I’m going to sound a bit like a curmudgeon here, but what I have to say must be said.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, in part because of my fond childhood memories of trick or treating. The weeks before the big day planning and making my costume, the scary movies and specials on TV, and being allowed to roam the town with a group of friends at night while begging for candy. In a way, it was all about taking some of those tentative forays into adulthood. You and your friends are out at night alone. Do you form a plan or wander around aimlessly panhandling for treats? Do you go to that weird cat lady’s place or not? In fact, Halloween was the one time of year (when I was very young) that my parents would let me go wandering around the neighborhood until late. In some ways, it wasn’t even about the candy. At least it was more about getting the candy rather than actually having the candy afterwords.
But now? As I told my wife: “They fucked up a perfectly good holiday.”
I live in a nice, residential area. We’ve got schools nearby. We’ve got kids nearby. And there just weren’t a lot of trick or treaters. Those we did get, without exception, were escorted by roving posses of parents, watching each kid like the homes were filled with the criminally insane, just waiting for the chance to strike.
And, of course, the paranoid are doing everything they can to suck all the fun out of every aspect of childhood, in the name of safety, despite the fact that there’s not one documented case of children being poisoned from Halloween. I can’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to bet that other forms of stranger on child crime are equally rare on Halloween.
But still, I was subjected to seeing local advertisements for ‘Trunk or treats’ where people drive to a parking lot and dole out candy to kids there (perhaps so parents can remain sitting in their cars and attempt to be hyper-vigilant and slack asses at the same time) or trick or treating in a mall. My 10 year old self would have rejected either of these out of hand as missing the whole point of the holiday. Look, if I wanted candy I could have just bugged my mom. That’s not the point and distorting Halloween in these ways sends twists the whole meaning of the holiday. Now that few kids make their own costumes, what exactly to they invest in the holiday? The parents buy the costume, they take the poor child to a freaking parking lot where she gets to march around in a big circle with a candy bag looking more like a monkey working for an organ-grinder. Then, they hop back in the car where the parents can drive them home and the whole family can be back home in time for Wheel of Fortune.
The kids? Well, perhaps they don’t know better. A handful said ‘trick or treat’ (remember the thrill of waiting at the door for it to open?), a few more said ‘Thank you’. I had several kids who didn’t even knock, they just tried to walk right into my house. I mean, who does that?
Does the whole world need to be Disneyfied? Hey, I get it. When I was a kid the powers that be did a lot of stupid things (like put monkey bars right on top of a big concrete slab just to increase the risk of serious injury) but how are kids going to learn about the world around them if they’re surrounded in bubblewrap 24/7.