down for circumstances beyond their control.

              1. LawCat*

                “I think the company either celebrates Halloween or it doesn’t. This means everyone goes home early or no one goes home early.”

                I agree with you on this and other points. I get why the “why” for opting out matters from a legalistic point of view, but not from a morale point of view.

                Cindy can go home early because she dressed as a scary cat! Marcia can go hope early because we don’t want to get into legal trouble when her religious belief precludes participating in the festivities! But Jan can pound sand because she thinks costumes are for children/feels uncomfortable in a costume in a professional environment/associates the costumes with personal tragedy!


    4. pussycats and toast*

      Yeah, that struck me as weird too. I get if they’re trying to encourage some levity, but having prizes for the best costume or something like that seems like a more appropriate reward. I’m not sure what is achieved by letting folks in costumes leave early.

    5. Is it Friday Yet?*

      I’m going out on a limb, but I feel like one reason might be that the public enjoys it, so the manager tries to encourage it.

      1. Bananistan*

        Yep, that. I know OP might not like it, but it seems like management thinks this is an important part of connecting with the community they serve.

    6. INFJ*

      It seemed uncool to me, too. Some religions are pretty strict about not observing certain holidays. I would be pretty miffed if I had to stay later than others because I couldn’t wear a costume.

      1. EmmaLou*

        If you have that kind of restriction, you kind of already know that there are some things that others will get to do that you won’t and you’re okay with that because the thing you believe in is bigger than a perk. No alcohol, no nudie bars, no shrimp tacos, no BLTs, no pron, no dating other people after you are married, no meat on Fridays, no eating all day, no tattoos, no profanity, no diet Coke, no Earl Grey, no television at all, no …. (obviously not all faiths say no to all of these things or any of them. I just tried to list some that I knew)

        I’m not saying your work should make you feel left out, but that if you are of that faith, you’re usually prepared to sometimes be that left out person and when held up to what you believe, it’s not so horrible.

        PS I love it when grown-ups dress up for work. Often I forget it IS Halloween and then get jolts of happy when, “I just bought grapes from Princess Leia, got my check cashed by Dr. Who, and bought a pound of ground round from Darth Vader. I’ve no idea who sold me that blue yarn, but they were sparkly! And then there was a pickle walking down the street. I think it was a pickle…”

        1. Roscoe*

          That’s a great point. You sometimes will be left out of things, and that’s fine. Doesn’t mean you have to try to end perks for others

          1. Aurion*

            Oh come on. Wanting to leave at the same time as everyone else isn’t ending anyone’s perk. It’s one thing if the request is “everyone ban costumes from the workplace”. But the request is “hey, let’s all leave a little bit early today”, not “you costumers leave early and let us non-costumers stick around and clean up.”

        2. leslie knope*

          w…what religion prevents drinking diet coke?

          i ask, as i clutch the bottle i’m currently drinking like it’s a life raft

      2. Observer*

        Eh. I could absolutely never join. But, unless there were other issues, this would just roll off my back.

    7. Mona Lisa*

      This is something that stuck out to me, too. What if an employee belongs to a religious sect that doesn’t allow the celebration of Halloween? Would they not be allowed to have the perk of leaving early because their religion prohibits this? That feels like it would be treading close to discrimination to me.

    8. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      I figured it was just a perk for people who liked Halloween — the implication being, if you’re into Halloween, you can go home early and get a headstart on trick or treating.

      1. Aurion*

        I don’t think my parents were all that into trick or treating or Halloween (beyond playing along for our sakes when we were young). I know for sure my father never dressed up at work…but he still took us out for trick-or-treating after work. Trick-or-treating is usually for the kids, not the adults, so I don’t know why an adult’s costume or lack thereof would matter (though if there are adults who go trick-or-treating, feel free to correct me).

        I feel like this is an odd assumption to make, if this was the assumption from the company.

        1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

          I’m an adult who goes trick or treating. Yes, even without children present, lol.

          1. Aurion*

            I stand corrected! :)

            But I maintain my ardent disagreement that letting costumed employees go early is a fair thing to do. (I personally dislike Halloween, but so long as people enjoy their festivities and leave me out of it, live and let live.)

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Do people give you candy? (I probably would, but only because I’m non-confrontational. Buy your own candy, adults!)

            1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

              They sure do. It helps that I look like a teenager, but even if I didn’t, they should still give me candy because where is the age limit on trick or treating written? LOL

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                Heh. I’m such a grumpus. I don’t like giving free candy to teenagers, either, especially since most of them can’t be bothered with a real costume and just come dressed as a (racist) “thug” with their pants hanging low or something like that.

                1. SimontheGreyWarden*

                  I feel bad that you live where that is true. Where we used to live, it was really common for high school students who still wanted to trick or treat to go to goodwill and either dress as old grannies or bloody prom queens or zombies.

                2. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                  My friends daughter looked like a much older ‘teenager’ when she was still 11 or 12, partially because she was very tall, and sometimes houses would refuse to give her candy despite the fact she was always dressed in amazing, detailed, highly creative, and totally homemade costumes.
                  I was over 5′ when I was 8 (3rd grade) and many people thought I was as old as 12-13! And I both dressed and acted VERY MUCH like an 8 yr old.
                  So maybe don’t be too quick to judge, eh? You really don’t know how old those kids are. And what are you giving out anyway, Godiva chocolates? Or do you really begrudge a teenager a .10 cent piece of bulk candy or two?

                  PS Where I live we get “thug” costumes too but never has a single one of them been white so I DGAF

            2. esra (also a Canadian)*

              I’ll give candy to anyone who has put some effort into dressing up. Also, anyone under the age of 3 because toddlers trick or treating is hilarious. My favourites are the ones who just want to twirl and show off their costumes, but don’t ask for any candy. Or the kids who come up and sit down beside you and just start chatting away.

              1. I used to be Murphy*

                My kid will either start telling you about dinosaurs or hide behind my legs when we’re out trick-or-treating this year (she’s almost 2). She’s going as a pineapple. We’ve been working on saying “trick or treat” but she gets stuck on the yelling “TREAT!” part. Kid’s got her priorities straight.

                1. esra (also a Canadian)*

                  Once my niece finds out you can get ‘cannny’, she is going to be all over trick or treating and completely mercenary.

            3. Natalie*

              I would. I really can’t be arsed to care about who should or shouldn’t be trick or treating. I don’t care how old you are, and I don’t care if you’re in a costume. Have some damn candy.

              1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                Same here. I give candy to kids, teens, adults, in costume or not. You’re out on Halloween, you get candy! It’s the Halloween spirit!

            4. Moonsaults*

              I give anyone candy who shows up dressed up. If it were a half-assed costume my response would probably be to not open the door, tbh.

              Most of the time I see adults dressing up and going with groups of kids at least though, which makes things so much easier for everyone involved.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                That’s mostly what happens in my neighborhood. I have taken to leaving the porch light off, though, because 1) my front steps are damaged and I don’t want anyone to get hurt, and 2) I don’t really want to be bothered if I’m watching a scary movie.

    9. LawCat*

      I agree with you. It doesn’t sit right. Just let everyone go home early. There are people who are deeply uncomfortable with wearing costumes and from a morale standpoint, I don’ think it should matter why.

  6. sunny-dee*

    I work remotely, but my company offices tend to do big Halloween parties. Our logo is basically the image of circle with a man in a hat inside. One of the ladies in my department painted her face to match the shape of the logo-man’s profile and wore a hat to work, and put a big circle of poster board in her cube, so that when she was sitting, it looked like the company logo.

    It was so creative and cool. I’m not usually a dress-up-at-work type, but I thought her costume idea was awesome.

  7. Amber Rose*

    I just wear a silly hat or dollar store wig. This year I have clip on cat ears and I’m going to answer questions with “yes meow.” The advantage: I can remove them if customers come, but also be silly around coworkers. Also: low effort.

    LW, I’d really like you to think about what professionalism is. Professional and fun don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I’d go as far as to say they really shouldn’t be.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I wonder if the OP hasn’t considered dressing as something she would enjoy and is feeling pressure to be a witch, vampire, or clown? One year I was Emilie du Chatelet, and I really enjoyed educating folks about my costume and why I chose it.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        OH MY GOD! I love, love, LOVE that you chose Emilie du Chatelet! When I was in college, we did a play about her life (by Lauren Gunderson; you should totally check it out if you haven’t read it already). Seriously, La Marquise is my hero. Nerd high-five!

    2. Is it Friday Yet?*

      I like costumes like that. One year I had a t-shirt that said life and brought a bag of lemons to pass out.

      1. Kyrielle*

        …!!! Mind if I steal this? :D (Not for the office – current job at most puts out a tiny bit of decor. Just in general. This is awesome.)

        1. Kyrielle*

          (Speaking of decor, I just realized my Pumpkin Pi wasn’t up! Remedied. It’s a little foam pumpkin with the number in question just written on it…lazy decor for the win?)

    3. Kiryn*

      My husband has never really been into Halloween, while I’m the one who agonizes about my costume for the entire month of October.

