November 02, 2009


Saturday evening, our only trick-or-treaters arrived early, before it was even dark. Little Biker Boy, Ponytail Girl, and Third Kid Wearing a Mask came to show me their costumes and talk excitedly about their plans for walking through the village and getting “tons and tons of candy.”

Because we’re on a deadend country road with houses spaced pretty far apart, I knew we wouldn’t get any other visitors so we decided to go to the theater to see Where the Wild Things Are. I admit that I felt a pang as our car crawled slowly through Traintrack Village, carefully skirting the groups of costumed children.

I can still remember how much fun Halloween was when I was a kid. We’d travel to Picnic Family’s neighborhood, and the six of us kids would form a crazy gang, dashing from house to house in the dark. Sometimes it would rain or even snow, but that just made the night more exciting. I never had any idea where we were – I’ve never had a good sense of directions – and I can remember the shivers of excitement as we’d duck past a dark wooded area or take a shortcut across a moonlit lawn. Sometimes the doors we knocked on were opened by smiling mothers, who looked reassuringly normal, but other times, we’d hear haunting music and shrieks of terror, and we’d all get ready to run like crazy at whatever scary apparition might appear.

My husband and I were reminiscing about childhood Halloweens as we pulled into the mall, which is where the movie theaters are. To our surprise, the foodcourt was filled with children, wearing costumes and clutching bags of candy. “It’s Halloween at the mall,” explained the guy at the ticket counter. “All the merchants give out candy. It’s a safe alternative.”

As I looked around the brightly lit mall, with its stores and fastfood places, I felt sorry for the kids who weren’t out in the October air, racing through piles of fallen leaves, screaming at the sight of dark figures on porches, admiring the flickering candlelight of jack-o-lanterns, or running crazily from house to house. All kids deserve some excitement and mystery.


Karin said...

It sometimes feels like we are protecting our children so much that they miss out on these little innocent things. I never really got to go trick or treating because my parents were overprotective, so they drove me to my aunts and uncles houses and a few friends, but I didn't get to go through the neighborhood. My little girl did though, and had such a lovely happy joyous time. And I'm so glad she did!

Rev Dr Mom said...

Yes, trick-or-treating at the mall always seems a little sad to me. We used to have the run of the neighborhood, and generally without adult accompaniment after about 2nd or 3rd grade. It's a different world now.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I agree wholeheartedly!!! My halloweens as a child were so spooky and fun! Mall halloweens just are not the same--and think of the ecological message! :-(

Fun = mall = consumption! :-(

reverendmother said...

"It’s a safe alternative."

That's such a sad comment because it suggests that traditional trick-or-treating is somehow unsafe. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it's perfectly safe.

And fun.

How sad :-(

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

In the overwhelming majority of cases, it's perfectly safe.

But of course, nobody wants their kid to be the exception.

However, I'm not sure I'd agree with the idea of it being a "safe alternative." I think it's more of an "easy alternative."

Having the kids running around the neighborhood by themselves may not be safe, but I think that if the parents are out there with their kids, it's quite safe. For those parents who don't want to bother hiking around in the cold, driving the kids to the mall and sitting sipping a cappuccino while their kids go from vendor to vendor might seem attractive.

Lilian said...

How did you like the movie? I can't wait to see it.

We don't do Halloween, but I personally think that Halloween at the mall is a really lame alternative to the real thing.

We went to the doctor's on Tuesday night (return visit to the allergist) and we were appalled to find that it was Halloween at the clinic night... that's even worse than Halloween at the mall!! At least the boys got to take some (better) candy at the end of their visit -- my favorite, Starburst.

ccw said...

There are several places around here that do this and it bothers me, too. I love taking my kids out in to our neighborhood and talking to everyone. Sure they get cold but the excitement of racing house to house is a joy to watch. I love it even more when there are multiple houses in a row with lights on because they move even faster cutting through the yards.

kathy a. said...

we rarely get trick-or-treaters, being on a dead-end street that has only 2 kids of the trick-or-treating age. i think that families gravitate to the streets where many families decorate, and there are other kids aplenty. that's what we did when our kids were young.

one of my sisters lives in such a neighborhood, and she reported over a hundred visitors before they ran out of candy. her 13-year-old son was manning the door, having the time of his life, passing out treats! some of his friends were out trick-or-treating, and they offered to share their bounty with my nephew.

mall trick-or-treating seems sad.

landismom said...

Our town has a tradition where all the little stores on the main drag give out candy--so in the afternoon on Halloween, you see hundreds of kids going to all the stores. It's all local shops though--we don't really have any chains--the idea of going to the mall seems wrong to me too, even though we have that.

One thing I've noticed since living here is that we have to sit out on our porch, if we want to get rid of all our candy. The little kids especially don't seem to ring the bell or knock on doors if there isn't someone in front of the house.

But it's nice to sit on the porch on a fall evening, watching the kids run around in their costumes...

Rana said...

They have something here called "trunk or treat" in which a bunch of parents and others set up candy in their cars and the kids go from car to car in the parking lot. I find it stupid, to say the least.

The mall thing strikes me as an even worse version of that - instead of doing an activity that encourages kids to know who their neighbors are (and vice versa) it tells them that it's commercial places that are where they should be - it's like how teenagers end up hanging out in malls because there's no other place for them to be.

We didn't have many trick-or-treaters - they are timid around here, and need lights and big signs saying Candy Here to encourage them - but we did get some. And seeing the little tiny ones being pulled in wagons by their parents was adorable.

The Coffee Lady said...

Really interesting post. Readersguide sent me over to your blog after I blogged similarly about the decline of the British tradition of Bonfire Night. We're just getting the American-style 'sweets and chocolate' Hallowe'en over here - but I didn't know that that was a corruption in itself. To be fair, I'd rather have that than what happened in my childhood, where kids went around the neighbourhood throwing eggs and flour at stuff. But it's sad to lose the magic of something, and end up with something specifically designed to be generic and 'safe'.