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Halloween: Then and Now

Published by Marisa Coen

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Kids remember Halloween traditions into adulthood. I still remember how I spent Halloween as a kid, and that was quite a few years ago. Many traditions and activities are the same, but there are several differences between Halloween celebrations nowadays and Halloween celebrations of years ago.

When I was a kid, our costumes were cute or funny; seldom were they sinister or scary. We had princess gowns and Suzy homemakers aprons, firemen and cowboys. Today, we see a whole slew of evil-related costumes with extensive accessories.

When I was a kid, no self-respecting pre-teen would be out trick-or-treating. It was an accepted thing, that when you reached pre-teen age, you graduated from candy beggar to candy giver. Essentially, you had door duty.

When I was a kid, Tootsie Rolls, Juicy Fruit gum, and candy necklaces were desirable items in a candy bag. Kids might even expect an apple or some homemade chocolate chip cookies in the bag. Bags were often pillowcases or large paper grocery bags with the edges rolled down. And always, my mother would inspect the candy for safety.

Today, all many of unknown candy types compete for inclusion in treat bags. Even neighbors compete for best candy offered. Kids compete for most bags filled, often emptying a candy bag and changing costumes and going out again. And the bags themselves are no longer made of paper. Some bags are simple plastic grocery bags and others have strong handles for carrying all the loot.

Years ago, kids school parties followed harvest time themes, and in the community some non-profit group would always put on a haunted house. I remember bobbing for apples and playing games that involved disgusting looking but delectable treats. I also remember scary walks through haunted houses. Always there was a bowl of something like Spaghetti and Jell-O that you had to stick your hand into. The concoction always resembled body parts – at least that’s what we were told was in the bowl.

The worst Halloween behaviors kids of my generation might engage in on October 31 might be a toilet papering of the trees in a teacher’s front yard or a few eggs thrown at someone’s car. These days, the morning paper on November 1, often tells of the night’s depraved activity.

When I was a kid, I was sometimes asked to show a trick before I got that treat. But it was always in fun. Parents were fairly trusting and escorted the little ones with flashlights. But often, the older ones were allowed to do some running on their own, from house to house.

Today, parents need to be very careful with child safety, both on the street and once home. The candy bag needs a thorough screening. In addition, parents would be wise to gauge what children wear as costumes. Sometimes aggressive behavior is played out based upon what a child believes a costume allows. Some costumes are downright gruesome.

The children of today need to learn how to stay safe, along with learning traditional fun and games. Although parents must be extra cautions when it comes to keeping kids safe, there is plenty of room for Halloween fun and for building memories that kids will take into adulthood.



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