      Last year, his costume was a t-shirt with “Go Ceilings!” written on it. He might not care for Halloween, but he does love his puns.

  8. socrescentfresh*

    This was a letter where I totally expected Alison’s response to be “ugh, no, your office is terrible and you don’t need to worry about dressing up any more.” But I guess I’m one of those sticks in the mud who cringes at the thought of wearing any kind of costume to work. And I find it mean-spirited to let only the costumed workers leave early on Halloween. So, solidarity with OP on this one.

    1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

      And I find it mean-spirited to let only the costumed workers leave early on Halloween.

      Yeah, that part sucks.

    2. Lissa*

      Hah, whereas I agreed with Alison’s response and thought the over 300 comments were going to be because usually AAM commenters tend to be against any “weird” work stuff! (like non-work work events or “inspirational quotes”, that type of thing.)

  9. AndersonDarling*

    How about wearing something Halloween themed? Like a shirt with a bat printed on it or skull earrings? I think that fills the spirit of the holiday without wearing a costume.

    1. Jen S 2.0*

      I’m on board with this. I see the value of supporting the theme and joining in the activity, but I’m not one to do elaborate costumes. Ever. I will wear a costume to a party, but only if it involves regular clothes, and/or something that really, really doesn’t get in my way, and/or require a whole lot of effort. Skull earrings? Check. Theme represented and drama avoided.

      That said, I think what OP is doing is pretty much the same. She is wearing regular clothes, and having an accessory that represents the theme. I say she’s more than fine.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I agree that wearing something token “Halloween” would also be complying with the spirit of this request and should be ok.

      Or along the same lines, I think OP could stick with her “pantsuit plus one accessory” and that would be a fun/funny theme that wouldn’t require much effort. For instance, instead of (or in addition to) the witch’s hat, OP could put on a nametag that says “IRS Auditor” or or “Funeral Home Director” or anything else “scary” that goes along with wearing a suit.

      I get OP wanting to look professional at work, but I also appreciate the opportunity to dress a little bit silly on Halloween (while still being work appropriate).

      For anyone else reading that wants a quick and easy Halloween costume that is still appropriate, “Devil in a Blue Dress”/”Devil with a Blue Dress On” is also easy if you already have a blue dress in your closet – add a cheap pair of discount store devil horns on a headband (that can easily come off before any “serious” meetings) and you are good to go. Also a good option if you aren’t sure if a new office does Halloween costumes or not, or if you are going out for Halloween after work and don’t want to wear a costume to work.

      1. Natalie*

        Female politicians are also a great “pantsuit plus accessories” costume, just find a couple of specific details that will point to that figure without being unwieldy.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      For Talk Like a Pirate Day, I used to wear a white ruffled blouse, slim black pants, boots, and skull earrings. You can add a kerchief or a scarf in your hair. Boom–pirate, and it still looks like a regular work outfit. :)

      I didn’t do it this year because I don’t have a blouse, but since ruffles are coming back, I will soon. :)

  10. Trout 'Waver*

    Go as Bill Lumbergh from Office space. A pair suspenders over a dress shirt and you’re set. You can even throw shade on your coworkers by quoting his lines.

  11. Elder Dog*

    Halloween is a religious observance, and as such, NO it should NEVER be required that anyone observe it, especially since so many people object to the religions that observe it!
    Because it’s a religious observance, people dealing with the public should never wear, much less be required to wear, costumes, just as nobody should be required to dress up and play Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny for those religious observances.

    I know a lot of people who have religious objections to Halloween observances, and fewer who have religious objections to Christmas and Easter observances who would also appreciate it if people wouldn’t attempt to co-opt and corrupt their children by dragging them into observing these customs.

    Sorry AAM but you are entirely wrong on this question. Noone should ever be forced to observe someone else’s religion, or society’s corruption of their own religious holy days. I’m kind of disgusted by your answer, and very disgusted by people who actually commit this kind of disrespectful and mean-spirited (you don’t observe my put down of your religion, you have to stay at work when most people are allowed to go home early… what is THAT?!) behavior.

    1. Murphy*

      But no one is being forced in this case. It sounds like encouraged, maybe even strongly, but it’s not required.

      1. Gaara*

        Yeah, I don’t think people in the US generally think of Halloween as a religious holiday. If you want to consider it a religious holiday, okay, sure, go ahead. But to say you’re “disgusted” by people basically treating it like a secular holiday is really, oddly strong.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I think it’s justified if you feel this way about Valentine’s Day, also.

          Hallowe’en is the eve of a religious holiday (All Saints’ Day) and it is also Samhain, which is a Wiccan holiday. The way it’s celebrated in the US has religious roots, but most people see the costumes as a secular aspect of the holiday, just like not all aspects of most people’s Christmas celebration are actually religious in nature. (I mean, you’re essentially hiding yourself from ghosts and spirits. Kind of the same reason people make a lot of noise on New Year’s Eve. Spirits can be dangerous!)

      2. GigglyPuff*

        Generally I think when people attribute it to a religion, they’re talking about Paganism. But if I remember correctly it’s also a Christian feast day, so I think it actually falls under several different religions.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          It’s the eve of All Saints’ Day in the Catholic calendar. (The next day is All Souls’ Day.)

      3. oh123*

        I have known people of two different faiths who were absolutely against any kind of observance of Halloween. So while it may not be that Halloween is a religious holiday, some people of certain faiths do not (can not) participate in wearing costumes or anything else connected with Halloween.

    2. Irritated*

      I actually find this disgusting, so slow your role. There are non-religious reasons why people observe many holidays – in fact, most of our holiday observances are more commercial based than religious based! No one is talking about FORCING others to observe a religion.

      It is not disrespectful or mean-spirited to say people dressed up get to leave early – disrespectful or mean-spirited would be making people stay late because they didn’t get dressed up. No one is losing out on anything if they choose not to get dressed up and stay at the REGULAR finish time.

      Someone could easily ‘dress’ up for Halloween without observing the holiday. It is just clothing, not a lifestyle.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I would agree if the OP said that her religion objected to costumes, but the question was framed as not wanting to participate in the tradition. If it was a religious objection, I’m sure the response would have been difrent.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I was going to make a similar point. This lesson was driven home when I was in 8th grade and a religious family had objections to Halloween decorations at school, which ended with the decor being removed. More recently, former neighbors were conservative Christians who didn’t celebrate.

      1. Natalie*

        Not celebrating is obviously a-okay, but removing decorations and such because one family objects seems fairly ridiculous. I have a hard time thinking this would have happened if they were Jehovah’s Witness, say, who don’t celebrate any holidays or birthdays.

        1. LawCat*

          When I was in 4th or 5th grade, we were paired with 1st graders to be a buddy and do activities with them. On Halloween, the pairs were to work together to make construction paper jack o’lanterns. My buddy was Jehovah’s Witness so we were not to make jack o’ lanterns, but whatever else we wanted. I recall being kind of braggy about it because we got to do something different than the other kids :-D

          1. Temperance*

            Actually, it’s very, very different. In the instance you cite, it’s because of the First Amendment. In the given example, it’s to accommodate the religious beliefs of the parents, but there is no First Amendment implication, since Halloween is secular.

    5. pope suburban*

      I er uh what? Halloween has a lot of secular meaning at this point in human history. I know that it can be a religious holiday to many folks (Pagans definitely right there alongside Christian denominations), but to call it just a religious holiday is…slightly inaccurate? Not that anyone should ever feel pressured or required to dress up, because that’s something outside the bounds of daily job-related behavior/attire, but this is just a bizarre take on a holiday that is pretty far from its religious roots for a lot of folks. There is something distinctly uncomfortable about saying that voluntary dress-up holidays are equivalent to insisting an observant Jew eat a ham sandwich, or making an atheist pray.

    6. Roscoe*

      Halloween may have started as a religious celebration, but it’s no longer really considered that. Its fine that you have your own opinions on that, but don’t try to see that people shouldn’t do it. I agree with that for any holiday. If I want to wear a Merry Christmas shirt, or someone wants to wear a happy Hanukkah shirt, thats fine.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The vast, vast majority of people in the U.S. do not celebrate Halloween as a religious holiday. If someone does have religious objections to observing it, of course they should explain that and opt out, as with any religious objection to anything. Of course. But that’s not the OP’s issue; she finds it unprofessional, which is a totally different thing.

      1. caryatis*

        But if someone opts out because they’re a Christian, then they would have to work longer than people who don’t share those beliefs. That’s not the OP’s problem, but it’s a good reason offices should not be giving special privileges to people who celebrate Halloween.

      2. BeenBurned*

        The fact that the vast majority don’t have a problem makes this policy even more dangerous. If you have 97 employees going home and three forced to stay for declining to participate in something that violates their religious beliefs, it’s definitely going to look punitive. They will have ample reason to feel singled out on account of their faith.

          1. BeenBurned*

            I agree. Which in most cases essentially means you may as well either just close early for everyone, or not for anyone, without making the participation an issue. That’s why I was surprised you didn’t point out the stupidity of this policy.

