Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat?

Trick or treat
Smell my Feet
Give me something nice to eat
(or something pre- approved by my mother, like raisons…)

I love Halloween. Maybe it's the heathen in me! Even when it wasn't so high profile, when I was little, we had halloween parties. I always thought that Halloween was a relatively harmless bit of fun. Its origins are in Pagan Britain and it was later hijacked by the Christian Calendar. I thought that Jack o’lanterns and ‘Trick or Treat’ were American inventions to supersize and commercialize Halloween into an annual $7 billion mega money making machine. The shops dedicate aisles to Halloween as early as August and people begin to decorate their houses early October. Turns out though we can’t blame America for Trick or Treat, the custom of ‘begging’ on Halloween is mentioned by Shakespeare and in medieval times they carved lanterns out of turnips. Americans had bigger vegetables to hand and pumpkins are easier to carve!
I was pleasantly surprised by my first Halloween in the states last year. The atmosphere on 31st was lovely. People sat outside their highly decorated houses with cauldrons full of candy. Children walked the neighbourhood and got SACKFULS of sweets. It had a real festival atmosphere and the streets were full of kiddies in fancy dress. A real treat! Being acclimatized to the USA now I realize I missed some of the dark tricks of Halloween:

Traditional games like ‘apple bobbing’ (where you get a tub full of water and apples and, only using your mouth you have to retrieve as many apples as possible) are a life threatening hazard unless:
  1. Clear dangers of drowning are explained and a life belt is available. (Remember small children and inebriated adults can drown in centimeters of water)
  2. The water must be changed after each apple bobbing contestant as potentially deadly bodily fluids will be lurking in the water. Killer GERMS!
I didn’t realize why many neighbours were reluctant to participate in my Halloween street party apple bobbing – but having undergone Americanization I now know how foolish, dangerous and irresponsible my party shenanigans were!

My daughter was a rare thing last Halloween. She was a witch. Hardly any witches, ghouls or zombies! They are not appropriate. They are scary. My Son brought home a list of ‘safety rules’ he had copied for Halloween. They included wearing white ‘so people in cars can see you’ (nothing scary then in the traditional Halloween colour of black). My children have a ‘Vocabulary parade’ today at school where they can dress up in a theme related to science. I guess it is the school’s way of embracing Halloween but the children are explicitly not allowed to wear anything scary!

My son’s guideline also wisely advises to ‘check your treats before you eat them’. I guess they will end up with sweets you don’t normally allow but isn’t that the fun of it? I remember my friend’s little girl at my daughter’s 3rd birthday party. As requested I had supplied some vegetable rolls for her as she was being brought up a strict vegetarian. It was too late to stop her (unnoticed by her mother) as she chomped away on a sausage roll. I guess I could have stopped her eating 5 of them but she was enjoying them so much and it was a party! Halloween Candy is the same (sort of). I do not allow my children to eat blue sweets. They will happily be sticking their blue tongues out at me later, high on a sugar rush!
1 in 3 American children are obese, apparently. Sackfuls of sweets is bad news for fatties and not great news for dentists.
Great schools, an education website calls Halloween an "unmitigated disaster for parents trying to protect their children from OD'ing" on sugar, and suggests ways for parents to swizzle their kids out of the "upcoming tsunami of sucrose." (swap it for toys, sell it, give it away to late trick or treaters who come knocking, bulimic mother to eat it and puke it up later when the kids are in bed….)
Adding to the danger are allergies. 54% of Americans have allergies. They love them! We had American friends round to drink like only the Brits know how. The next morning we met up for breakfast and they were looking very much the worse for wear. One proclaimed he had terrible allergies that morning. Allergies? We call it a hangover!  My son got into big trouble for inadvertently drinking out of the water bottle of a boy with peanut allergies – apparently causing risk to the boy. I couldn’t work out the risk as my son may be a nut but he isn’t a peanut! My children tell people they are allergic to things just so they don’t feel left out.
I’m surprised there isn’t a general ‘no peanuts’ rule for anyone giving away candy. My daughter said yesterday I couldn’t buy peanut M&M’s to give away to Trick or Treaters incase of allergies. I kind of think if you’re getting free sweets it is up to you to check what you eat – so wise advice from the school!

