Give Me Everything in the Bowl and No One Gets Hurt

I have this funny habit of questioning stuff. I’ve found it a useful thing to do, but it has, admittedly, earned me an eye roll or three over the years, particularly from certain members of my family. More than a couple times I have been told to lighten up.

From time to time I have questioned aloud on this blog, but more often than not I keep the stuff I post on here to winsome parenting stories and other utter ridiculousness, with some attempts at creative thought chucked in. Sometimes the questions become too loud and I need to exorcise the demons by subjecting them to others. That’s where you come in.

Well, ‘tis the season for one of my ponderings to stick in my frontal cortex and I need to go ahead and let this one out. This isn’t to cast judgment, mind you thoughtful reader, but instead to maybe inspire further thought. I’m sure to inspire some contempt – and I’m ok with that – but I’m shooting for thought.

Here’s the thing – what the hell is with trick or treating?

Let me start by saying this very clearly in preemptive response to the pillow case full of fun size comments that will inevitably say I’m a killjoy or commie or hater or Scientologist – I GET IT. I get that Halloween is just supposed to be a good time. I get that being a kid is supposed to be fun. I get the importance of creating happy memories without getting too balled up about making good choices. And I get that parents get fired up about jacking half of their kids’ candy.

I get fun.

I trick or treated when I was a kid. I dressed up. I begged for candy. And, yes, I loved it AND turned out relatively normal.

Also, I must be clear that I’m not calling out the whole of Halloween – just this trick or treating business.

This isn’t to throw my wet blanket statement out there that all trick or treating is bad and no one should do it. Though, the argument that kids should do it because it’s fun is ridiculous. I bet stringing two Slip ‘N’ Slides together and attaching one end to the roof of a two-story house would be pretty fun, too.

But when you break down this time-honored tradition, it just seems so damn odd.

Consider, kids dress up in costumes once a year and rove through their neighborhood, going door to door and demanding candy. Should the demands not be met, a “trick” is to be expected.

So, our impressionable youth are given the green light to disguise themselves and hold the neighborhood hostage for candy under the threat of vandalism.

What the hell?

Granted, that may be a bit hyperbolic and overly dramatic, but isn’t that essentially the story?

A byproduct of this whole parenting thing for me has been a nagging habit of considering what I am teaching my children in pretty much every situation. It has led me to (over)analyze a great many things that I have never before given a second thought to.

Like stupid ass trick or treating, for example.

If you, kind reader, will stop rolling your eyes for just a moment, allow me to explain. While I think this is funny, I also think it’s important.

My issues with trick or treating can all be found in a simple description thereof:

Trick or treating is going door to door demanding candy from strangers.

That is an accurate statement, no? Now, my points of contention:

First point of contention – going door to door DEMANDING candy from strangers. I spend at least 37 hours every day trying to teach my children to be polite, to be considerate, and to always, always, ALWAYS say “please”. Trick or treating includes none of those things. I don’t know about you, but my kids are not terribly adept at context or nuance yet and I’m not sure what message is sent when bold entitlement is not only acceptable, but celebrated on this one night. Have you experienced the slightly older kid getting a little pushy and a lot rude when they showed up with their open candy bag at your door? Yeah, me neither.

Second point of contention – going door to door demanding CANDY from strangers. When my wife and I aren’t trying to instill courtesy and manners, we are trying to teach our kids about nutrition and how to take care of their bodies. Food is fundamental. Candy is friggin’ poison. You know what day is most teachers’ least favorite day of the year? The day after Halloween. You know why? Yeah, me too.

It’s only once a year, you say? I don’t buy that. When we teach our kids something is ok even once, it then becomes ok. Again, kids aren’t good at nuance.

Third point of contention – going door to door demanding candy from STRANGERS. When I went trick or treating we were only allowed to keep things that were in unopened wrappers. Why? Because there was a valid concern that the wonderful neighbor who smiled at your ninja princess costume and happily bestowed a “treat” into your pillow case may have sunk a razor blade into that apple or pumped arsenic and whale semen into those raisins. Well, that’s comforting. Yes, Bobby, you can have that Snicker’s bar and remember to say ‘thank you’, but don’t linger too long or you might get poisoned or raped.

I might feel different about the knocking on all the neighbors’ doors if I thought that everyone had pure, kind intentions, but I’m not an idiot. And there is a convicted sex offender that lives just down the street from me. I wonder what he’s got for the kids this year?

