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An Observation about Trick-or-Treating

Last night my wife and I sat out on our front porch for an hour, handing out candy to the costumed kiddies who stopped by. And it occurred to me how much Halloween has changed for the worse. For one thing, it was still light out! When we finally packed it in at 7:00, it was just about dark--roughly the point when, during my childhood in the 1970s, we would have first ventured out of the house with our trick-or-treat bags in hand. And while Ashland has designated but a single hour for trick-or-treat, we would have been out for at least two, circulating far and wide in search of candy corn, Smarties, and the always-prized Reese’s Cups. By 9:00 or so we’d come home, exhausted, to begin the process of sorting our haul according to overall desirability, making trades when the opportunity arose.

But there’s something else I noticed. Today’s costumes are far more elaborate than what we had--anyone remember those boxed costumes with the cheap plastic mask? And it appears that folks today put a lot more effort into decorating for Halloween. It used to be nothing more than slapping a few cardboard cut-outs on the windows; today one might be suspected of having insufficient Halloween spirit if one doesn’t have a few styrofoam tombstones in the front yard and ghosts-made-from-sheets hanging from the trees. Okay, most don’t go as far as I do--I use a fog machine--but certainly the bar has been raised. But here’s what’s odd--the kids seem to enjoy it all less. I remember trick-or-treating as something I engaged in with absolute glee; we’d run from house to house, breathlessly shouting "TRICK OR TREAT" at each door. But the children we saw wandering through the neighborhood were sluggish. Few even seemed to be smiling; most didn’t even give the obligatory "trick or treat" unless I insisted on it as a condition of the transaction (which I began doing about halfway through). It was as if they were going through the motions. They wanted the candy, sure, and were willing to put on the silly costumes if that was what it took to close the deal. But one got the sense that their little hearts weren’t in it; that they’d much rather be sitting at home, waiting for the candy to be brought to them.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by this. I probably would’ve been far less thrilled by Halloween if I knew it meant wandering the neighborhood in broad daylight, with my parents standing fifteen feet away. But I can’t help but find it sad; maybe next year I’ll leave the fog machine in the garage.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Buck up, John! It was light out last night because we’ve not moved the clocks back yet - most years we do before Beggars’ Night. As for whether children still enjoy it, ask any parent or teacher. But kids are shy, and sometimes need to be reminded of the customs. And all the new decorations are fun!

Halloween is one of those things that has gotten better since we were kids. There’s no reason to feel glum about that! Keep that fog machine in working order!

I remember feeling totally safe in my urban, middle class neighborhood in the fifties. My mom just dressed us up and sent us out the door with a bag. The world is different today. Much has been lost. I agree with you that it is very sad.

Halloween is a shadow of it’s former self and we have no one to blame but ourselves.:(

My daughter and I loooove Halloween! Here in Winston Salem we still trick or treat at night which I believe makes it more fun. We also work on her costume together and try to come up with a new idea every year. We scream "trick or treat" at every door and then show gratitude at whatever treat is handed to us. This is the 5th year that we shall go out and visit our neighbors and collect a bucket of candy!!! I think the enthusiasm our children show is sometimes a reflection of our own.
Don’t give up and don’t put the fog machine away.

Its 7:05 p. m. here in Oakville Ontario
Canada, about 40 or 50 kids have been to our door. Every door opening the kids are yelling out trick or treat, are happy and it is great. The kids are very enthusiastic. Mind you, it might be because its not snowing or raining, and is nice and mild out.

Bah, humbug... or whatever is the Halloween version thereof.

If you saw kids that were bored, they must have been a bit older. I saw kids that were overjoyed. If the kids you saw were bored, it is probably because of the close parental supervision, which will dampen down the energy level of kids.

But if you want to see vigor, you should go out with my little nephews. They most ASSUREDLY do run from house to house. And they will talk about which characters they will go out as, and constantly change their minds. First Harry Potter, then Ron, then a Knight, then a pirate, you get the idea...

As for Halloween, yes it is a much bigger deal than before. Often the homes are amazingly decorated. I dont know why the hours have moved forward. I however, take my nephews out late, last year, they did not get back in till ten. They loved it. If the hours are creeping forward, when the kids come up, tell em to come back later, tell em its too early.

Of course, halloween is good, but takes a back seat to the major kid holiday looming large, XMAS.....

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