The general rule is ‘if your porch light is on you welcome trick or treaters…. Unless you are a pedophile then you have no business having your light on. I had the misfortune to listen to a radio phone in on local radio this morning advising parents to look up the location of local pedophiles and be sure to avoid their houses for candy …If their lights are on, go round with the local vigilantes and put their lights out!
I have to say the whole Halloween thing contradicts some of the US watchdog guidelines to stay safe for Halloween:
§         Always tell your parents where you are going. (Traipsing round the streets knocking on random strangers’ doors)
§         Never approach any house that is not well lit. (unless it has spooky Halloween lights and adults in costumes lurking outside)
§         Remember anything weird that an adult says or does to you and tell your parents immediately. (that would be anything to do with Halloween then!)
§         Run away from people who offer you candy or other treats or want you to help look for their puppy or kitten. (…and the purpose of trick or treat, endorsed and encouraged by adults, is for children to take candy from total strangers)

The date:
Just downright inconvenient on a week day and retailers do better when Halloween falls on a Saturday! Simple! In the name of economics, ignore centuries of tradition and meaning and support law makers in Connecticut who want to move Halloween to the last Saturday in October. This would be highly convenient for working parents and children would not have to rush home from school, do homework or get up the next morning (except for Church of course).

So – Perhaps I was naïve last year. Halloween is not a celebration, based loosely on tradition and exploited for the benefit of children so they can dress up and have fun and get lots of sweeties. It is primarily of commercial significance – movable and not needing to be fixed to any particular date, for the benefit of dentists and bulimic mothers and fraught with E numbers and scary costumes. .. But if we stop the dressing up and the treats then it will no longer be of commercial significance and therefore have no point in American society. I have a great idea – rather than move the day – just ban it altogether to protect children from germs, sweets, allergies, pedophiles and other scary things! If you think about it too much it is definitely trick not treat! 


  1. When you were a child it was a harmless bit of fun . Who cared how wet you got while apple bobbing. It should be scary, the more witches with broomsticks the better.My broomstick is out of action so i will be stopping in unlesssome beastie comes to carry me off.

  2. Top Tip No 1: When trick or treating with the kids, tell everyone they are diabetic.. Cash only please :)

    Top Tip No 2: When receiving trick or treaters, say treat, stay there and i'll be right back, watch them turn there little noses up at this months weight watchers magazine, fat little fookers never say thank you :D

  3. :D
    You're right, they never say thank you - but there is something worse than not saying thank you- it is when they look at the 'treats' you are offering and turn their noses up and say 'no thank you (we dont eat cheap sweets from Wal-mart!)

  4. lol I had my son in a non scary costume only because he needed to be able to get in and out of the costume at kindergarten by himself for potty breaks. He also wanted to be a transformer. but he's only five. My daughter of course wanted to be a princess. who doesn't? I'm still waiting for my turn. I refrained from my terrifying halloween pumpkin costume of last year. I turned it down and made my baby a little pumpkin. I cannot wait until they are a little older. My eldest was some type of demon looking thing last year. I agree. the scarier the better. but at 5 and younger. I can see why they prefer the cutsie stuff. Not looking forward to the skankaliciousness my daughter will be subject to when she gets older though. :(

  5. I know! My son, who is 6, was Super mario! My daughter was a cat. You're right - the kiddies don't want to be scary things. More annoying is when they dont dress up and still knock for candy!

  6. knock for candy! SWEETS, SWEETS, you're english FFS! :D

  7. OooooooooooH NOoooooooooooooo! I'm turning! I actually said ZEE instead of ZED on the phone yesterday in an attempt to be understood!
    I need help!

  8. Im jammed that way now...... and weirdly it makes more sense...... my name is JEZ........ Jay Eee Zeee........ Jez........ Jay Eee Zed ....... actually no longer sounds right :-))

    You r threatening the success of the American economy by implying the whole thing could be scaled down........ America depends on everything being over the top........ the US economy dwarfs the world by making a big deal..........

    OK we Brits used to get by on a soggy apple core...... reused from last year........ but the whole point of America is to go for it :-))

    When my little girl was at a ballet class for 3 yr olds at the end of term we would all sit in a circle and watch them perform....... by the time she was 4 and living in Westchester county NY.... I was sitting in a massive theatre with hundreds of other parents...... me having spent on tickets and new costumes for her to perform in ....... I was the only parent not clasping a massive bunch of roses to give to my child...... I didn't know how crazily over the top it all was........ I kind of missed the innocent days of the church hall...... but hey you could not deny the meganess of it all...... and her lovely dancing was the same...... I think she enjoyed the over the top show more.......

    Thats the secret of American economic dominance...... go crazy on everything...... and it can be good fun too :-))))))))))