    8. AnonEMoose*

      Not quite true. There is secular Halloween, and there is the pagan observance of Samhain.

      It’s true that some things associated with the religious aspect have become part of mainstream culture – but handing out candy to kids or wearing a costume doesn’t make you a pagan any more than giving someone a present around the Winter Solstice makes you a Christian.

      That said, of course no one who has a religious objection should be pressured to participate. All they should need to say is “I don’t observe Halloween for religious reasons,” and that should be the end of the conversation. Except maybe for “I understand. Thank you for telling me.”

    9. Amtelope*

      Anyone who has a religious objection to celebrating certainly shouldn’t be required to wear a costume. But I don’t think Halloween costumes or Christmas sweaters should be banned from the workplace because some people don’t celebrate Halloween or Christmas. They just shouldn’t be required.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      I think I’m going to kind of agree, although I also agree with Alison that the OP didn’t give a religious reason for not wanting to go along.

      This would be similar to if the boss required everyone to celebrate Christmas by wearing an ugly Christmas sweater, and letting those people who went along with it go home early. When I, as a Christian, claim that is the secular part of the holiday, and has nothing to do with the religious, I get pushback from those who not Christian. But the responses here are quite willing to allow Halloween to just be secular, and not respect those who see it differently. Are these holidays religious or secular? If one is mostly secular, why not the other?

      1. Colette*

        Christmas is a more explicitly religious holiday than Halloween, but I think you’d be seeing a different response if the OP was being required to wear a costume and it was against her religion. Neither of those things are true.

        Similarity, no one should be required to wear a Christmas sweater in the workplace (unless it’s a Christmas store or something).

      2. Anononon*

        Halloween is generally secular and Christmas is religious. While some specific religions/sects may either object to or explicitly treat Halloween as religious, in general, Halloween is celebrated by the American public regardless of religious affiliation. However, Christmas is a Christian holiday. Maybe some non-Christians enjoy some aspects of the celebrations and maybe some celebrate it to a degree, but it is still seen by a vast majority of people as a Christian holiday.

      3. Miriam*

        Because Halloween in the US has literally never been a religious holiday. It is functionally a different holiday from the religious version. It doesn’t even have the same name (the religious holiday is Samhain for pagans, All Hallows Eve/All Saints Eve for Christians). The religious holiday is not about dressing up in silly costumes, celebrating scary fantasies, and trick or treating and doesn’t include those aspects in its celebration. Some of the modern customs have distant origins in specifically Irish folk traditions (that weren’t exactly Christian or pagan) but not all even have that.

        That is not true for Christmas. Some Christians celebrate it in a secular way and it may evolve to have a distinctive secular version, but at this point in time, Christmas is still predominantly presented and celebrated as being about the specifically Christian figure of Jesus. There is also not a clear distinction between the secular celebration and the religious celebration in the sense that people who celebrate it religiously often include all the secular aspects.

    11. Alton*

      Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Samhain, which has a lot in common with Halloween traditionally, but most people don’t view typical Halloween traditions like dressing up and going trick or treating as religious, and Halloween doesn’t have religious ties in the US in the same way that, say, Christmas does. And in any case, calling secular Halloween observance religious is a little like saying that Peeps candy or Santa hats are religious. Though some people don’t recognize certain holidays because of their faith and might prefer not to wear a Santa hat because of that, I think it would be rude to Christians to suggest that Santa hats are religious in the same way that crosses or nativity scenes are, and it’s rude to Wiccans to suggest that a witch costume is religious.

      1. YawningDodo*


        As someone with Pagan friends about whom I care deeply, I’m offended by the top comment on this thread. Halloween as it is celebrated in the U.S., i.e. in a mostly secular fashion, typically has little to do with actual Samhain. If anything, the one religious aspect that makes me uncomfortable about the holiday is that it’s been co-opted and commercialized by mainstream secular culture (much in the same way Christmas has, really). Claiming that celebrating Halloween is an “attempt to co-opt and corrupt their children by dragging them into observing these customs” and that “so many people object to the religions that observe it!” is a.) conflating secular celebrations with actual religious observances and b.) an extraordinarily unpleasant attitude to take toward people of faiths other than your own. Calling it a “put down of [their] religion” is also incredibly egocentric. Halloween doesn’t exist to rustle your jimmies. Other religions don’t exist to make you uncomfortable. Sometimes it really does have absolutely nothing to do with you.

        That being said, if the OP had religious objections to celebrating Halloween, they should absolutely be able to say so and have those objections respected and accommodated. That wasn’t the issue presented in the letter, though, and we have no way of knowing from the information we have how the OP’s employer would succeed or fail at dealing with such an issue.

        1. Emma*

          As someone who is Pagan and does celebrate Samhain as one of my two major holidays, I’m likewise offended by that comment, and for the same reason. They’re two separate holidays that happen to share a date. My religious observance is no more Halloween than it is All Saints Eve.

          So, basically, thanks for your comment. I really appreciated it.

        2. Alton*

          Agreed. And even if the OP had religious objections to Halloween, I think there’s a big difference between respecting that and claiming that typical Halloween observances are part of Pagan faith.

          I’m not Christian, and I don’t celebrate Christmas. On principle, I’m not big on doing secular Christmas stuff like putting up and tree or wearing Christmas sweaters. I kind of resent the pressure to participate in a holiday with religious connotations, and the assumption that everyone celebrates Christmas. But at the same time, I don’t think that everyone who wears a Christmas sweater or puts tinsel on their desk at work is demonstrating Christian faith, or that these traditions hold important meaning in the Christian faith. I recognize that many secular Christmas traditions have arisen.

          I respect that some people don’t celebrate Halloween because of their own faith/beliefs. That doesn’t mean that a witch costume or jack o lantern is a religious symbol. Some people don’t eat pork for religious reasons. That doesn’t mean that eating a ham sandwich is a religious practice.

    12. aebhel*

      …Halloween isn’t a religious holiday…

      I assume you’re thinking of Samhain? Which is indeed a religious holiday, but it has a very tenuous relation to Halloween as it’s celebrated in the US. It makes as much sense–more sense, actually–to call Thanksgiving religious. And in fact, plenty of people wear Christmasy-themed clothing and accessories around the holidays, nobody here is being required to dress up, and this is a letter about adults in the workplace.

      This strikes me as a really disproportionate level of outrage for the issue at hand.

    13. Liz T*

      Some religions forbid the drinking of alcohol; that doesn’t mean a wine-tasting is a religious observance.

    14. All aboard the Anon Train*

      As a Satanist who celebrates All Hallow’s Eve as an actual religious holiday, I find this comment hysterical. Costumes and candy have as little to do with the religious holiday of Samhain as Santa does with Christmas.


        That is so cool. The satanism thing. I’ve never met one. I’ve always wanted to ask questions.

        However, Santa – Saint. “Santa” came about from what appears to be a real-life bishop who went around giving gifts. So he does actually have a fairly deep religious connection. That said, I get what you were trying to say. Halloween is extremely watered down from any religious roots, to the point of not even being the same.

    15. LizB*

      who would also appreciate it if people wouldn’t attempt to co-opt and corrupt their children by dragging them into observing these customs

      So as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter and would very much like to not be forced to observe those holidays… I think you’re completely off-base here. I don’t care if someone wears a Christmas sweater, wishes me a Merry Christmas, comes in with ash on their forehead on Ash Wednesday, gives me a chocolate egg around Easter, or anything else like that. My future children will not be celebrating either of those holidays, but I don’t think that seeing other people doing things to celebrate is “corrupting” them. Now, if I were required by work to sing Christmas carols, that would be an overstep… but if my coworkers attended an option work-sponsored caroling event, that is in no way forcing me to observe the holiday or “putting down” my religious beliefs. I’m of the opinion that you should not attempt to regulate other people’s behavior on the basis of your personal religious beliefs. Anyone at OP’s workplace who thinks that other people celebrating Halloween is an insult to their religion should probably take PTO that day.

  12. ThatLibraryChick*

    Just wear whatever you normally wear and when people ask, you’re dressed as a Muggle.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Or Wednesday Addams from the movies: “I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.”

      1. chemgirl*

        HAHA that’s what I decided my costume would be this year at work!! that way I can look annoyed at people and say its part of my costume. :)

    2. Batshua*

      “I’m a serial killer. They look just like everyone else.”

      I should totally dress up as Wednesday Addams someday.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Go to Youtube. Look up the Adult Wednesday Addams web series. You’re welcome ;-). (The episode where she deals with the catcallers is one of my personal favorites.)

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        My sister went to work as Wednesday one Halloween, and really creeped out one of her co-workers. Then I visited her workplace, and when introduced to that same co-worker, I said, “Hi, I’m Thursday.” I think I saw him visibly shudder. (And now you know part of the history of my name.)

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        My sister went as Wednesday one Halloween, and really creeped out a co-worker. Then I visited her workplace, and when introduced to him, I said “Hi, I’m Thursday.” I think I saw him visibly shudder. (And now you know the reason for part of my name.)

