This is a repeat of my trunk or treating rant from last year.

If you aren’t aware, trunk-or-treating is an event, often organized by churches, where adults station themselves next to their cars in a big parking lot, and the kids walk up to your open trunk to say “trick or treat” for their candy.  The kids love it because, as one said in a recent newspaper article, “you can go around a gazillion times and get lots more candy!”  The churches organized it to make Halloween more of a “family event” – it wasn’t, before? – and in some cases, to discourage costumes that were too devil-ish or reflective of other bad influences.  In some cases I have heard of Biblical character costumes being enforced or encouraged.

Sigh.  I’m as saved as any other Christian but come on.  Running around a parking lot in broad daylight, yelling “trick or treat” which doesn’t even make sense anymore, dressed like the Apostle Paul?  What could be more lame?

Aside from suppressing the important creativity and make-believe aspect of Halloween, the saddest things about this, to me, are the other reasons adults cite for the trunk-or-treat trend.  The little dears don’t have to 1) walk as far as they would, going house-to-house; and 2) they don’t have to “go to a stranger’s home.”

Maybe I’ll feel differently when my own perfect, adorable, exquisitely vulnerable child is in this position.  But right now I’m really sad about it.  And kind of annoyed.  First of all, the evangelical churches who love the trunk-or-treating thing are the same churches where you will be urged to spread the gospel, and in order to do so, one must mingle with “the lost.”  We hear encouraging stories about people who organized neighborhood potlucks and soup nights and block parties.  Love your neighbor.  Who is your neighbor (no thanks to Mr. Rogers).  Well, along comes Halloween, perfect opportunity to meet the neighbors, but no.  We must trunk-or-treat instead, and mingle with Our Own Kind.

Second, do the kids really need MORE candy?  Do we really want them to walk a much shorter distance for it?  Or is it more convenient for us, less walking for US.

When I was a kid, our Halloween was an all-day event, loosely organized by our neighborhood grownups, that included a costume parade and prizes in categories like “prettiest” (I never won this one) or “most original” costume (much more my style).  The creativity part was important, long before the candy part kicked in.  But it wasn’t so much about candy, it was about adventure, and it was all about the neighborhood.

I remember trick or treating as a kid, the accompanying parent retreating ever farther into the yard as we got older. We always went after dark, or what was the point?  The really little kids went in the daylight and we pitied them.  I remember the thrill of fear as we approached the doors of our neighbors who we barely knew.  I remember peeking curiously into their houses, smelling their unfamiliar cooking smells, and how fun it was when these stern grownups actually talked to us about how scary we were! how cute we were! and how they couldn’t even tell who we were and maybe we really were two witches and a dog and a robot.

Our parents were on guard.  Someone we knew was given an apple with a razor blade in it, at least that’s what we were told, and our parents had to go through all our candy when the night was over.  As it turns out, documented Halloween poisonings are rare or possibly nonexistent. But we were careful.  We knew full well you didn’t go into anybody’s house, and we had to make sure we could walk in our costumes and see out of our masks.

I know that era is over.  It was half over when I was a kid.  We never “tricked” anybody.  We heard about soaping windows or egging houses but it was always the stuff of legend and we never did it. Ditto bobbing for apples.  I know that we roamed a suburban neighborhood with a freedom that today’s kids rarely have, and that even a sealed bag of M&Ms can be tampered with.  But still, I am sad.  As usual, this reworking of Halloween threatens to get rid of the important stuff – the visiting of neighbors, the important fantasy and creativity elements of dress-up, the flirtation with scariness and fear within safe boundaries – and keeps the least important part: candy.

I’m sure in a few years the practicality of trunk-or-treat will wear down my resistance and I’ll be right there with my own munchkin(s), enjoying the convenience, hobnobbing with all the friends I will have made by then.  But I also hope that evil, dangerous, secular trick-or-treating hangs in there as well.

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