Even though trick-or-treating has become more common in the U.K., it is far from the well-established tradition that it is in the United States. I remember when I was stationed in the Air Force in the early 90s and having a conversation about it with my Ministry of Defense colleague. She could not see the point of children going door-to-door threatening strangers for sweets. From that perspective, it does sound quite weird, doesn’t it?
However, I loved trick-or-treating when I was little, and I love it even more as a mom when I take the Sprog out with her friends and seeing her feel the same joy I felt. Of course, the payoff is in the candy, since I understand sugar on a deeper level than most mortals. It is just as much about the atmosphere of autumn, the dressing up and playing make-believe, the giggling with your pals, and the thrill of the hunt. It’s running into a classmate and having her tell you, “Hey, go to number 62 around the corner! They have full-sized Twix bars!” Sweet! In more ways than one! It’s finding your older brother TPing the gym teacher’s house and his hissing at you, “Don’t tell Mom and Dad!”. You will figure out how many Milky Ways he has to cough up later to buy your silence. (Not an autobiographical story.) It’s the test of endurance. How far are you willing to walk to fill up a pillowcase of tooth rotting glory? And woe betide the house who distributed apples!
Much is made about safety concerns regarding trick-or-treating. First of all, the whole thing about evil sociopaths tampering with candy has been an urban myth perpetuated by inflated stories in the news. Of course, since it was hard to disprove these tales in the 80’s, my dad, in response, had to inspect the candy before we were allowed to touch it and used his authority to have first dibs. This was also the man who told us that Santa liked beer. He is quite a smart guy.
To be fair, it is good practice to look over the candy anyway just to throw out the ones that are choking hazards for the little ones and the sweets with open wrappers.
Secondly, you go trick-or-treating where you feel comfortable with the people and safety levels, and chances are, it is your neighborhood. If you do not live in such a place, there are usually community trick-or-treating events. For example, in my village during trick-or-treating hours, the businesses pass out candy. With the fun-size Snickers, your kid may get a coupon for a restaurant you have been meaning to try. I remember on one particularly chilly Halloween, one restaurant gave away mulled apple cider (non-alcoholic). And the police are there directing traffic and guiding people across the streets. So the kids get candy, and the village promotes local businesses. It’s crowded, but well done.
But can trick-or-treating go overboard? Well, you tell me. There are neighborhoods jam packed with families. Buying huge bags of candy is a necessity. I took pictures at my local Target to give those outside of our borders an idea of what we can buy to stock up.
I think it is a fair comment that it can be a bit much.
There is also the matter of what you do with the candy after trick-or-treating. The good chocolate can be frozen, but there is always those cheap candies like American Smarties that are basically sugar and food coloring that nobody wants to eat. Into the trash they go. Then there are the pencils, plastic rings, tattoos, and other tat that will end up in a desk drawer or hidden in the back of the kid’s closet. Those will be found next year during a bedroom deep clean. So we know there is only one place the rest of the candy can go.
The office break room.
If the parents are going to go down, they are going to bring everyone else down with them.
And thus begins the weight gaining season that will last until we make half-hearted New Year’s resolutions.