        (If this posted twice, I apologize. My posting didn’t show, and when I refreshed, it still wasn’t there, so it appeared to me to be lost.)

    3. Turtle Candle*

      I love that we got three Wednesday Addams references in a row here! (I would have made one if nobody else had…)

      One year, when I was hammered with work and didn’t have time to do anything but did want to go to a friend’s party, tell everyone that I was that nice girl next door, she was always so polite and quiet! Nobody would have guessed…. And then smile a slow slasher smile. (You have to know your audience for that one, but I got a few good laughs.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I used to say, “I am pretending to be [job title]. Isn’t that scary?”
        Works well if you are darn good at your job.

      2. Snazzy Hat*

        My favourite tenant threw a Halloween party last year. I dressed up in a suit and flashy jewelry, as a wealthy landlord. Best part was rent was due, so I actually collected money from her.

  13. animaniactoo*

    fwiw, my husband got our chiropractor a shirt that she’s planning to wear as her Halloween costume at work this year. It glows in the dark. It’s got a skeletal cartoon on it. Yesterday she was thinking about whether she could turn out the lights completely in the waiting room so people would get to see it in all its glory.

    Even when you’re public facing and interacting, it can be really useful to essentially acknowledge to the public that you are a human too and you do the same kinds of things they do. As long as it’s relatively tastefully done (I’m side-eyeing you *former* foreclosure firm Steven J Baum) and happens now-and-then, not all-the-time.

  14. jenniferthebajillionth*

    I’ve been in workplaces where “everyone wears costumes on Halloween!” It’s… not my favorite. So, I compromised by wearing a shirt with a Halloween design on it, or an animal-ear headband, or even just normal clothing in black and orange. Nobody ever said anything about me not being “in costume.” There are ways around it!

    1. Liane*

      At a previous job, we had a Senior Chemist who wasn’t into the Halloween dress up–but she had a devil horns headband she wore. A lot of people missed the horns at first glance–if they didn’t work with her & know to look for them–and it was fun to watch for their reactions when they did notice. She also helped with candy for the kid trick or treat the company had & admired others’ costumes.

      1. snuck*

        I scrolled too far for these :)

        Simple alternatives that are professional is a good idea – headbands, or coloured clothing, or simple motif decorations… A plain black dress with an orange neck scarf a bracelet would be more my style if I was working in a senior role in a public facing position… The adult themed costumes, horror stuff etc… not so much.

        And… there’s other ways to participate too – the candy bowl, just acknowledging it with others, sharing in the spirit of the day isn’t just about clothes :)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I worked in several places where we didn’t dress up, but I have some novelty pins–a jack-o-lantern that flashes, and a little haunted mansion where if you pull a string at the bottom, this disc with ghosts on it will revolve around the tower (thank you, Hallmark). Those are fun to wear when I can’t or don’t feel like doing a costume.

  15. LQ*

    My office every year has a big to-do over Halloween. I’m not a huge fan, but I know that I see benefits in being part of the group from my coworkers. No one badgers people who don’t participate, no one gets upset. Most of management doesn’t, but those that do are clearly having fun with it and don’t say anything to those who don’t. There is usually a person or two from the team I’m on who don’t participate but I think all but one year I have. Someone else comes up with a theme and we all do something to fit it. Usually someone enthusiastic will bring in a “bonus” like a hat if you want to participate a little. I know that being seen by my coworkers and those I work with as a “participator” for that one day goes a long way for the other days I don’t want to. I’m generally pretty cold and stand-offish and I don’t do well with people. Doing stuff like dressing up for Halloween goes a long way to creating some good will that I can lean on a little when I’m having a bad day and am not doing all the pleasantries and niceties that are expected.

    So is it the most perfect thing ever? No. Would it be nice if no one ever expected me to be nice at work? Yup! But dressing up for Halloween doesn’t make me less professional. It just lets me create a little good will to be spent at a later date. Some people are having a great time. That’s great.

    If you don’t need good will, and no one is bugging you about it? Let it go.

  16. Dawn*

    I freakin’ love Halloween and I’m in solidarity with the OP on this one! Halloween is for dressing up in your most ridiculous costume and going out and getting your PARTAYYYY on while having all kinds of ridiculous themed alcoholic drinks.

    If I’m supposed to be following AAM’s advice on professionalism the other 364 days of the year then I don’t see why Halloween means business norms can fly out of the window and suddenly I can dress up as [insert non-offensive costume here] and still expect to be taken seriously.

    Not to mention the HR nightmare that comes when your office condones a costume contest and someone decides to dress up as a pimp and has two “hoes” with him….

    1. Allison*

      I think most professional adults know there are costumes that work in an office, and there are costumes that don’t.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of like office gift exchanges–most people know that e.g. a sex toy is not an appropriate gift for the office; just because someone might do it (as in one old AAM letter) doesn’t mean that the whole concept is faulty. (So long as it’s opt-in and not obligatory.) And if someone does bring a sex toy to the gift exchange, or wears a Sexy Pancake costume*, or dresses up in blackface, it’s perfectly possible to address that directly with them rather than banning the concept entirely.

        * – I have no idea whether Sexy Pancake is a real costume, but since Sexy Slice of Pizza is, I would not be surprised….

        1. Allison*

          You can be a sexy anything if you put your mind to it! The options are endless! Sexy armadillo! Sexy couch! Sexy broccoli! Sexy computer mouse!

          1. Liz T*

            My friends had a sexy-off one Halloween. The dude went as a Sexy Research Assistant and the ladies went as Sexy Pandas. It was pretty amazing.

        2. esra (also a Canadian)*

          Friend, of course sexy pancake is a real costume. I don’t know whose job it is to come up with “Sexy Etc” costume designs, but I have to believe 1/ it is the best job on earth, and, 2/ they are constantly high.

        3. Ann O.*

          I have seen someone in a Sexy Pancake costume, but it was at a burlesque show and I assume she took a standard Pancake costume and added the sexy elements. But I don’t actually know.

    2. DevAssist*

      I think dressing up is creative and fun, but if someone doesn’t want to dress up, NBD. I’m actually surprised my office is letting us dress up (it’s my first Halloween with them) because our boss is pretty prim and proper.

      My office at least is smart enough to not dress offensively. In fact, one of the costumes NOT allowed is a clown costume because of all the hysteria right now!

    3. Snazzy Hat*

      I don’t see why Halloween means business norms can fly out of the window and suddenly I can dress up as [insert non-offensive costume here] and still expect to be taken seriously.

      The non-offensive costume bit reminded me of this. Two years ago I was working for a Christian-leaning insurance company. There was a cross in the cafeteria. The company name had a religious word in it (imagine a name like Pontifex Property Insurance). When I learned we could dress up for Halloween, the only outright restriction was “no devils”. Witches were fine; my boss was a glam witch with a sparkly wig, striped socks, & a witch hat. Goths were fine; I was so gothed out one of my colleagues thought I was dressed as Marilyn Manson.

    4. Court*

      I think it depends more on your organization’s culture (and really, on the fact that you’re all adults and your levels of respect for one another don’t depend entirely on whether one of you is dressed as a cat on the designated one day a year it’s okay to do that).

      Halloween doesn’t mean business norms fly out the window. It’s a temporary change in wardrobe, and usually (in functional organizations), the dress code doesn’t even change. You’re still expected to come to work dressed decently and modestly. Places that have costume contests or dress up days usually make sure employees know there are certain standards that still need to be upheld (aka, no hoes and pimp costumes).

      I can understand not wanting to dress up, but ruining the fun for a culture that is accustomed to being allowed to dress up on Halloween is not the way to go. It’s easy enough to say, “No, I’m not much of a costume person” and leave it at that so everyone else can have their fun.

    5. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      I don’t see why Halloween means business norms can fly out of the window and suddenly I can dress up as [insert non-offensive costume here] and still expect to be taken seriously.

      I’m unsure why you *wouldn’t* expect to be taken seriously.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        And quite honestly, considering that the people behind things like Enron, global warming, war, the last recession/stock market crash/housing crisis, etc have all been caused by businessmen, bankers, politicians, and other so-called ‘professionals’, I’d be more likely to trust people in costumes than people in suits. I’m 50 and have seen “people in suits” cause far more harm to society than drug addicts, gang members, or any of the other scapegoats people love to blame all sorts of societal ills on.

  17. Master Bean Counter*

    I worked in a place that went over board for Halloween. I dressed as a hippie-very comfortable clothes and not really all that different than I wore on a normal day. There was a show girl and two “peas in a pod” that wore green booty shorts and tights with a pod that connected them that didn’t cover nearly enough. I lost a lot of respect for coworkers that day. So I get the Halloween hate.
    The place after that we all pretty much did what the OP did. We all had witch’s hats and wore all black or black and purple as our version of dressing up. We really didn’t coordinate it the first year, it just happened. We liked it so much we just kept it up after that. This is how I prefer to do office Halloween.
    I’m in a new place this year, but I don’t think dressing up will be a thing here. But I won’t dress up until I see how it goes the first year.

