Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween and Trick-or-Treating

The custom of trick-or-treating dates back to Medieval times, according to this Wikipedia article. Originally the poor begged at homes in connection with All Saints Day. Food was given in exchange for prayers for the dead.

By the late 1950s, the practice was common throughout the U.S. Over the years, trick-or-treating became a children's activity, where revelers dressed in various types of costumes. Instead of buying prayers, homeowners were threatened with pranks if they failed to give some treats. But nowadays the kind of pranks that were common years ago would land a child in the juvenile justice system. Instead, the trick part of trick-or-treating has become something much more benign.

While the general concept of trick-or-treating remains the same throughout the U.S., the actual practice differs from community to community. My brother's kids grew up engaging in "trunk-or-treat." Parents parked cars around a local church parking lot. Children went from car to car getting treats while adults handed out treats from their car trunks. They had fun and then everyone went home.

Every neighborhood I have lived in has held a traditional trick-or-treat event each year. I have always lived in neighborhoods with plenty of young families where the houses are relatively close. Consequently we have always had lots of trick-or-treaters come to our house.

We decided early in our marriage that we weren't going to distribute candy for Halloween. Instead, we have bought cheap toys from outlets like the Oriental Trading Company. Some items cost less than a penny each. Many kids think that getting a small toy is a novelty, so they enjoy coming to our house.

Every year that Halloween lands on Sunday, there are always a few that get upset that our community does its trick-or-treating on Saturday, October 30 instead of Sunday, October 31. Each is free to celebrate the holiday whenever they wish. But if they want to enjoy their community's trick-or-treating event, they will participate on whatever night their community does it.

If someone feels strongly that trick-or-treating should happen on Sunday when their neighbors are doing it on Saturday, they are free to seek to influence their neighbors. Halloween is not an official holiday. So it is unlikely that trying to use the authority of the state to get their way would be a successful tactic.

I have noticed that the top age for trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood has increased over the years. When I was a kid, we pretty much topped out at age 11. It was a huge social faux pas to go trick-or-treating at age 12 or older. Now I see high school seniors and even college age people — technically adults — on my doorstep every Halloween.

Halloween is kind of an odd holiday, in my thinking. Pretty much every other official and unofficial holiday is intended to celebrate something more or less ennobling. Halloween celebrates the dark and macabre. While some religious folks will disagree, I think it's still possible to enjoy the tradition without catering to evil.

Dressing up in costumes, for example, is fine. It can be done in a fun way without going against my religion's tenets. I have encouraged my family members to steer away from costumes that emulate evil or gore, or that are immodest. Comedian Jim Gaffigan quips that some women use Halloween as an excuse to dress up like prostitutes.

It has been a long time since I dressed in a costume for Halloween. I tell my kids that I am dressing as myself. I still enjoy the fun of the holiday. It's great to see the kids have fun. Our neighborhood will hold its trick-or-treating on Saturday night this year. Many of us will end up at church the next day with sugared up kids.

1 comment:

rmwarnick said...

I think the increase in trick-or-treating is evidence of creeping socialism. Let's get Glenn Beck on this ASAP ;-)