Or maybe it’s not the actual holiday I hate, rather the ritual of going door to door amassing junk food. Every year I dread October 31st because I just don’t think we’re doing it right.
Now I’m no grouch. I love to see kids have fun. I carve a pumpkin. I buy the candy. I praise each child on how wonderful their costume is, and I wish them all a fun night. I guess what I struggle with is here is what kind of ‘fun’ are they really having? The excitement of dressing up and enjoying the company of friends doesn’t necessarily need the ritual of going door to door collecting candy. Kids of all ages can gather, in costume, and celebrate Halloween in the safety of someone’s home, and any food items acquired there likely don’t need the scrutiny checks parents employ for treats obtained from strangers’ houses.
When I was young we made our costumes and they were not expensive. We used what we had, added some imagination, and presto, we took on a new identity for a day! When I was 19 and working full time, our office decided we’d all dress up for Halloween one year. I was Minnie Mouse and I made the costume myself, black tights with a tail sticking out from under my short red polka dot skirt and the mouse ears complete with a big red bow. Unfortunately, early in the day my tail accidentally dipped into the toilet (I’m not used to peeing with a tail) and before I realized it I flushed and the water pressure was so strong it ripped the tail right out of my tights. OK, it was only attached with a safety pin, but still, that’s some water pressure! (Fortunately my skirt covered the gaping hole in my tights but it didn’t protect me from the draft that would plague me the rest of the day).
Now parents buy costumes for their kids, so no work and no imagination is required. How uninspiring. There was a time when homemade treats were the norm; rice crispy squares, homemade cookies, apples…and kids were thrilled with those. Then a few psycho’s thought it would be fun to ‘tamper’ with treats, sticking pins or razor blades in them (You know you could just turn off your lights and not participate. Why hurt an innocent kid just because you’re nuts?) so parents had to start culling their children’s treats, tossing anything that was ‘homemade’ or not ‘sealed’ for security. Are we still having fun?
I think in a society where child obesity is on the rise we could probably do without a shopping bag full of chemically laden sugary treats. Maybe parents could host a little gathering for their children’s friends. Let them dress up; encourage them to ‘make their own costume’, in fact, make it a prerequisite. It’s amazing how much fun a kid can have when their creative juices start to flow. And coordinate with each parent to contribute one treat so they each get a bag of goodies, and let them go nuts. If they want to eat the whole bag in a night, even better. It gets it over with, and limiting their loot ensures they don’t have a steady diet of junk for the next two weeks.
Even our changing weather patterns have had an impact on the trick or treating ritual. Days are shorter, so it’s already dark to start with and this poses a safety risk for children, i.e. drivers need to be on high alert. And Halloween often comes with cool, even damp weather, forcing kids to wear plastic bags over their costumes to stay dry. How fun is that?
I know of some people who don’t want the constant visitors at their door so they simply place a big bowl of treats on their front step with a sign that says ‘help yourself’. (Is there any kid out there who can be trusted with the honour system when it comes to candy?) Isn’t it time for change?
As I mentioned earlier, I am not a scrooge when it comes to Halloween, because I don’t want to disappoint any kids. They deserve to go a little wild one day a year but I think we could find better ways to indulge them. Let’s poll our kids to see what they’d prefer – I’m betting they’d opt for something a little simpler. In the interim, I will continue to host the holiday with enthusiasm (even when I don’t feel it) because I don’t want to spoil the fun. But no one, and I mean NO ONE is happier than I when 8:00pm strikes on October 31st cause that’s when I toss those pumpkins into the composter, turn off my lights, and settle in with a glass of wine to enjoy MY treats.