So, those are my thoughts. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do – I have a hard enough time making my own decisions. My hope is that decisions are made based on thought and reason, not just tradition.

I would love to hear other opinions of trick or treating. Agree or disagree, I would love to hear why and what you do differently.

If you just want me to shut up, I get that, too. Luckily for you, my kids will only be of trick or treating age for a few more years and I can start getting all pent up about other stuff like why all costumes for women are the slutty version of whatever they have decided to be. Like this slutty body bag, for example.

Happy Halloween, y’all.


About Mitchell Brown

I am a stay at home dad with my two daughters who are a lot stronger than they look. When I'm not cooking, cleaning, dancing, reading, teaching, playing or protecting my eyes and groin, I am writing about this whole experience in all of its ridiculousness.
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14 Responses to Give Me Everything in the Bowl and No One Gets Hurt

  1. Carla Peak says:

    As a kid I loved it. As a parent I hated it. Besides having to come up with something creative for the kids to wear (which can definitely be a challenge), and having them get lots of CANDY (and who knows what else) from STRANGERS they also dress up in gear that often inhibits their vision and they are out there crossing the streets with flagrant disregard for SAFETY. Halloween has always been my bah humbug moment – glad to know I’m not the only one.

    I have to admit though, I always went along with it – didn’t want to disappoint my kids. And I do love M&Ms…If I recall correctly, we always took control of the candy after it came home (Like I said I do love M&Ms) and doled it out piece by piece, after meals of course…At least that was our intent.

    When I was a teenager, we went on something called Nickel Hunts. Door to door trying to trade up from a nickel to something better. We were so lucky we didn’t get more than we asked for.

    • That’s about where I stand with the whole of Halloween, Carla. As a kid I loved it. As an adult pre-kids I REALLY loved it. Now it is more of a hassle than anything. We let the kids pick their costumes and try our best to oblige. As you may have guessed, they haven’t been trick or treating, and probably won’t, but we still try to do fun stuff with parties and pumpkins and such.

      I don’t want to raise kids that don’t get to enjoy the fun of life (of which Halloween is a part), but I am more interested in raising kids that consider what it is they are doing and why they are doing it.

  2. Adam says:

    I lived next to a jehovah witness family in Santa Cruz as a kid … No birthdays.. No Halloween … Not much of an excuse to release … Or celebrate much of anything..
    I can’t say that I disagree with any of your points… Other than to say you could look at just about anything and find the same amount of reasons not to celebrate anything .. The narcassistic tradition of birthdays ? The butchering of turkeys to celebrate the slaughter of the native americans ? My question is where does it stop? I know that the family next door couldn’t have felt more ostracized … And for what? YOUR piece of mind? I feel like we can have the conversation with our kids as to what you’d like to see them take away from their experiences .. To shape as healthy a perspective as possible , despite all your “points of contention”. We live in a world that is filled with questionable motivations, filled with greed and consumption … But you can wade through it all… Spin beauty into the ugliest of traditions..

    • I agree with a lot of what you said here – I’m not advocating the Witness Doctrine. As you well know, I have been a HUGE fan of Halloween. I (we) are all about celebrating holidays, Halloween included, just for the fun of them. Had you asked me before I had kids how I would handle the Santa Claus situation, I would have a different answer than I do now. Santa and all of the fictional strangeness associated with a lot of holidays are actually included around here, but they are done so with thought. Santa is a fun story. Birthdays are about giving. Thanksgiving is a celebration of family. Easter a celebration of life. And on and on. As I said in the post, this isn’t an indictment of Halloween itself, just a consideration of trick or treating. This isn’t about my peace of mind – it’s about thoughtful consideration of just what you are teaching your kids, so my intention (with added snark and repeated attempts to make myself laugh) was exactly in line with what you said about having a “conversation with our kids as to what you’d like to see them take away from their experiences .. To shape as healthy a perspective as possible”. That’s the goal. I think questioning such things – anything! – is a healthy advancement of that goal when coupled with thoughtful conversation about the subject.

      I actually read up on the roots of the trick or treating tradition, and there is definitely some beauty in what can be seen as an ugly tradition. Not surprisingly, the modern version reflects little of that.

      P.S. I wish Christmas was closer, because I’m excited to write a similar consideration of the aforementioned Saint Nick. Stay tuned!