    1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      Interesting what causes you to lose respect for people. I lose respect for people who are selfish, self centered, bigoted, and/or cause harm to others. What they choose to clothe (or not clothe) their bodies with doesn’t mean jack squat and has no reflection on their actual character or worth as a person.
      I have been a manager. Someone makes a dress code faux pas, so what? You let them know not to do it again.
      I’m not the type of person who is into revealing clothing for it’s own sake but those that are can knock themselves out and I’m not going to judge them for it.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Being in costume at the office doesn’t give one license to dress inappropriately, such as being too revealing. At least, not for anyone with common sense.

  18. ACA*

    OP, you could always say you’re in costume as Pepper Potts! And assuming you wear suits every day, you probably wouldn’t even need to wear anything different.

  19. Tiny_Tiger*

    If you don’t want to wear a costume then don’t, simple as that. Being someone that leaps at the opportunity to wear a costume whenever I get the chance, your workplace sounds like a lot of fun. I would hardly call it “unprofessional” or “childish” to enjoy something like that, considering there are people who’s profession is to dress up in costume. You do come across as awfully judgemental of it.

    1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      considering there are people who’s profession is to dress up in costume.
      You make a very good point. And not just people hired as say, actors, dancers, mascots, or other kinds of performers. I’ve been to plenty of restaurants where waitstaff and hosts are wearing things far closer to costumes than food service uniform, and many theme parks require that *all* employees- gift shop staff/cashiers, line/crowd control, ride operators, even food service, custodians, and janitors- wear specially themed & coordinated costumes while they are on duty (Disney is a stickler for this.)

  20. pussycats and toast*

    This is so timely for me; I’m kind of a Halloween-hater and it’s my first October 31st at an office where people lurrrrve to dress up. Lots of departments even do group costumes, which I’m slightly dreading. I try to meet folks halfway — wear something orange and black, bring candy, help string up some decorations — but I’m firmly uncomfortable with costumes, especially in the workplace. I’ve never taken flack for it in other jobs, and I’m hoping folks will just let it lie here as well. Am I being a party pooper if I politely opt out of a group/department costume?

    1. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

      Nope. It’s not your thing. If you’re bringing candy, they’ll probably love you anyway.

    2. LQ*

      The year I opted out at my office I brought in “Halloween” doughnuts (mostly chocolate) and oranges. It went over really well and no one said anything about not wearing a costume that year even though I’d done it other years. I think you’ll have to take the pulse of your workplace, but generally I think a little does well. If you aren’t already feeling a lot of pressure you’re probably ok.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      It’s obviously going to depend on your office, but while my office really gets into costumes in many cases, I’ve never seen anyone get flack for not dressing up. I often dress up, but once in a while I’m too busy to think of a costume or just forget, and have never had an issue with it.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Same. My office has a Halloween party and a costume contest for those who dress up, but nobody is pressured to dress up and lots of people don’t.

    4. Court*

      Unless your coworkers thrive off making you feel horrible, nobody is going to freak out that you didn’t wear a costume, especially if you help in other ways. It’s easy enough to deflect by saying, “I’m not really a costume person, but I’m definitely bringing in candy.” Usually, that last word is distracting enough to get people to stop asking about the first part. ;)

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I think when you’re working with kids, they appreciate when adults join in the fun, even if it’s just a themed shirt.

    2. Fortitude Jones (formerly Christopher Tracy)*

      I love those pics. I squeed a bit when I saw Mario and Luigi.

  21. Kyrielle*

    I spent over a decade in an office that celebrated Halloween, but optionally. In that time, I sometimes took part and sometimes didn’t. (One year when I was asked, a little teasingly, what I was dressed as, I replied, “A lazy person!” “Huh?” “I’m dressed as someone too lazy to find a costume.” Which actually was more or less why I did not have one that year.)

    So, it differs from your office because people could and did opt out. But we also had people claiming to be dressed as an office worker, a curmdgeon, etc. We had full-on costumes but also simple ones that depended on a single accessory (hat to become ‘an old-fashioned gentleman’, etc.).

    My husband once took a “dragonology” book and a toy dragon to work, and wore a wizard’s hat. Ostensibly he was a dragon tamer, but he got even better reactions when he got tired of the hat early on, set it aside, and posed the dragon “eating” the book. Heh.

  22. Bekx*

    I wore a superman t-shirt under a blazer and dress pants once, put on some fake glasses and said I was a female superman. (Or Kara, I guess, but Kara tends to be in jeans in the comics). It went over real well and then I didn’t really feel like I was in a costume. And, since I was on a budget, I didn’t spend more than $10 on this costume.

    That being said, as a cosplayer and hobby-actress, I love dressing up and I wish my office would allow us to wear costumes if we wanted.

    1. Liane*

      It is great. One year my son did Superman sort of like that. He had the tee shirt with the S symbol on it. Over it he wore a pair of his dress pants and shirt. The shirt was mostly open so you could see the Superman S.

    2. Jenbug*

      A guy where I used to work did this a few years ago except he wore a superman shirt under a white dress shirt that he had half buttoned with a crooked tie. It was pretty clever.

  23. baseballfan*

    I used to work for a fun loving airline who is legendary in their celebration of Halloween. The CEO’s costume is awaited with great anticipation every year. It’s the most fun day you ever had at work.

    That being said, if someone didn’t want to dress up, I don’t recall it being a big deal. But if they expressed strong objections over the celebrations on the grounds of professionalism, that would have been a big deal.

    1. YawningDodo*

      That’s what seemed to me would be the most likely response at the OP’s office if they flat-out refused to wear a costume — it probably wouldn’t be a big deal if one just didn’t want to, but revealing this “it’s unprofessional and childish!” attitude would be much more likely to create actual tensions.

      1. Court*

        Agreed. It portrays a hostile or “holier-than-thou” attitude to present it as unprofessional and childish. It seems like telling a coworker who is excited about dressing up that doing so is childish sends a vibe of “I’m more of a professional adult than you are because I refuse to do this.” Whereas simply saying you’re not a costume person will more than suffice without the additional drama.

  24. sssssssss*

    Years ago, we moved to Michigan and had to go to the Secretary of State to register our car…on Halloween. We were served by “Betty Boop” and her co-workers were all equally dressed up.

    That said, now that I recall that day, “Betty” was not very friendly and perhaps she was dressing up under duress too! I would have preferred the original Betty Boop to the grumpy Secretary of State one.

  25. RVA Cat*

    There’s nothing inherently unprofessional about Halloween costumes at work, UNLESS the costume itself crossed the line of being inappropriately sexual or racially/ethnically offensive.

      1. Golden Lioness*

        Ugh! Now I imagine “sexy Flanders” hugging the purple curtains and screaming bloody murder… help!

  26. Doug Judy*

    I once had an interview on Halloween and the two people interviewing me both had on full costumes with wigs and hats and full clown makeup. It was horribly distracting, and they seemed almost offended that I wasn’t in a costume! They asked where my costume was and I said it was a job interview, I didn’t feel it was appropriate to wear one. I didn’t get the job.

    1. Not Karen*

      You didn’t say “I’m dressed as a job interviewee”?

      Seriously though, that was lame on their part.

    2. Lance*

      That’s… pretty ridiculous. If they hoped for you to come in a costume, well, they should have let you know. Period.

  27. 'callaKid*

    I don’t much like Halloween either, but really, if the company’s okay with costumes, why grouse about. Just say you’re a modern, feminist witch in your suit, and smile, and do your work.

  28. LeRainDrop*

    Curious if there could be a religious discrimination issue here — if the office is only letting people leave early who wear a costume, what if there is a worker whose religious practice means they can’t participate in Halloween dress-up? They’re just stuck working the full day as a result of practicing their religion?

    1. SimontheGreyWarden*

      I don’t feel it would rise to the level of discrimination because they aren’t being penalized for practicing their religion just like someone isn’t being penalized for not dressing up, they just aren’t being rewarded. It reminds me of the letter a while back about the guy who’s religion would not let him shake hands with women, and how it would need to be across the board that he did not shake hands for it not to be gender discrimination. He isn’t expected to forfeit his religion and shake hands with women; he is expected to engage in equal treatment.

      I don’t know, it seems like people have gotten really hung up on not getting the ‘treat’ of going home early, but even OP says that she would not be going home early.

      At one of my early jobs, I was a warehouse worker. Christmas eve, the managers sent customer service staff home early since the businesses we worked with were closed (this was at maybe 3pm instead of 5pm, so not a crazy difference). Those of us in the warehouse were expected to keep working because UPS and FEDEX would make one last pickup before close of day. I guess sometimes we all just understand that’s the nature of things – it may not be fair, but as long as no one is being singled out, then it isn’t discrimination.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      And they don’t have to/shouldn’t have to participate. That doesn’t mean they get to dictate that everyone else can’t.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah but they’d have to stay later than those who participate, and that could be an issue.

        1. Salyan*

          Yeah, this is the issues I have with this scenario. I personally choose not to celebrate Halloween due to my religious beliefs, but I don’t care (much) if everyone else dresses up. However, to be excluded from inclusion in a business perk due to my religious beliefs is majorly not okay. This office has not thought through all the ramifications of this choice.

