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

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Snaps for Keeping It To Myself

Having a meteorologist in the house, as well as my own cynical nature, takes the mystery out of Groundhog Day. (We both like the movie, though!)

But my Monday-morning routine includes helping out at the school library, and sometimes I get to read the story. Today was one of those times.

Naturally, we chose a Groundhog Day story: Go To Sleep, Groundhog! by Judy Cox, which is a really cute story. The first-graders loved it. The illustrations were as cute as the story.

Of course, I asked the kids if they knew whether the groundhog had seen his shadow, and if they knew when spring began. And I left the mystery-ruining stuff out of the discussion.

I did break it to Middle Sister this morning, though. She’s 13 and getting more cynical by the day. I accept all blame for that.

WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! Don’t read any further if you want to keep the mystery alive.

Today is February 2. Spring begins on March 21. That’s 6 weeks away, whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not.

(Personally, I have a hard time believing that he wouldn’t, what with all the giant lights that come with all the TV cameras, and the camera flashes and all that.)

90% of the time, Phil sees his shadow. I guess in those other years, it’s snowing or something, so that light pollution is somewhat muted.

I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, and the fall-leaves-turning-color, are the two reasons that fall is my favorite season (It’s certainly NOT because the weather turns colder, that’s for sure!)

The other night I was on the phone with TheDad’s cousin, whom the kids call “Aunt S,” who wanted to invite us all to her home for next Thanksgiving. We both agreed that we love to cook Thanksgiving dinner, and that the holiday is a favorite of ours. And she explained why she feels this way: “You don’t have to worry about any gifts, or any decorations, or anything like that. It’s just about family and the people you love, and getting together. You can be thankful for each other and just enjoy the day and a nice meal together.”

Aunt S has it right. So even though I hate to give up my every-other-year chance to indulge in my time of Food Nostalgia, we will enjoy Thanksgiving with her and Uncle D next year.

There’s got to be some other time that I can cook a turkey and make all the special dishes that I need to put along with it. Maybe in February, when things get slow….

An Early-Morning Thanksgiving Tradition

My sister cooks Thanksgiving dinner at her home every year. My family attends every other year, and in the off years we spend the holiday with TheDad’s side of the family. Usually I cook, and they all come here–though there have been exceptions, like the time Pop was in the hospital. That year I cooked it all and brought it to my brother-in-law’s house and finished making the dinner there, since they lived closer to the hospital, and the adults visited Pop in shifts throughout the day.

When you cook Thanksgiving dinner you have to get up early. There are a lot of details to take care of, and a big turkey does take a while to stuff and cook. So my sister and I have developed our own little tradition. Whether it’s our year to visit her home, or the “bye year” as she calls it, we spend part of the early hours of the morning on the phone. Even if we’re at her house, she’s got so many guests and is so busy that we don’t get to talk much. So we enjoy our Thanksgiving phone call.

I’ve got nothing to cook this year but I’m up early anyway. The coffee is brewing, and I just got an email from my sister telling me that she’s awake, and that those participating in the annual Great Pheasant Hunt will be leaving at 5:45, so I’m welcome to call anytime after that.

It may be a while before I get to cook Thanksgiving dinner again, as TheDad’s cousin has just extended us a standing invitation for the “bye years.” I’ll have to find another time to do a turkey dinner, I guess.

But the early-morning phone call will stand as our tradition.

Turkey Time!

Tomorrow we head to the Great White North (although I hear it’s the Great Muddy North right now). We will enjoy a Thanksgiving feast of gigantic proportions. My sister is amazing that way. We will also celebrate our great-aunt’s 80th birthday with a family reunion of gigantic proportions, since our great-aunt has 18 nieces and nephews (not counting their spouses) and an even larger number of great- and great-grands! And my sister invited every last one of them. Not everyone can make it, but there will be a crowd to help our great-aunt commemorate her very special day.

Wishing all who read this a very happy Thanksgiving. May we all have a safe journey and may we be truly thankful to God for all the gifts we have been given.

Gobble! Gobble!

So Much Fun…So Little Time

And now, so little energy!

We packed a lot into our Independence Day celebration. Good thing we didn’t have any plans to see fireworks, because we’ve got the kind nature provides in the form of thunder and lightning. But most of that held off until we were back home.

Our day started early this morning with Big Brother running in a local 5K race (he didn’t place, but did bring in a personal record time of under 23 minutes!) After the race we watched a parade that has been a tradition for 110 years. It was more than an hour long and included 8 different bands, fire trucks from 5 towns, many antique cars, and more.

How about these costumes? My favorite part of parades around here ALWAYS has to be the Mummers.



Following the parade we enjoyed good company and great homemade Chinese food at our friends’ home. Later we picked up Big Brother’s friend and headed off to see some other friends for a picnic, swim and pick-up soccer game among the kids.

We made it an early night since we had all pretty much hit “Zombie State” by the time dinner was over. I finished that diabolical jigsaw puzzle (HA! Now I can put it away!)

Tomorrow, a big day of laundry awaits as I have to get clothes ready for Boy Scout Camp (trunks are due tomorrow night! Yikes!)

Happy 4th!

It’s Still A Grand Old Flag


Yesterday I looked out the front window and saw that next to each driveway in my neighborhood, a small plastic flag had been planted in the ground.

I thought that was pretty cool. Then, after I sent Big Brother out to mow the lawn, he came back in with the flag (he’s a good Boy Scout, and didn’t want to run it over with the mower or leave it in the driveway).

Attached to the stick holding the flag was a business card for a local company. But the kicker was the logo on the edge of the flag:

MADE IN CHINA.

I still made him put it back after he finished the lawn. Little Brother can have it to play “parade” tomorrow (I know he’s going to want to!)

But today is the Fourth of July. We display a real flag on our front door, and we will spend time today with friends who are immigrants to (and now, citizens of) our country. They’re happy and grateful to be here. And they remind me that what we have here in the USA is a very precious thing indeed, not without cost, and not to be taken for granted.


H/T to Dan at faithmouse for this toon that expresses just how I feel about this holiday.

Happy New Year!!

It’s so late…or is it so early…and I’m still up!

We went to a friend’s house where they had a small party (2 other families besides us and them). There was plenty of food and laughing, especially when the game “Balderdash” was started up. I’ve never played that one before, and it’s lots of fun! After watching the ball drop, we headed outside to watch some fireworks.

Little Brother made it until after 12:30 when he finally curled up in my lap and conked out. He fought sleep for a few hours, like a champ, and was in a remarkably good mood despite how visibly tired he was. I wonder how late he’ll sleep this morning….even the Big Kids went right to bed as soon as we got home.

Did anyone else notice that Dick Clark now sounds more like Yakov Smirnoff? I have to give the man a lot of credit for his post-stroke comeback. But the rest of the show? I could have done without it all.

At any rate, it was a nice, low-key night with good people and good conversation. Little Brother was the youngest child by 6 years but he held his own; the Big Kids enjoyed the games and the sparklers; a good time was had by everyone.

May God grant you and your family good health, much happiness and many blessings in this New Year, and may he bring peace to the world. (I know, that last one is a lot to wish for, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!)