Evolving Halloween

                                 Evolving Halloween

Thursday night about six-thirty, as soon as it was getting dark on my street, I set out my three carved jack lanterns strategically, so they would lead the trick or treaters off the sidewalk and down the path to my house.  I poured a few bags of candy into two aluminum pots for my daughter, dressed as Winnie the Pooh, and her husband, dressed as Christopher Robin, to hand out to the kids.  The very pregnant, Winnie the Pooh, patted her large felt belly and waited expectantly at the door, just like she does every Halloween when she comes over to celebrate my birthday, eat some comforting fast food, and hand out candy.  This was the first time she was going to hand it out while pregnant, and I wondered how long it would take before she tired of getting up from the couch every two minutes to answer the door.  Her husband meanwhile settled in to watch a football game. 

When we didn’t see any trick or treaters by seven o’clock, we checked the time again and wondered what happened.  Every year for the last fifteen years, an infinite number of trick or treaters beat a path to the door and yelled for candy.  Every year, except for the last two, I ran out and drove furiously to the nearest CVS to get a couple more bags.  Sometimes I ran out twice in one evening.  This year, just like the two years prior, I was well stocked, two shopping bags filled with assorted packaged candy.  I’d finally learned my lesson.  Where were the kids?

I looked up and down the street and I noticed that almost all of the other houses were dark, meaning that they weren’t home or weren’t participating.  As I looked down the block I thought that if my kids were small and I was walking with them, I’d bypass my street.  No action here.

As soon as I closed the door, there was a knock, and everybody hurried to see.  This wasn’t like the years before when you’d hear, “It’s your turn, lazy, get up!” followed by, “I just got the last ten.” The two trick or treaters were about three years old, dressed as Super Mario, and some other character that I didn’t know the name of, and neither did their mother.  They were chubby and charming, and we loaded up their basket.  A good sign, I thought, more will be coming.

I was only partially right, for the next thirty minutes we saw about ten more kids, a mixture of older teenagers, and young toddlers.  There was even one adult thrown into the mix.  Then the street was silent.

My daughter got bored around eight thirty, after picking out some candy for herself, and she and her husband decided to go home.  When they left, about ten minutes later, more trick or treaters showed up.  Just before nine o’clock, another twenty-odd teenager passed through.  My daughter called to tell me she was home and I let her know that she missed out.  “Figures,” she said, “They show up as soon as I leave,”  I told her they weren’t particularly cute or interesting.

Nobody showed up after nine o’clock, and I stared out at the street where the line usually formed on the sidewalk in front of my house.  I remembered all the years I walked with my kids, block after block, the older ones dressed usually in costumes they put together from odds and ends bought at the Goodwill and the little ones wearing the really cheap dime-store sale items, while they dragged an old pillowcase full of candy behind them.  Even though they had more candy than they could eat in a year, they never wanted to stop, complaining that they had to go to the bathroom the whole time, and it was an emergency. One of them would always ask why couldn’t they pee in the bushes.  Anything but stopping. Me?  I dragged along with them and tried to pretend my feet weren’t killing me.  What happened this year?

Now with so much media attention focused on crime and prevention, probably many Americans think their neighbors are child molesters and their child will be snatched up at the first house when they knock.  They can’t phantom the idea of going to stranger’s houses and having their kids ask for candy.  Additionally, they are probably afraid of their children catching diseases from strangers, and of the possible pedestrian fatalities that we hear about in the news.

Some of the parents of young children that I know said if they allow their children to trick or treat, it is only in a good neighborhood that they are driven to.  The idea is that bad things just don’t happen in those neighborhoods.

I was told they now have a new activity that is considered better and safer.  It’s called “trunk or treating.”  Apparently people load up their car trunk with candy and go to a parking lot in the area.  The kids walk from car to car and get candy in a small area. I guess this is considered safer and more convenient than hauling your kids around the neighborhood and pulling a stroller.   They have small children and it’s just too hard to take the children trick or treating in the neighborhood, especially in a stroller. Perhaps since Halloween often falls on a weekday, the parents want to get this over with as soon as possible and are too tired to do all that walking. Still, somehow, this seems kind of lame and creepy to me.

Trick or treating at the mall was just getting started when my kids were young.  It never appealed to me, so I didn’t go that route.  Besides my kids would have been so disappointed walking around to a few stores. I see now that a lot of churches sponsor Halloween-related activities and that takes the burden off parents too. I guess at the end of the day, kids aren’t concerned where the candy came from, as long as there is enough to stuff their mouths.

What does make me the saddest is the fact that kids are not encouraged to use their imagination any longer.  I always thought it was so exciting to be able to be somebody else for one night and walk around getting free candy.  Now, I guess it is not as inviting to children to be somebody else and to create a special character with all the details pulled from their imagination.  They are content playing video games, using their i-pads and stalking the internet where everything is imagined for them and comes in 3d.  Besides, candy isn’t that novel anymore.  There’s always a good supply from the market all year round.