Of all the holidays that are centered around traditions, I have found that Halloween has changed the most since I was a child.
As a latchkey-kid in the 1970’s, I remember the simplicity of the day. My sister and I would rush home from school, and begin preparations for our costumes. This usually involved rummaging around the house for brown paper bags, flashlights, markers, and other various implements. We’d create fantastic representations of whatever costume was on our minds that year. Then it was out the door to beg candy from the neighbors, an activity which we pursued until the streetlights came on, signaling our expected return to home. But what if there was rain? No problem. Just dodge the raindrops. How about the possibility of cold weather? Just deal with it. There was no wearing of coats and mittens, no extra layers of protection underneath the handmade collage that was my costume. Rather than risk the ridicule of our buddies, we would choose to create a brave front in the face of the arbitrary elements of the Midwest evenings.
Fast forward thirty-odd years, and things are decidedly different. No longer is it acceptable to prowl the streets of your town, dressed oddly, in search of sweets, without a bodyguard. I remember the first time my daughter went trick-or-treating with friends. Several mothers were in attendance, and a few even drove their kids around the neighborhood, allowing the little goblins to exit only at reputable houses, then quickly return to the warmth of the SUV.
Costumes heralded another change-now a child only has to enter one of many Halloween costume shops which sprout up almost overnight in our area. They offer accessories, party decorations, and complete costumes at prices that would have made my frugal mother cringe with horror. Not only that, but a bevy of costume options can be found year round online for your enjoyment.
Trunk-or-treat is another recent addition. We attended one of those last year at our local church. It was a surprising delight, complete with a row of minivans decorated in autumnal garb and varying degrees of scary stuff. My favorite was the tailgate of a van which had been decorated with the cast-off heads from a CPR class-their mouths open, ghostly white plastic gleaming from the pulse of the strobe light.
And then there is my favorite Halloween tradition-sorting through the candy at the end of the night. This is a necessary activity prompted by the cautious reservations of caring parents across the nation. Too many times growing up, I had heard the rumors about poisoned candy, apples that hid sharp objects inside, and homemade treats which caused sickness. Rather than assume it was all urban legend, I embraced the activity of candy sorting with a vengeance once I became a mama. Anything unwrapped is pitched immediately, all pennies go in the piggy bank, and I claim about a tenth of the chocolate on general principle. After all, chaperoning the trick-or-treaters involves a lot of walking. Besides, by the end of the night, when faces are washed, scary stories have been read, and excited little ones are snuggled in bed, I feel it’s the least I can do to make sure the kids don’t eat too much sugar the next day.