          1. Roscoe*

            I guess this is something that I never understood. I’ve worked places that were closed for Christmas. But also people who celebrated things like Hanukkah got to leave early when it was their religious time. So they basically go the perks of both things. I was never upset about having to stay later on those days.

            1. BeenBurned*

              Many offices are closed for Christmas because it’s considered a national holiday. People who celebrate Hanukkah or other religious holidays do get that day off, because the office is closed (the same way I might get President’s Day off, though it’s not something I celebrate – office is closed, it’s out of my control). However, if they want to observe their own religious holidays, they usually have to take PTO. Being forced to take PTO because you can’t work when the office is closed isn’t a ‘perk’, it’s an annoyance.

              Moreover, in this scenario, for individuals who do not celebrate the holiday, it’s not simply a matter of ‘That’s not my holiday.” It’s typically a matter of “Halloween is against my religion.” To penalize people for not violating their religious code by playing along and getting dressed up is wrong.

              1. Ann O.*

                I’d honestly prefer to get to go in to work on 12/25 and not have to use PTO for Yom Kippur. I don’t think it’s a penalty to not get a perk that you don’t need. If a person doesn’t celebrate Halloween, Halloween is just another day to them so why shouldn’t they work a full day?

                1. BeenBurned*

                  I think the issues are getting conflated here. Are you suggesting these folks “need” this perk of time off for Halloween and that’s why they’re being let go early? I recognize that in the case of Yom Kippur or other Jewish holidays, there’s a valid reason why leaving early is a thing. But there’s not requirement on Halloween for people to be in a certain place at a certain time, except for their own entertainment. This is a straight-up perk for participation, but for some, participation is actively a violation of their beliefs.

                  It’s less like leaving early for Yom Kippur and more like if the boss believed it was good luck to eat pork on the vernal equinox and said “anyone who tries the pork I brought gets a bonus in their check!” There’s a number of people who would be religiously excluded from that, and others are profiting from NOT being religiously opposed to it.

  29. Allison*

    Halloween costumes are NOT inherently unprofessional. Feel free to not wear a costume, feel free to roll your eyes at the pressure to do so and show up in normal clothing, but making any comments about them being silly, professional, or childish – or passive aggressive comments, or exaggerated sound effects to make a point (“hemm,” “tsk!” “hmmmm” “*siiiigh* “AH-HA-HEM!”) – will definitely make you a party pooper. Don’t poo on the party!

    OP, you’re office is being ridiculous by rewarding costumers with the chance to go home. In general, there’s nothing wrong with simply showing up to work without a costume, as long as you’re polite about it. “I just didn’t feel like it, Halloween isn’t my thing” is a lot better then “because costumes are for children and I’m a mature adult with better things to think about.”

  30. crazy8s*

    I can enjoy other people’s costumes and their excitement, but I don’t want to dress up myself. I bring candy and participate that way–doing trick or treat at my desk!

  31. Moonsaults*

    Last year I looked up and someone was dressed as a Minion, just doing their job like “do de doooo daaaa” and my gosh, it was the highlight of my year. I personally love seeing adults act like big jolly kids but that’s my personality in general.

    I wouldn’t even notice or think you’re being a party pooper since you are at very least “playing along”, even if it’s just mediocre with the hat at your desk. You’re still joining in and playing along one way or another. What you think of it as a whole is probably what many others do as well and that’s okay as well.

    1. Hallway Feline*

      Last year, one coworker came as Sadness from Inside Out. Full blue and everything. It was amazing. Even better was that her fiance and children and dog were the other 4 emotions and went trick-or-treating that night after work. Her outfit wasn’t in any way inappropriate (except maybe the blue-painted skin), but she is also not a customer-facing position, and it was clear that she was having fun and bringing us joy (despite her persona for the day).

      Not many people dressed up last year, and this year they’re allowing us to dress up (obviously within reason) for a contest but there is no obligation to join in if you don’t want to. That being said, my team and I are going as PacMan and the ghosts. Easy costumes, still completely work appropriate, and just a little bit of fun for when the kids come in to get free candy.

      1. Moonsaults*

        Oh my gosh, the Inside Out family sounds absolutely delightful, I want them to trick or treat my house this year hahaha I adore themed costumes, it takes so much pressure off everyone in my experience.

        1. Hallway Feline*

          They’re doing something else this year. It’s always a big secret though, so I have to wait like everyone else. My guess is that it’ll be Star Wars related, since one of her girls is very much into it, especially Rey.

        2. TC*

          group costumes are the best because your group does become greater than the sum of the parts. i was at a music festival once where me and about 11 of my friends all wore lab coats. we made quite an impression! my husband and i do it where we can — a couple of years ago we went dressed as kurt cobain and courtney love. separately we just looked scruffy, but together we made sense.

  32. MashaKasha*

    So here’s a story from my very first US job (a small software company in the 90s). I had a coworker who’d come from Poland on a H1 visa, and started at OldJob a few years before me. Back in Poland, he was I believe a CS department chair at a large university or something of that nature. He was as classy and refined as they come; also 15-20 years older than most of our coworkers at OldJob. On his first day at OldJob, he came to work wearing a suit and a tie. His first day was October 31. He turned out to be the only one in the office who wasn’t wearing a costume. One guy was dressed as a flasher. (apparently a totally normal costume in the 90s…) My colleague had no idea what any of it meant, he just decided that he’d gotten stuck with a crazy company full of crazy people.

    Not Halloween-related, but six months later on his birthday, two of his coworkers told him not to go home after work, they had a birthday surprise for him. Took him to a strip club. He was, once again, horrified. So perhaps he wasn’t that far off about the place being full of crazy.

  33. Product Person*

    In my previous job (tech startup) everybody would come in costume for Halloween. I actually enjoyed seeing my colleagues dressed up as mad scientist and other fun characters. I would just wear my regular clothes and hang a sign over my neck saying “404 Error – Costume Not Found” near the time of the “best costume award”, and everybody would smile at it.

  34. CMT*

    I don’t really care for Halloween, but I really don’t like the expectation that work be 100% business 100% of the time. I need some whimsy and fun here and there to stay productive and motivated. The best places I’ve worked have been the ones where they realized that and provided outlets for it.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Agreed. I don’t care for Halloween, but I do care a lot about treating human staff like… humans. Levity is good for all of us, and I’ll take it in the form of candy and other silliness.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        And that’s perfectly reasonable. My old job didn’t allow for dressing up at the office, but I definitely made sure that my weekly customer presentation used “Monster Mash” as the exit music on Halloween, or put a small bag of candy at my desk.

  35. eemmzz*

    “if you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t be giving patients bad news about their health while dressed as a giant banana or something”

    This is one of the best things I’ve read on AAM!

  36. Kathlynn*

    OP, you could go as a men in black character. It’s rather easy. just find some dark sunglasses, and something to mimic the memory wipe pen-thing. And wear a black suit if you have one (which is sounds like you might).

    If you have a favourite book or TV/movie character, you could dress up as them, like someone might dress up in a mechanics uniform, and say they are Mercy from Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson series. Or just a mechanic. Lots of professions ypu could dress up as.

  37. CanadianKat*

    Not a fan of some aspects of Halloween (i.e. sugar-peddling and just general commercialization), but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dressing up – at work or otherwise. Yes, it may be inappropriate for some jobs (e.g. those requiring uniforms or where a costume may undermine your authority – thinking of a judge, for example), and of course you have to be sure that the costume is appropriate (not gory, not “sexy”, and culturally-sensitive), but in general – it’s no less professional than Chrismas decorations or birthday cakes.

    My team (in-house legal department at a public agency) has a tradition of dressing up in a team costume, with our top boss being given his costume as a surprise. We go around the building trick-or-treating money for charity. Everyone looks forward to it.

    That said, I don’t think people should be forced into participating – including through rewards as in OP’s case.

    1. Liz*

      Sorry, now I’m picturing a judge handing down reasons, wearing a banana costume over her wig and robes*.

      * I’m in one of the Australian states where we kept the trappings.

  38. ES*

    Marketing-driven Halloween creep has penetrated farther every time I look!

    This seems like “mandatory office fun” to me, and I’m with the OP on disliking it. Halloween at work is appropriate for businesses that work with children. OP doesn’t say what her workplace does, but if it’s a child-oriented business, it’s part of being approachable for the clients, and sure, dress up. But maybe the office should also have reimburse people for the costumes, if these are being specially purchased at the workplace’s request. OP, keep reusing that hat!

    Where this becomes really inappropriate, though, is rewarding employees with paid time off. Is PTO given to people at other times for other, work-related, rather than management-whim-related, reasons?

  39. specialist*

    “if you’re a doctor, you shouldn’t be giving patients bad news about their health while dressed as a giant banana or something”

    I am a doctor and I so want to do this. Best I’ve ever done in the workplace was as a med student I had a cat tail pinned to the bottom of my lab coat and some cat ears on a headband. I guess I am really boring.

