When I was a child, trick-or-treating started at 8 p.m and didn’t end until midnight. Families were still outside late at night handing out loads of candy, and Halloween costumes ranged from basic sheet ghosts to elaborate princesses and power rangers.
Dressing up was fun, but what really mattered was being out with your friends all night collecting candy. It’s one of the few nights a year parents allowed their kids to be out so late, and it was exciting.
That is what Halloween is supposed to be — a late-night adventure. But that isn’t what is happening today.
Nowadays, trick-or-treating starts at 5 p.m. and ends before 9 p.m. As soon as kids get out of school, it’s time to go knocking on doors. I think that is just wrong. Trick-or-treating should not start so early. The point of Halloween is for the night to be dark and scary — it’s called trick-or-treating for a reason. The depths of the night is the best time for tricks.
Back when I was younger, there was a strategic plan to trick-or-treating. You hit up your neighborhood first, especially the houses you knew left bowls of candy outside the door. Then, you crossed the street into the other neighborhood and cleared those houses. After that, you hit up the local stores that handed out candy, because they were open late.
Going through all the different neighborhoods took a long time, but at the end of the night you had pillowcases filled with sugary goodies. I remember sometimes we’d have to go home and get new pillowcases or bags because they become too heavy to carry.
At the end of the night, you’d dump it all out on the floor and examine your night’s work. You’d pick out what candy you wanted to take to school the next day and which pieces you would spend the night eating. That’s the Halloween life I remember.
Now, there are special places to go trick-or-treating. Many neighborhoods put together events for the kids. I’ve noticed in the last couple years the households that hand out candy have shrunk. A previously exciting all-nighter event has turned into a three-to-four-hour event where people are packing up by 8:30 p.m. to go inside.
Another big thing I’ve noticed is the ages of trick-or-treaters. It’s become shameful to trick or treat as a teenager or young adult. I for one love trick-or-treating — last year, I dressed up as an ‘80s character and knocked on doors right next to my siblings. But this is the first year I won’t be doing so.
There is now a law in many states prohibiting anyone older than 12 from trick-or-treating. That is just crazy. Granted, when I was little, teenagers used to steal our candy, but that simply added to the thrill. We had to think of plans to avoid them. It kept us on our toes.
I know part of the reason trick-or-treating has changed so much is for kids’ safety, but nothing ever happened while we went out on Halloween as kids. I understand parents are more frightened today than they were a decade ago. There are so many more threats present, that’s one of the saddest things. Our parents were scared too, but they trusted us. And when we came home, all the candy got checked.
Of course, little kids don’t notice the difference as long as they get to go trick-or-treating. As long as they are having fun, it doesn’t matter. But this is an unfortunate sign of how much the times have changed.