I know this is a few weeks late, but I wanted to comment on my personal observations about Halloween this year. It was my son’s first cognative experience with the holiday (as in he actually did his own walking and processing) and I got to see it the first time through a more modern viewpoint.
Let’s start off with what I remember when I was a kid. This was the late 70’s, early 80’s. Basically, Star Wars (Ep 4), Superman, cheerleaders, random professions, and popular WB cartoon characters were the norm. One of my parents took my sisters and I out, while the other stayed home and handed out candy. Now, I lived in a rural area, so I can’t speak for metro kids, but we would go to neighborhoods nearby and Trick o’ Treat. I came home with at least 7 to 10 lbs of candy and saw all my friends (and other kids) in their interesting costumes. It was a community event. The candy my sisters and I amassed was huge, and we had candy trade-offs that were epic. My candy lasted until after Christmas. Or, as I reached teen-ager status, we merely went to the local haunted houses and played small pranks on people.
As I got older, I watched as the event basically evolved into a meager number of houses handing out a little bit of candy to maybe half a dozen kids in costume. The entire community aspect has dissolved in most of the country. Even when I moved to Omaha, the way Trick o’ Treating works has changed drastically. Things aren’t as “safe” as in the old days, and the change in families has also affected things (as in, single parent families have to either ToT or hand out candy – usually the latter wins). On top of that, violence and vandalism has only increased in past years so lawmakers are clamping down on kids out after dark.
It seems like the death of a great holiday.
I noticed a resurgence. Now, communities or public venues are picking up the slack. Here’s what we got to do – in Lincoln, the Children’s Zoo held a Trick 0′ Treat festival thing. My sister, her husband, my niece, my parents, my wife, my son and I all went. All the kids going were dressed up. Heck, half the parents were dressed up. They let us in the zoo, and we went around this pre-determined path. Businesses and zoo people were running small decorated stops along the way, and they were in costumes. There were spooky little pumpkins and such along the path, and (if you paid a small fee) you had a bag that your child held out to get candy. Liam 1.5 walked most of the way holding grandpa’s and/or grandma’s hands, and talking up a storm while collecting candy and processing Halloween.
Genius. Pure genius on the part of the zoo. They made money to keep the zoo going – both from the participants and the local business. My son had a bag of candy with enough candy for my wife and I to eat for awhile. We also had things like free food from McDonald’s and Arby’s, cool pencils and rings, etc. More urban areas should do these types of things (I think they already do, but if they don’t, they should!) for kids. I’m so glad my son gets to experience Halloween. I hope they keep doing this for years to come! He still went out and ToT with friends at houses, but that was less fun (he fell down and hurt himself on the uneven sidewalk).
Halloween isn’t dead – it’s just mutated.
EDIT: Also, I realized that I have a charitous spot for kids who are super-eager for the holiday but get disappointed. I saw some kids in costume at Wal-Mart who were waiting to get something for their sick mom. Since it was late, the dad said to them – in line – “Sorry, it’s too late to go Trick o’ Treating now.” The kids were a little disappointed, but very well-behaved. So I asked the dad if I could buy them a bag of candy. The lady behind me asked to do so as well. And then the store manager not only gave them a free bag of candy, but paid for our two bags as well. So three little kids who missed ToT didn’t miss the candy, and they were happy. The entire thing paid forward. The End.