Halloween: the Death of a Neighborhood Holiday

Today is Halloween. It’s Tuesday.

On Friday, my town hosted “Trunk or Treat.” On Sunday, the local public high school hosted “Track or Treat.”

I’m not expecting to see too many kids today for Trick or Treat.

And that makes me sad.

Halloween used to be a time when you’d walk around the neighborhood with your kids, meeting and greeting your neighbors, who normally spent their outdoor time in their backyards, or on their back decks, behind fences and arborvitae. If you weren’t on the sidewalk waiting for your kids to say “thank you” as they stuffed another fun-size candy bar into their pillowcase or plastic pumpkin, you were manning the candy bowl at the door, admiring cute and clever costumes and gamely accepting the middle-schoolers’ challenge to guess what their costumes were.

But as these special Halloween events have gained popularity, regular old Trick or Treat in the neighborhood has dropped off.

Luke Halloween 2003
Halloween 2003. Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Maybe it’s because parents believe that “Trunk or Treat” is a safe alternative to making sure small children in dark-colored costumes don’t run out into the street. No cars, no streets to cross.

Maybe it’s because it’s on a weekend, at a scheduled time.

Maybe, as a young adult I was talking with at a rehearsal over the weekend maintains, it’s because people don’t want to watch their kids — and at “Trunk or Treat” and “Track or Treat” they can get in, sit down with their Starbucks and their phones, and let the kids run for it in a contained area until the event is over.

I hope it’s not the latter, but the pessimist in me thinks there’s some truth in all three of these possibilities.

All I know is: for me, Halloween is about hospitality — whether you’re greeting your neighbors as you pull the wagon down the street in case your toddler gets too tired to keep walking or  your ten-year-old’s pillowcase gets too heavy to carry, or you’re waving to your neighbors as you toss little packs of M&Ms into their kids’ toy pumpkins. Earlier this month, Caryn Rivandeneira noted the same in an article at Aleteia.

Halloween is a holiday people of any age used to be able to enjoy. If you didn’t have kids, or your kids weren’t of Trick or Treat age anymore, you could still have fun seeing kids in costumes and greeting your neighbors.

But when “Trunk or Treat” comes along, it robs the rest of the neighborhood of Halloween fun. You can only go to those things if you have kids of Trick or Treat age. If you don’t, then too bad, so sad, no Halloween fun for you.

Now that all of my kids are too old for Trick or treat, I’ll miss getting their costumes together. Hubs will miss taking them around block after long suburban block until they couldn’t walk anymore (seriously: that was his motto.) And yes, I’ll miss exacting the Mom Candy Tax.

Feed Mom Candy fund
Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

But mostly, for me, the fun of Halloween was answering the door. It made me smile.

“Trunk or Treat” just makes me sad.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz

3 thoughts on “Halloween: the Death of a Neighborhood Holiday

  1. Great thoughts! Trick or treat is one of the few times of the year (the only time?) I actually interact with the people in the neighborhood. Each year, we see more and more houses with their lights off and fewer kids trick-or-treating.

    As a kid, I remember being hauled into home after home where neighbors would try to guess who we were. It was as much about that interaction as about the candy. Probably more.

    I’ve also only ever lived on a dead end, in an apartment, or on a busy road, so I’ve missed out on all of the fun of handing out treats too.

    Just another way we’re all retreating to our compartmentalized little lives.

    • Halloween 2001, not too many people went out. Hubs said the neighbors were thrilled to see our kids, costumed and happy. Their pillowcases were super-loaded with candy that year, because hardly anyone went door to door.

  2. Barb, I can relate to what you are saying. When we first moved here twelve years ago, there were lots of trick or treaters — mostly young ones from the neighborhood area. Each year, we have fewer and fewer children come to our door on Halloween. The little ones have grown up and people outside the subdivision rarely show up at our door. We have Fun Night at our Catholic parish school and the Protestants churches sponsor Trunk or Treat, both of which are well-attended.

    The good news is that this year, there is a new activity for the community; A Walk Through the Catacombs, which is very Catholic and very sacred. I absolutely love it! I write about it in the last paragraph of my most recent post: http://www.jeanmheimann.com/2017/10/catholic-way-celebrating-hallows-eve/

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