Grown-ups have ruined the ultimate kids’ holiday. After it stopped being linked to religious holidays celebrating dark gods or the dead, Halloween became this awesome time where people got to dress up (mostly as something scary, but whatever) and walk door to door to ask for candy, sometimes also playing silly tricks on people or intentionally scaring themselves by doing something safely risky, like going to a haunted house. Even kids who were total chickens (like a certain writer who shall not be named) got to enjoy the holiday, feast on a ridiculous amount of candy and watch a slightly scary movie.
Some time in the past 15 years or so, though, grownups have absolutely ruined Halloween.
Driving down one of the main drags in my area, I can see no less than 5 signs for “Fall Festivals.” My office is wanting to throw a “Trunk or Treat” to offer a “safe, family friendly environment” to accept candy. Kids still dress up, but they’re almost universally cheap, poorly constructed costumes (and don’t even get me started on the pink explosion for girls’ costumes), and there is absolutely nothing scary left for under-15s.
The “Trunk or Treat” phenomenon particularly drives me crazy. Rather thank walking door to door in your neighborhood, full of strange people you call …”neighbors”…you meet up with people in your own smaller community to get candy while walking the long and dangerous trek…of a parking lot. Woo, what a thrill.
And excuse me, what is there to be afraid of in your neighborhood anyway? Don’t tell me it’s that you’re worried about someone poisoning your kid; the only verified case of someone tampering with candy was ONE case, years ago, and it turned out the parent had done it. So as long as you aren’t planning to poison your own kid, trick-or-treating (with the parent walking nearby) is probably perfectly safe.
For the past 5 years, I’ve had candy for kids who come trick-or-treating. In 5 years’ time, I’ve had three trick-or-treaters. And that’s in several neighborhoods. So I’ve eaten a lot of leftover candy, and had time to build up some frustration.
Is it that we’re coddling kids (and the adults who go with them) by avoiding anything that might be scary? Well that’s foolish. Frankly, the world is a scary place, and being able to put fear in context — this is scary for a second, but you can be brave! I’m here with you! — is a valuable skill. Also? Fear can be fun. There’s a reason people intentionally go to scary movies or read horror novels or like watching bad TV shows (*cough* Once Upon a Time *cough*).
But I don’t think that’s all of it. I think we’re afraid of our community now. We don’t want to go door to door to talk to our neighbors because it might be the first and only time we see them. It’s “better” to just not have to ever face that other person, who might be different from you, might not like you, and to stay in our nice cozy little environments where we already know people and don’t have to do that terrifying “getting to know you” thing. It’s easier to be so afraid that we lock ourselves indoors.
That fear of connecting in a real way is far more insidious than any spookiness that Halloween might dredge up. And that’s a real tragedy.