Halloween is More Than Costumes

There are lessons to be learned from October's spookiest holiday--and most of them involve how to obtain as much candy as possible

With October comes Halloween, a holiday in which it’s perfectly acceptable for children to bang on strangers’ doors, demand candy, and then proceed to eat excessive amounts of said candy. As far as I can tell, most kids are just disappointed this behavior is only deemed socially acceptable for one night each year.
But I often hear parents complain about Halloween. First there’s the problem with being forced to walk around with a child hyped up on sugar wearing an expensive Disney character costume. And it’s also a holiday that teaches the wrong lessons; lessons like, “If you beg enough, you can have a bucket full of Hershey’s chocolate by the end of the night.” But I think I may have a solution.

As a kid, I followed the trick-or-treating routine for a year or two, wandering the streets of my neighborhood in search of Skittles packets. But one Halloween I realized that while I was out hitting the pavement, my parents were having all the fun. Back at our house they were spending the evening scaring away most trick-or-treaters before they’d even reached our doorstep. When I discovered that this practice meant they were able to keep most of the candy for themselves, I decided this was a plan in which I would like to participate.
And so the following year, while other neighbors dressed as friendly clowns or semiscary witches, our family proceeded to turn ourselves into beings who looked like we were on our way to a meeting with an exorcist. “There you go,” my sweet mother would say, putting the final touch of red paint on my face. “Now it looks like someone viciously stabbed you in your skull.” My father would then smear the rest of the red paint over our butcher knife and ax before we headed out to the front porch.

There wasn’t exactly a point system, but let’s just say that if you could make an adult carrying a dressed-up toddler cry as he ran away, you definitely got a high five or two.

It became a matter of pride in our family to be the best at scaring away trick-or-treaters. There wasn’t exactly a point system, but let’s just say that if you could make an adult carrying a dressed-up toddler cry as he ran away, you definitely got a high five or two. And if an adult dropped said toddler on the front walk as he ran, well, that was grounds for a congratulatory back slap at the very least.

Our neighborhood was the local destination for trick-or-treaters, and the streets would fill up throughout the evening. For weeks afterward, other neighbors would complain about having hundreds of people knocking on their doors, and how despite spending a bunch of money on candy, they’d still run out early. We’d smile smugly, thinking of the buckets of chocolate bars at home in our cabinets.

While there’s a significant chance at some point in life this Halloween routine will come up in a therapy session for me, I do think it had its benefits. I discovered the economic advantages of creativity—store-bought costumes are not nearly as scary as torn rags. I learned the importance of working hard for something—in this case Snickers bars. And, most importantly, I came to understand the value of family—a small girl with a stabbed skull doesn’t look nearly as scary if there’s not a grown man with a butcher knife behind her.
I strongly recommend this method for parents looking for an alternative to the usual routine. I only ask that you remember who gave you this advice when you’re trying to decide what to do with all that leftover chocolate the next day.  

Categories: Loose Ends, Opinion, The Buzz