Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween: Then and Now

As a kid, I used to love Halloween.  When I was a kid, it was safe, or at least it seemed so back then.  In my earliest recollections of Halloween, I remember going trick or treating with my brother and sister or my cousins in our neighborhood.  Back then you carried a grocery size orange bag from door to door getting candy, pennies, and special treats. By the time you got home, your bag was so full that the handles broke,  or your bag was so heavy that you had to drag it until it tore, or you were so tired from going door to door that you didn't even care whether you still had your mask on or not.

There was always a house or 2 where you were invited in for a glass of kool-aid or punch, or for some special treat. I remember being served corn dogs or hot dogs instead of candy, or getting to decorate my own cupcake and eating it before gathering my bag of goodies and going to the next house. Sometimes you didn't even know whose house it was but you trusted that you were safe.

Back then most parents stayed home and handed out treats while the kids went trick or treating unless the children were obviously too little to go by themselves. But back then, even children in grade school went by themselves or with other non-adult trick or treaters. We stayed out late too. Sometimes it was 11:00 p.m. before we got home.

There was also the 1 or 2 houses where nobody was home so they would treat the kids on the trust system by leaving a bowl of candy on the porch with a note telling them to help themselves to a piece or 2 of candy. Believe it or not, most the kids were honest enough that that is exactly what they did. Yes, once in a while there was some bully, or greedy brat that would dump the bowl into their bag but for the most part, the kids were trustworthy.

When you finally did get home, you couldn't wait to start eating the candy even though you had been eating it the whole night. It was exciting to get homemade popcorn balls and candied apples. Often you would get little plastic baggies full of home-made candies and fudge. Of course you immediately had to sort all your favorite candies out from the rest and hide them from your siblings so that they (the siblings) wouldn't take them when you weren't around.

Today, it is a whole different world. Children now have to be taken by their parents and only to places that they trust. Kids cannot even eat their candy until it has been examined for fear that a needle or razor blade has been put in it. And let them go by themselves?  No way!  There are so many perverts and sick people out there today that to let a child go trick or treating without an adult would be so irresponsible in so many neighborhoods, cities, and towns.

Now if a child brings home a homemade treat, it is thrown out immediately (unless the parents know the treat-giver and trusts them). People are afraid to let their children go into houses now for fear that they will be harmed or molested. And at the same time, people are afraid to let children come into their homes for fear of being held responsible for some accusation or injury or for fear of being "cased" by a teen burglar or harassed by troublemakers.

It's not that there weren't bad people back then; I'm sure there were but you just didn't hear about them like you do today. Usually if you heard something bad about somebody, it was that they egged  or papered somebody elses house, or that their house was haunted so you just didn't go there.

It is really sad how Halloween has changed but at the same time, it is really good that parents have become so involved in what their kids are doing. It is also really good that businesses, schools, and communities have become so involved. Now days, children get to go to carnivals put on by the schools, or to shopping malls where each store hands out candy. Churches are really involved too. Often they organize parties so that the children are kept in a safe environment.

I guess when I really look at the differences from then to now, they aren't necessarily all bad. It just depends on whether you want to dwell on the bad ...or embrace the good.   I'd like to think that people are good and caring. As a grandmother, I'd like to embrace the good and hope that children today, and especially my grandchildren, will have as good a memory of their Halloween experiences as I did of mine. And I'd like to wish everyone a "Happy Halloween".


  1. Carol, I totally agree. I believe the last time my parents took me trick or treating was when i was 7 maybe 8. Then, my sister was in charge of me while they stayed at home handing out the candy.

    I also think to when some of the neighbors would even decorate their porch like a haunted house and I was so scared to go, but I forced through it and it was the best...just so I could get that one piece of candy and tell the other kids I went to that haunted house!

    Now adays, you can't do it. I also think a lot of parents are totally over-reacting to a majority of issues. Schools no longer even let you dress up because of a "political stance" which is just silly. Halloween has been around for so long and yet it continues to change.

    Hopefully things will change back to the "older" ways and we can all enjoy the holiday for exactly what it was meant for!

  2. Carol,
    It’s really unfortunate that children today will never know for themselves that sense of trust and safety that you and I had growing up. The fact that today, a child can spend their entire life in a neighborhood and never know the names of those who live on their street or block is a testimony of just how much things and times have changed. Once, everyone sit out on the porch and children as they walked (did I say walked?) to school, store, park or visit and play with friends; spoke and referred to adults as Mrs. or Mr., and they (adults) knew every child’s name.
    The fear that we all live under today, dictates that you dare not speak too children walking pass your house out of fear of being accused of making an inappropriate advancement; forces us all to live in a world of being guilty until proven innocent. Thus, children are being denied an opportunity to learn and develop valuable live skills once passed from generation to generation. I learned to fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors from men in the community who had been taught by others when they were boys.
    So, I guess in short, Halloween as a celebration of being scared out of your wits, is now a way of life that we all must practiced every day. How sad!

  3. At the ripe old age of 27 :-) (feel free to whack me next class) the whole razor blade in the candy thing was making it's grand appearence. So I have very few memories of trick or treating, instead we went to the "Hallelujah Party" put on by church. It was a 2 story church with at least 30 classrooms, and each room was occupied by different games where you could win prizes and candy. Definitely one of my most favorite memories as a child!
    But it is a sad state of affairs when the biggest scare is legitimate and not simply an awesome haunted house. Even in small towns now, there are threats lurking everywhere. I consider my neighborhood affluent and quiet, but there is always an adult presence of some form where ever there are children; Halloween is no exception.
    What can you do? I guess just hold the lil'ones close and love on 'em every chance you get. (and a side-arm doesn't hurt either.) just kidding. hey! I'm from Texas. It's what we do. :-)