  40. Hotel GM Guy*

    Not so much to do with Halloween, but as far as being unprofessional in the workplace goes: our hotel is just down the road from Major Pro Sports Team’s stadium, so I went out and bought everybody polos with the team logo on it and they can wear them on Game Days, or they can wear team jerseys if they want. Everybody seems to get in the spirit of it, and guests coming in appreciate it (even those from opposing teams).

  41. Sarah*

    I have several different reactions to this. First of all, there are many people who do not celebrate or dress up for Halloween for religious reasons – so making it a huge part of office culture, to the point that there’s a reward for wearing a costume, feels a bit icky to me. It’s also a bit odd that they care so much about wanting people to dress up. It’s one thing to encourage anyone who wants to dress up to go for it, but I don’t quite get why they are so invested in trying to get people to do so. All that being said, I think that they are making it clear what IS appropriate for their office culture, which is being a good sport and dressing up for Halloween. That doesn’t by any means require you to participate, but I do think that should influence your view on whether dressing up is appropriate in that specific office environment – clearly it is totally appropriate in your office, since they are encouraging it. You can, of course, still feel like you don’t want to participate – but the rationale that it isn’t appropriate doesn’t work for your current situation. If that really is your only reservation, then I say why not go for it and get involved and have fun? It sounds like, however, that perhaps you just don’t really enjoy dressing up for Halloween and just don’t feel like doing it – which is 100% fine. Just keep in mind that you have to let go of your “it’s not appropriate” mindset.

  42. shep*

    I think it’s awesome and fun to see people dressed up on Halloween. I don’t think it’s unprofessional. I am VERY lazy and don’t particularly want to shell out for my own costume, though, so I’d be pretty miffed at essentially having to pay money to get off work early.

  43. HRish Dude*

    You could wear no costume and also have the best costume.

    “Why didn’t you dress up?”
    “A girl wears no costume.”

  44. LawCat*

    I enjoy dressing up at Halloween, but not at work (I don’t care if others do it). It’s clear that my new office is super into Halloween though (there’s a committee, a theme, a costume contest, a pumpkin carving contest, and I’ve seen pictures from the prior year). There are executives in my area and no one else on my team is at my office’s location so I’m worried it would be weird if someone in my role dressed up. I have struggled a bit to fit in (everyone’s nice, but I don’t actually work with anyone in the office) so I feel like maybe I should participate a bit. I was thinking of entering the costume contest and being a “devil’s advocate” (I’m a lawyer) by wearing a red blouse and red suit jacket with a pair of devil horns and pendant of a skeleton. If I am uncomfortable, the horns and necklace can easily come off!

    1. LawCat*

      Oops, I meant I am thinking of entering the pumpkin carving contest. The office theme is a little over the top so I’m definitely not entering the costume contest.

  45. Umvue*

    I saw an academic talk given by a giant banana once. It was PRETTY GREAT (and is the only talk I remember from that whole conference).

  46. BeenBurned*

    This response misses something. This policy of rewarding people for their participation in Halloween activities becomes extremely problematic if the organization has even one employee who abstains for religious reasons.

    I understand that the OP’s question was specifically with regard to her/his view of it as unprofessional, but it seems prudent to mention that the policy could cause other problems that might be a good reason to push back against it. In our organization, there are several individuals who are Jehovah’s Witnesses or other Christian denominations that decline to celebrate Halloween because they view it as a pagan religious celebration (which it is, from its origins). Can we rightly reward everyone else for participating in what is construed by them as a religious celebration?

    For comparison, what if we were talking about the day before Hanukkah, and the boss said everyone who wore a yarmulke or a Star of David would be released early?

    1. Roscoe*

      As far as your last question, I alluded to that in a response. Is it right? Maybe not. Would I be mad? No. People leave early before Christmas holidays all the time. Hell, as one of the few people in my office from the area, I often end up staying later because so many people travel. So no, I wouldn’t have a problem if the Jewish people left ealry the day before Hunnukkah

      1. BeenBurned*

        It’s not about the leaving early, because presumably, they are using PTO when they leave early in those cases. But even if they aren’t, that’s an accommodation being made. This is specifically a reward for participating in an activity that has a religious connection.

        An employer needs to be more careful in this situation, not less, because of the fact that most people are fine with the holiday. If you’ve got 97 people going home and 3 forced to stay, don’t you think those three are going to feel singled out based on their beliefs?

        This is a bad policy.

        1. bloo*

          I agree. I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and while I would not ‘pooh pooh’ my colleagues dressing up for Halloween, I’d be sitting down with the management as soon as I was aware of any rule that stated if I don’t violate one of my religious beliefs, I have to stay later than anyone else.

          It’s a bad policy.

        2. Roscoe*

          I suppose it depends on how early people are leaving. If its like a half day, sure. If its like an hour, eh, I wouldn’t begrudge that. Like I said, people leave early in my office for holidays and stuff all the time and don’t take PTO for it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think that part of the problem is that it’s not a formalized policy. It’s something management decided on whim without thinking about the bigger picture.
        But putting that to one side because OP does not mention religion, she is not comfortable with the idea. Since it has little to no bearing on her ability to do her job I see no reason why she should have to work until close when everyone else can leave early.

        OP, I hope management sees your outfit as adequate and lets you go home early.

    2. YawningDodo*

      As much as I object to the conflation of Halloween and Samhain in comments like these, I do agree that basing whether or not people get a free afternoon on their participation in a holiday is not a good idea. I see how one can argue that it’s a perk for participators, not a punishment for people who don’t participate, but I think in practice you’re right about it having the potential to single out a small number of people and look/feel more like the latter. Better to let everyone leave early; I doubt it’d have any more impact on the business than the current policy, as it sounds like most of the office is hitting the “wear a costume” requirement. If the office is going to be a ghost town anyway, there’s no need to withhold that reward from people who don’t celebrate the holiday.

  47. Greg*

    define costume. seriously. Just tell people you’re dressed as lois lane or clark kent. just add a nametag. OR reference buffy and just put on a nametag that says “god”

    I remember value village where A you wore the special halloween shirt B wore a costume or C they would dress you up. During all of october.

    I remember one person who ended up with option C where they kept coming over to him and adding things and made him wear a dress. These days I would flat refuse to do this. Consider all my job duties at that horrible company this was just straight not practical. I don’t care if I would get in trouble.

    I have a real problem with the fact that those in costumes get to leave early, like maybe some people just don’t have time or energy or have a personal reason for not dressing up and now they get punished.

    I don’t mind workplaces doing silly things but forcing participation or pressuring participation really hits a bunch of buttons. The worst part for this is always the nosy people who won’t leave you alone even if you do participate because there’ll be the “there you see” “that’s more like it” “told you it’d be fun”. Like what do I have to do to just be allowed to do my job. Sorry minirant.

      1. Not So NewReader*


        And that non-participating person should NOT be stoned by coworkers with “where is your costume, how come you’re not in a costume, how come [whiny voice].”

  48. Torrance*

    I’m surrounded by mundanes so no costumes for me. :( I actually just bought a pirate hat & sword for ghits and siggles but I won’t have anywhere to wear it to. Ah, at least it’ll entertain the cat.

    And, as a witch who celebrates Samhain, I find it amusing that dressing up in a Halloween costume is seen by some as engaging in a religious experience. From my Circle/sabbat experiences, yeah, not so much. But maybe this is one of those cultural things, like how stockings on a chimney celebrate the birth of Christ. *shrugs*

  49. Former Retail Manager*

    Now that my retail days are long behind me, dressing up is no longer an option. I grumbled about it a bit when I had to do it, but now I miss it. I am now a government employee and NO ONE here dresses up. I get funny looks every year because I’m wearing jack-o-lantern earrings and a headband that has a tiny witch hat attached. I wish we were a more festive office so long as everyone kept things appropriately covered and such. It was always a fun way to see people’s creative side and sometimes what their hobbies/interests were.

    And while I get what OP’s employer is trying to do by rewarding those who dress up with leaving early, it does seem a bit much and someone above references some potential religious implications, which it doesn’t sound like are in play here, but you never know.

  50. JLH*

    I think how I feel about this has a lot to do with little details. For example, I would be a lot more adverse to this if there was some sort of rigid list of what you could wear to qualify vs. Fergus being able to wear a bat tie and glasses or something like that. Also, how early is early? When I worked in a construction & remodeling office, we almost never got a half day (to the point we were basically sitting with our hands in our lap for a good four hours in the afternoon on Christmas Eve because no one was home to answer their phones and they sure weren’t calling us) and if we got to leave early, it was usually a half-hour to an hour at best. If it was that time frame, I don’t really see the big deal; after all, it’s not actually punitive for you to work your normal hours and the participants aren’t really getting THAT much benefit out of it. I would feel differently if it was a half-day situation or if you were forced to work over your schedule because you didn’t. I also think it would be a little tricky if the religious implications came into play though it seems unlikely for this particular situation, although as others said, you never know.

    The latter half of the year is my favorite time of year, especially around Halloween. I get somewhat nostalgic and wish I could recapture the magic of it sometimes, so it helps when others get crazy with the spirit. But it’s definitely not for everyone, and that’s totally okay, too.

