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Halloween brings out the kid in all of us - young or older

Face it: Most grown-up Halloween revelers have no business in Batman and Xena "Warrior Princess" cos-tumes.

Squeeze your lovehandles into Lycra or faux-leather get-ups and it's a sure bet you'll walk away with the "bad taste" award at Friday's Halloween bash.No matter. For many adults, the party's the thing.

Hundreds of full-grown Utahns are expected to dash to Halloween costume parties the moment the trick-or-treat bowl empties.

"Halloween isn't just for kids anymore," said Sandy Nichols of West Valley. "Next to Christmas, it's my favorite holiday."

Well, it's not exactly a holiday. No U.S. president or governor has ever proclaimed Oct. 31 any sort of observance day. The banks are open, mail's delivered and, costume or no costume, you'll get ticketed if you let your parking meter expire.

Still, Halloween is big business for many Utah costume shops and novelty stores. And most customers are way too old for trick-or-treating.

"I'd say 99 percent of our costumes rentals are for adults," said Melody Palmer, who works at the Hale Centre Theatre costume shop.

Many stores have been open for extended hours in the past few weeks to meet the demands of grown-up party-goers.

"We've been open for nine years, and Halloween seems to be getting bigger and bigger," said Diane Hartman, owner of Chameleon Costumes and Dancewear in Sandy. "Thursday should be our biggest day."

The most popular get-ups?

Couples are opting for "theme costumes," like Xena and Hercules. Batman and Catwoman disguises are also in demand.

"Women also seem to like anything that's glamorous, like a harem girl or Marilyn Monroe," said Thad Hansen of Salt Lake Costume Company. "Men still like dressing as werewolves, and aliens are big this year."

Hansen adds women are usually much pickier then men about their Halloween party garb, often trying on a dozen costumes before deciding.

Leave spooky costumes and candy to the kids, some say.

"The Halloween parties I've gone to are usually just an excuse for people to get together and drink," said one man who asked to remain soberly anonymous.

Not so, others say. "It's all about having . . . getting dressed up in costumes that wouldn't be socially acceptable to wear any other time of year," Nichols said.

Halloween's origins aren't as festive.

The ancient Celts ushered in the new year on Oct. 31 with the Samhain festival. It was also a day of the wandering dead, where revelers in masks and costumes roamed the towns, collecting offerings of food and drink.

The observance was also called the Eve of All Hallow, or Hallow Even, which eventually contracted to simply Halloween.

Irish immigrants reportedly brought the custom to America in the 1840s. The tradition of Oct. 31 tomfoolery soon evolved into children's trick or treat.

Recent generations obviously enjoyed the celebration enough as youngsters to carry it through adulthood.

"We usually get about 500 students to our annual Halloween party," said Helen Langan, Westminster College's student body president. "It's one of the top three events of the school year."