Taking the Spontaneity out of Halloween
When last weekend’s nor’easter blew through New England, it took down more than just trees and power lines. In many communities, it also took down trick-or-treating. Local officials, concerned that children might stumble upon live wires and other hazards that remained on Monday and beyond, asked parents to defer the customary outdoor activity. I guess it isn’t enough to let the adults use their common sense. Many cities and towns suggested an alternate day, a sort of make-up date for Halloween, so at least they didn’t prohibit it outright.
My town will have trick-or-treating tonight, which will probably end up being better because it isn’t a school night. I was prepared on Monday evening with candy, just in case any rogue kids happened by, but none did, even though conditions in my part of town were fine. No harm done, though; my bowl of candy (KitKats and Smarties, two of my favorites) sits at the ready on a shelf in my front entryway.
I have no idea how many or few costumed children to expect, but I feel certain it will be nothing compared to the numbers that would set out each year in my youth. Until I was 12, we lived in a development that was tailor-made for trick-or-treating: small lots meant many houses in a small area, streets were laid out to minimize through traffic, and limited access and egress streets minimized the risk of kids wandering off. Parents from other neighborhoods would load up their stations wagons with their children and their friends and drop them off, picking them up a couple of hours later with pillow cases heavy with candy. Residents knew to have plenty on hand, and in exchange they saw all ages of children in every imaginable costume. Nobody got hurt because there was safety in numbers.
The practice now is more cautious: go only to the houses of people you know, because there are crazy maniacs out there whose goal in life is to hurt you. It’s hardly matters that the horror stories about poisoned candy and razor blades in apples have been exponentially overblown or are outright false; in the United States, fatal shark attacks are more common than sickness or injuries caused by tampered-with Halloween candy. It’s like the removal of monkey bars from school playgrounds: to protect children from an infinitesimal threat, we’ve taken away much of the fun.
I’ll do my part to make it up to the cherubs who appear on my doorstep by giving them extra candy—and then hoping that they won’t be so uptight when they have kids of their own.