  51. AllieJ0516*

    I *hate* wearing costumes. I’m not at all creative and I’m uncomfortable in them, it’s just me. Conversely, I love seeing others dressed up! I’m thoroughly unimaginative and am always impressed with the cleverness of co-workers. I do get a little spooked by full masks, but that lasts a nanosecond. Any customer who may come in on Halloween will not be surprised, and may even be I costume themselves. I say live and let live.

  52. Chaordic One*

    No one has mentioned this, but in the past I’ve been in work situations where certain employees (mostly younger ones) were sent home because their costumes were considered “inappropriate.” (Sexy school girls, nurses, maids and vampires who were a little too sexy.) There was also a good-looking middle-aged man in an executioner costume who was sent home because his top was sleeveless and showed off his impressive six-pack and muscular arms.

    On a personal note, I advised my GBF (who usually dresses as obscure characters that no one recognizes, Klaus Nomi? Tom Baker Dr. Who?) that he really should not wear his leather outfit to work. It is fine for parties outside of work, but not for work.

    Of course, this might be appropriate in some workplaces, like in a restaurant or a night club.

  53. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I hope these comments have helped in some manner for you.

    I think it bears saying that it was not that long ago, actually with in my life time, that wearing any costume or even holiday earrings was a huge NO-NO in most offices. Offices were super somber places. Just my opinion, but I think that people had a larger sense of self-importance then. So the culture was that no one should do anything that was the least bit remarkable. Do not draw attention to yourself, do not be different and so on.

    But times have change. I admit, if a doctor came into take care of me and was wearing a costume I would leave. So I do have some of that residual stuff going on. I admit that I buy holiday shirts and sweaters, then I forget I have them, because for many years they were just not a thing.

    However, this is your work place and it seems like they are going to keep doing this.

    You know, OP, we can be physically old and have a young mind.
    We can be physically young and have an old mind.

    I often warn myself about this mix up particularly in light of my own aging. I want to be that young-minded person who just happens to have an older body.

    My thinking is find ways you can roll with it. Other suggested bringing in holiday donuts, some folks suggested very clever yet simple costumes and then there is office decorating. Find your inroad to participation. As you go along and the years unfold, you will see many things that rattle your thinking. Staying employed is the main goal, with that in mind it’s only to your benefit to find these inroads. The good news is that I have often thought people who have been out in the workplace and retire make out better in retirement than people who did not work or did not work much. That is because workplaces force us to question our own thinking. We adjust what we think or we learn other people’s perspectives. This is very good for us over the long haul. It helps with our quality of life.

    FWIW, I don’t wear a costume unless forced. It’s just not for me. It’s just not in my personality. I have several reasons, not the least of which is someone held me at knife point while wearing a mask. While most of that fear is gone, I still think of it.

    1. Red Rose*

      I don’t do costumes, either. But you know, I remember my mother, who has been retired 20+ years but was a very professional banker, used to costume up for Halloween at work back in the 1980s. She managed the teller line and enforced the dress code (quite strictly, as I recall), so I guess this must have been encouraged by the higher ups. So I guess it wasn’t a no-no everyplace, even 30 years ago. In my current workplace, costuming is allowed (and some people do get into it, good for them!) but thankfully not strongly encouraged.

    2. Biff*

      One year on Halloween my Doctor was dressed up as a zombie. It was perfectly fine. He and his office just happened to absolutely love Halloween, so they went nuts. Honestly, so long as they are clean and wash their hands, it’s fine.

  54. Fafaflunkie*

    To OP: personally, if this is how your workplace culture lives by, why spoil the party? Heck, I would take full opportunity to really scare the living crap out of them: grab some sheets of cardboard and a broomstick with a piece of chalk affixed to it somehow, and with some creative juices, dress up like a Galaxy Note 7! That will blow their minds. %-]]]~~

    1. Greg M.*

      because they don’t like dressing up, that’s why. and frankly if someone choosing not to participate “spoils the party” then it mustn’t have been a good party.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        Sorry for replying so late, but I have a huge grudge with Samsung right now, which made me post this response. I’ve been waiting for my S7 to be repaired for a month now after bringing it in to their authorized repair shop. I feel I’ve been caught in the crossfire of the whole Note 7 fiasco–as if I were part of the design team that lead to the undocumented feature of the phone’s ability to spontaneously combust!

  55. Cat steals keyboard*

    Is there more encouragement for people to donate money to their non-profit employer on Halloween? Is that what the costumes are partly about? That would make sense if so.

    I think it’s fine to be annoyed that you don’t get to go home early and I’m sorry this is making you uncomfortable but you are maybe overthinking it a bit.

  56. Original Poster*

    Thank you all very much for your input and suggestions. I have no religious or cultural objections to celebrating Halloween. Being allowed to go home early from work due to any reason other than personal illness, previously excused personal business or some kind of external disaster or civic emergency really means nothing to me. I do not care whether or not my coworkers choose to come to work in costumes on Halloween. I will continue to treat Halloween like any other workday, go to the office, interact cordially with my coworkers and the clients of the agency, and do my job. Again, thank you all for your input and suggestions. Additionally, thank you, Alison, for providing and maintaining this valuable and interesting forum for the discussion of workplace issues.

  57. Monica*

    I legitimately do not understand people who don’t like to dress up for Halloween. I would wear a costume 365 days a year if I were permitted. I probably should have become an actress or something…

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      That would be me. Costumes are conspicuous and draw attention to the wearer. People (like me) who prefer to blend into walls (unless I’m presenting at a professional event) rather than stand out have no interest in people paying any more attention to them than necessary. It’s also a factor of money (for something I’d wear maybe once, at best once a year) and comfort (being a low-usage item, most reasonably priced costumes are constructed as cheaply as possible and are not comfortable) . It’s not my bag, but I love seeing what other people put together.

      I don’t really see what’s so difficult to understand about someone else having different preferences than you do, though. I don’t care if other people want to dress up, but the insinuation that those of us who don’t are odd or spoilsports gets old fast.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t really see what’s so difficult to understand about someone else having different preferences than you do, though. I don’t care if other people want to dress up, but the insinuation that those of us who don’t are odd or spoilsports gets old fast.

        Very true!

  58. Justin*

    Wearing a costume to a party is fun, wearing one while you go about your day is a pain. I don’t understand why you’d want to do that. Although I’m kind of over Halloween in general.

  59. My other bike is a broom*

    I love Halloween – it’s the one time of year I can truly be myself; a witch! Bawahaha! In the UK we do dress up but it has to be scary, or creepy, not just random film characters etc. And we definitely don’t do it as ‘big’ as our American friends, although sometimes I wish we did. That said part of the reason it’s my favourite time of year is that you can celebrate but there’s no gift pressure, you can just chill at home or have a big party. This year we are getting married the weekend just before so that will be a big party! I’d love to dress up at work but I am a big grown up corporate worker now so we should be serious, but I may sneak in my pumpkin brooch to wear the week before!

  60. Sniffles*

    Spooky Decorations at the office… people need to be careful what & how they display things too.
    had to take a plane one Halloween & the departure gate was decorated with tombstones & signage saying “No exit”, “Last Stop”, “End of the line” and thoughts along those lines with arrows pointing down the walkway to the plane.
    yeah, funny, sure, I get it, but not for those of us who have qualms about flying anyway (lost folks in Lockerbie crash and again on 9/11)

    Sure it was fun to have my hair cut by Bride of Frankenstein, but seeing signs of doom leading to my airplane? Not so much.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yikes! I have no idea how they thought that would be a good idea. :( And I say this as someone who loves the holidays and once DID decorate with tombstones in the office. (I put them in the computer lab. In front of a couple machines that were non-functional but hadn’t yet been replaced, because of budget. Nowhere near a travel gate, no extra signage.)

  61. Anonymous for This*

    Wow. Lots of interesting comments. I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses — no Halloween, Christmas, birthdays, etc. That being said, I never begrudged anyone for wanting to celebrate something, whether they do so for religious or secular reasons. Not everyone understood my family’s little quirks, but they accepted them — and likewise :) I’d recommend that if being a team player is important to you, then go with the very simple costume idea — heck something that could or might not be a costume (Hey, look — I’m wearing a suit and I have a legal pad – I’m a lawyer!) Otherwise, opt out. Even as someone who didn’t celebrate the holiday, if it were really important for me to go home early, and for some reason I felt uncomfortable talking about my religious reasons for not participating, I would just muster up some low key “could be a costume or not” outfit to go home early. I don’t consider that “celebrating” Halloween in any sense of the word, just like having a touch of egg nog at Christmas isn’t celebrating Christmas. It’s just having some egg nog that happens to be around :)

  62. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#1, not sure how relevant this is a year and a half later, but if it comes up again, you could just wear a black suit (skirt optional, since I’m inferring you’re female) with a white shirt and a thin black tie. When questioned, pull out sunglasses, say you’re from MiB, and if they don’t leave you alone, you’ll pull out your neuralyzer. Will Smith would be proud.

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