At this point in our lives, there are those of us that still go trick or treating on Halloween and those of us that don’t. For those of us that have retired our pumpkin buckets, we have taken on a new responsibility: doling out the candy.
Or at least the option to.
Some of us who have upgraded our living situations from dorms to apartments or houses are now in the position to give out candy to the kiddies. But some of us cranky college students don’t want to be bothered by doorbells and SpongeBob-costumed beggars.
So we play it off like we’re not home. We sit watching television in the dark – every light is off in the house. Even the light on the front stoop is off. If one of those sweet-seeking gremlins still insists on approaching the obviously “vacant” house, hopefully they’ll trip over their polyester costumes and roll down the steps.
But we need to remember what Halloween means to children. Think about what it meant to us when we were dressing up like Power Rangers and Princess Jasmine going from door to door. Halloween is unlike every other holiday. Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day and Easter – we’re given presents from our parents. But Oct. 31 means we have to put thought into a costume, get off the couch, and actually walk around the town, using our social skills to ask neighbors for free food.
That’s what is most fascinating about Halloween. People who give out candy do it out of the kindness of their own hearts. They make an extra stop on their way home from work, buy over-priced “fun size” candy, and offer it to people they don’t even know and whose faces they might not even be able to see.
And most of the time, the little masked munchkins don’t even say “thank you.”
But despite all that, we know, because we were once trick-or-treating kids, the elation of getting home and beholding all the candy that we had amassed. Candy that we didn’t even have to beg our parents for. Candy that was all ours, to eat as fast or slow as we wanted.
For all its annoyances, this good deed builds a lot of community spirit. When do we ever give things to people for nothing? We don’t, nor do we have to. But providing kids with a fun evening and memories that they’ll always remember has got to be worth the price of a “fun size” bag of Butterfingers.
The more Halloweens kids celebrate, the more likely they’ll be to celebrate other holidays. Holidays help to build a culture. They’re part of what makes us American. These components of community and culture are what help unite Americans, and we need more of that in this current era where technology increasingly isolates us.
So for now and as we grow older, let’s bother to set out that bowl of candy. Besides, there’s nothing stopping us from having our fun by jumping out and scaring the little buggers.
The “trick” is a grossly underused component of the tradition anyway.