Every October, 31st as the sun sets for the night the streets gradually fill with little ghosts, goblins, zombies, and demons. They roam the neighborhoods visiting house after house armed with bags, buckets, and my favorite, pillow cases. They ring the doorbell and chant, “Trick or treat” in unison to demand that the occupant bestow them with candy or be the victim of a dastardly prank. The houses are adorned with cobwebs and candles. Jack-o-lanterns, perched on the porch with flickering eyes and glowing grins, light the way. Creepy carcsses rise from the dead. Grave stones and gremlins litter the lawn while witches watch from the trees.
When I was a kid Halloween was right up there between Christmas and the 4th of July. In the weeks prior to this most evil night, my friends and I would boast about who would bring in the biggest booty, the largest loot, or in other words, more candy than you. Candy collection was a fierce competition, not only for the most candy but for the choicest pieces. Chocolate was of higher value than a box of raisins or an apple. A whole pack of just about anything was better than a single piece of something. Full size beats bite size. And anything edible always trumps a toy. But the ultimate goal, no matter what the treasure, was to fill your bag, bucket, or pillow case to the brim. Often we would double back to the houses with the most generous givers hoping not to be recognized as being a repeat customer.
Preparation for this wicked night was always filled with anguish: What costume would I where this year? (For me the home made costumes were more realistic looking than store bought ones.) What route would yield the most candy the fastest? What group of friends would I travel with? And how do you know when it’s dark enough to begin your quest? Is it OK to start just before the sun goes down or do you simply wait until you see other vampires and mummies on the move? A carefully planned route would ensure that you get the best candy before it’s gone. (There are a lot of other spooks and specters out there after your candy.)
In recent years I’ve noticed a radical costume trend shift. What happened to the crepe paper mummies and the oversized thrift store suits that made for an excellent Frankenstein’s monster, with the addition of a little of Mom’s makeup? In fact, it’s difficult to find a Halloween ghoul at all let alone a self-made one. The trend today has moved away from the freakily frightening and more toward the cute and cuddly. Vampires, witches, and werewolves are being overrun by ladybugs, pixies, and puppy dogs. Some of the older kids don’t even bother dressing up anymore. The threat of “trick” instead of “treat” is almost nonexistent. Doorbells ring, candy is deposited in small pumpkin shaped buckets, and the princesses and pixies calmly move to the next house. Fewer and fewer homes are decorated to their maximum potential which makes for a dull night of haunting when it used to be so much fun. The good old days are all but gone.
Halloween will live on, though. Whether it’s demons or Dora that lurks in the night they will always get their fill of candy and treats on this non-official holiday just for kids.