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Has Halloween morphed into something else?

As a young boy, Halloween was always my very favorite holiday. We would plan our costume very carefully, and of course we did it all ourselves.  There was no “purchasing of a costume” at a local store, so whatever we had around the house, combined with some make up, and maybe a set or two of wax vampire teeth would do the trick.  My friends and I would hook up and begin our trek for what seemed like miles and miles, and of course was really about two blocks.  Much as the kids of today, a pillow case was the ultimate candy carrying bag.

We went house to house for over an hour, but we weren’t allowed to go to the brick apartment building, because according to my mother that’s where they supposedly killed children. Of course, mom also taught us that venereal diseases came from walking barefoot in the public bathroom at the beach!   After making it all the way around the block, it was time to sit down and sort out our booty.   Mom made us throw away all of the apples, of course, because she said that the killers hid needles in them to kill the children. Then all the unwrapped food was tossed out, the cookies and brownies etc., leaving only the individual store bought and wrapped candy that mom would inspect for us.   Do you get the feeling she was a bit over protective? Perhaps, but I’ve grown up the same way…

The common elements when we were young were that first and foremost we all wore costumes.  There was no trick or treating our of costume allowed. The other thing is that we only took ONE piece of candy. Sometimes, a mom or dad would put two in our bag, but most often we’d reach into the bowl, take one piece, and be done.

All of that has certainly changed over the years.  In my neighborhood, most of the young kids have no grown up. With the exception of a mere handful of youngsters, the bulk of the crop of kids we all had once we moved in are now 15 years old.   This begs the question of when are kids too old to trick or treat.  In my mind, I don’t really care if you’re 16 and want to trick or trick at my house on Halloween, but wear a costume!!   Only one thing bugs me more than a pack of 15 year old kids with no costumes on ringing my doorbell begging for candy.  That one thing by the way, is when it’s a bunch of 15 year old kids who don’t even live in our neighborhood.

Yes it’s true, we get imports of trick or treaters from other areas of Shrewsbury and quite a few from Worcester.  They arrive in mini-vans into our neighborhood, where they pile out onto our streets, no costumes, and just go door to door asking for candy. Now I’m not sure where the official rules of Halloween reside in the zeitgeist of the holiday, but something tells me that it’s an event limited to where you actually live.

Another odd phenomena that has actually been scientifically studied is the idea of kids reaching into a bowl and grabbing fistfuls of candy. Sometimes, when I would need to go out walking with my own kids when they were younger, we would have to just put out a bowl of candy on the porch for kids to help themselves.  Without fail, after ten kids had come up to the door, the bowl would be completely empty as greed took the place of manners and kids grabbed whatever they could.

Several years ago, as I mentioned, there was a scientific study done on Halloween candy grabbing.  They tested kids who had a costume with a mask that covered their face, and without the mask.  Kids who’s faces were covered, thus providing anonymity grabbed far more candy in an honor system give a way than kids who’s faces were uncovered.  Moreover, when a mirror was placed behind the bowl of unattended candy, even the kids with masks took far less. The reason for this was determined to be that as long as they saw themselves in the mirror, they held themselves accountable for their conduct, and felt guilty taking more than one or two pieces. Who would have thought that we would ever study Halloween scientifically, but I found these tests incredibly interesting in their ability to predict human behavior.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween this year.  Remember no apples or apartment buildings, and while we’re at it, just in case my mom was right, wear flip flops in the bathroom at the beach ok?

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