      • Adam says:

        point well take
        n…although I have to say that the experience in our neighborhood must differ greatly from yours…kids go in large groups with their parents tagging along…it’s often a very polite and very positive social experience…I know not every town is Mayberry..

      • Here the kids are usually just with their parents and a couple other kids maybe – I don’t see roving bands of super heroes sans adult supervision or a lonely little mermaid wandering aimlessly, but that doesn’t change my impression of it. And, yeah, you live in Mayberry. Maybe it’s high time we move.

  3. Camille says:

    I am with you on this one, Mtichell. All kids love Halloween and so I let my son do it,then I take away almost all of his poison. Worst mom ever. For years I found alternatives to trick or treating, but he is too old for that now. We used to live next door to a sex offender and he would have his porch light ON! This tradition just needs to die. Love Halloween. Hate trick or treating.

  4. Brother Father says:

    Brother Father;
    Boo! Actually I think trick or treating was pretty harmless when I was a kid… never any tricks. I think society has outgrown the old tradition of going door to door, at least in my neighborhood. Most parents, as did I, sought out more controlled events, like going to a community center halloween party or gathering, or “easy” haunted event, or even the malls. I am usually not home on Halloween. I think it will eventually be a “historic tradition” soon.
    Brother Father.

    • I can handle (and probably deserve) the boos. 🙂 I don’t remember any “tricks”, either, but our house has been egged thrice on Halloween for, I assume, our non-participation in the form of turned off porch lights. That wasn’t the motivation for the post, though. I can deal with eggs, too. The motivation for writing this was much more from a desire for thoughtful consideration of traditions (as well as an opportunity for me to try to make myself laugh). Societies, just like individuals, grow when actions are conscientious. Questioning leads to positive change, I believe.

      I would love to see a continued move in the direction of more controlled events. Holidays can and should be celebrated as communities. As I said, I’m not against Halloween – just trick or treating.

      Thank you, as always, for your consideration, Brother Father.

  5. Wolf Pascoe says:

    In my book, trick or treating beats screen time. But that might not be saying much. In European countries the kids often go performing in costume and are rewarded with food and drink. Leave it to us to throw in a little sugar and extortion.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Wolf. I’m sure when I get around to writing a post on television it won’t have the same vain attempts at humor.

      When I was reading about the roots of trick or treating and how it is done in other countries, I saw some pretty interesting and positive ideas. Seeing how the tradition has manifested here, I expected to find a trail of corporate sponsorship. And did.

  6. jetts31 says:

    I disagree but Halloween is my birthday so I’m partial. But to answer your contentions. 1. The pushy kid? I give me Sweet-tarts and whatever candy I have left from last Halloween. On the fear that I might get “tricked”, I see it as karma since I “tricked” instead of treated a whole lot as a teenager so I guess I would have it coming to me. 2. Candy is poison but so is the tap water, school food, air we’re breathing, every time they put their hands in their mouths, etc. I figure one day of gorging isn’t so bad. 3. I check all their candy too but trick or treating is no more dangerous than going to school, church, the post office, grocery store, or anywhere else they allow other human beings to solicit. And I have been checking candy and getting candy check for the better part of 36 years and haven’t found one razor or any other contraband in any piece of candy or apple.
    And if you ban Halloween, shouldn’t you take a hard look at Christmas (or Hannukah) as just another way to indulge your children for being “good” all year long with too many gifts, expectations for gifts, and an over commercialization of the holiday?

    One more thing, hide outside this year with your hose ready and spray the hell out of anyone with an egg in their hands. Or throw eggs back at them.

    • First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts, Jimmy. Second, happy early birthday. That’s actually a pretty sweet holiday with which to share your birthday.

      I agree with a lot of what you said. Not all, but a lot. As I said in the post, I went a little hyperbolic with it, but I do believe the gist of what I said. And I’m not at all against Halloween – just the trick or treating. But, more than that, I’m really against just doing something because that’s how it’s always been done. My point, tucked firmly between a bunch of melodrama and attempts at making at least myself laugh, was that everything should be questioned and, when held up to the light, I can’t find a whole lot to defend about trick or treating. Halloween, yes. Banging on doors for candy, no. So, I don’t want to ban Halloween or Christmas or Kwanzaa or Arbor Day. I like celebrating stuff, too. I just want to do it thoughtfully, which I think we do.

      And if I hide outside this year, I’m not going to hose them down. I’m gonna dress up as a math teacher and scare the piss out of ’em. See, I like Halloween.

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