Published on October 25, 2019

trick or treat

Trick or Treat? The Times Have Changed

When I was growing up, there were four days on the calendar that were of epic importance.

The first was Christmas. Every kid loved Christmas because of its powerful potential for something amazing to happen. It could be an awesome present under the tree. It might be an unforgettable experience with family and friends. And it was reliably one of the tastiest times of the year.

The second was the last day of school. It even outranked the first day of summer vacation because of the sheer joy of putting aside (with great enthusiasm) all the books and papers, abandoning your tired stack of school clothes, and closing your desk or locker for the final time.

The third was your birthday. Unlike other epic days, this one was wholly devoted to your personal interests and priorities. Your favorite food. Your favorite dessert. Your favorite friends—gathered for a celebration of your birth—and, of course, the prospect of a great gift.

However, none of these days were remotely similar to the fourth: Halloween. Important decisions were involved in getting a costume ready.  Careful planning was necessary in gathering a posse of fellow trick-or-treaters to traverse the neighborhood together. And then the loot! Oh my! Hours of fun totaling up the evening’s proceeds, negotiating trades to get rid of the candy you hated in favor of your favorites—until the moment when your mom or dad said, “That’s enough candy for one night,” and you had to put it aside.

Even if it was a school night you got to stay up later than usual. Even if it rained or snowed, you got to go out into the neighborhood and show off your costume. Even if the weather was so bad you had to stay home, there was always the candy your mom had laid in stock that you could raid.

Times have changed. It’s not just the weather that threatens trick-or-treating (the forecast is both chilly and a bit rainy, by the way). Going door-to-door through a neighborhood is not always possible or a good idea. The reasons for limiting sugar consumption are much better understood.  Many children aren’t able to participate in trick-or-treating because of physical or situational limitations. The jack-o-lanterns are apt to be plastic—and the pumpkin just part of a latte.

But that doesn’t mean that Halloween and trick-or-treating are going away. In fact, Halloween is one of the fastest growing holidays. Halloween has become a huge community event, with “trunk-or-treat” parties at churches and neighborhood centers. Costume contests and “Malloween” events at shopping malls. Events with names like “Boofest,” or “Spooktacular,” or my favorite, “Boo At The Zoo,” where the animals still have the best costumes.

Even though things change, we keep finding new ways to do community, to support our kids in the things that give them joy, and to make our communities safer and healthier. We approach our mission each day with optimism and joy—even though sometimes our work takes us into the most somber moments of human experience. Watching how our culture has adapted the traditions around trick-or-treating is one more indication that we value wonderful ways for our families and communities to grow together and for our children to experience discovery and excitement in healthy and good ways.

(And by the way, our porch light will be on this next Thursday evening for the little princess and miniature Nats players who find that the old ways are the way they like it.)

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