Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The trick-or-treat wars

Hello!  I’m still out here.  My blog break is mostly going to continue through November, though, because National Novel Writing Month will help me write the first draft of Book Six in the Tales of Telmaja series.

For those who are interested in my fiction writing but not following the Tales of Telmaja Facebook page (all 1.5 of you), I can report that a) I have finished the first draft of Book Five in the Tales of Telmaja series, b) I have finished the first draft of the as-yet untitled Young Adult mermaid/vampire novel, and c) I am almost finished with the initial editing pass for Book Three in the Tales of Telmaja series (Advance Reader Team: expect an email from me before the end of the week).

Now: why am I posting?  Well, it’s sort of been an And Sometimes Tea tradition to kvetch a bit about Halloween, and while I was going to give it a miss this year, something turned up to raise my redheaded ire (right on schedule).

No, this year it’s not a Catholic Mommy Blogosphere Cat Fight (e.g., “Trick-or-treat!”  “All Saints’ Party!” “Trick-or-treat!”  “All Saints’ Party!”  “Both!”  “Shut up, crazy overachiever!” etc.).  It’s just another exhibit in the Why I Think Halloween Has Gotten Crazy display.

The starting point was this alleged letter allegedly sent to Dear Prudence at Slate, in which the alleged writer allegedly complains about having to give out treats to the poor kids who inundate the rich neighborhood full of one-percenters where he lives every October 31.  I say “alleged” because some of the letters sent to Dear Prudence rather defy reality, and this does seem like one of them.  At the very least it allows Prudence to bristle with righteous indignation and tell the writer to get to Costco (tm) and quit being a cheapskate (she doesn’t actually say “Republican,” but it’s implied).

Now, nobody could possibly complain about dear Prue’s advice in this instance because the deck is clearly stacked against the richy-rich writer who apparently spends Halloween channeling the spirit of the as-yet unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge.  Lost in the narrative, though, is a really good question: wasn’t trick-or-treating always a local, neighborhood, community event?  Wasn’t it always about your kids getting ooohed and ahhhed at by the neighbors while you reciprocated when their sweet little ones showed up at your door looking for candy?

I live in a far-from-rich neighborhood with modest homes that are squeezed rather close together. And the fact that our houses are squeezed close together, along with the fact that we have sidewalks and really short driveways, means that every Halloween we get the phenomenon of “drive and dump” trick-or-treating.

The way “drive and dump” trick-or-treating works is simple: parents drive their kids to our neighborhood, dump the kids at one end of the street, drive, engines idling, to the other end, and pick the kids up in order to drive them to the next street.  Once the kids have raced through our neighborhood with the help of the driving parent, they head to the next neighborhood where the houses are close together, and there are sidewalks and short driveways.  In this way in the three or four hours of trick-or-treating they can hit hundreds of houses and collect huge amounts of candy, presumably so their parents won’t have to purchase lunchbox snacks until the child is in graduate school, or something.

If this were simply about letting poor kids from the nearby apartment complexes get a chance to experience “real” trick or treating, I think most people would smile and buy some extra candy.  But that’s not what this is.  This is trick-or-treating, contact sports style.  This is yet another manifestation of a culture based on materialistic greed.  This is trick-or-treating with an underlying message--coming from parents, not kids--that you haven’t really “won” the game of trick-or-treating unless you gather three or four times the amount of candy and treats that you handed out at your own home.

If you even hand out treats at your own home, that is--because sometimes when one parent is driving the kids, the other leaps out of the car to walk with the kids from house to house, urging them along quickly so they can cover the most ground possible before it gets too late and those “stingy” people start turning off their porch lights.

Truth is, I suspect that it has been this phenomenon, more than anything, that has made more and more people in my neighborhood decide not to turn the porch lights on in the first place.  And then a vicious cycle ensues--because if fewer people are participating in the trick-or-treat thing, then the houses where you can get candy are father and father apart, so your parents will have to drive you someplace, and so on and so forth.

I can’t remember ever being driven someplace to go trick-or-treating.  Then again, I didn’t trick-or-treat any later than the eighth grade (if then), because when I was a child trick-or-treating was for the little kids.  I remember helping to take my younger siblings a couple of times, but those of us who were the guardians didn’t carry bags or pillowcases and certainly didn’t ask for candy--but the increase in the age of trick-or-treaters is a subject for an entirely different rant, so we’ll leave it at that.

11 comments:

L. said...

I'm not sure it's a new thing. I grew up in a sleepy suburb of Hartford, CT, and I remember (non-white) kids from Hartford getting dropped off in our neighborhood to trick-or-treat. I remember hearing other parents grumbling about it, but never my own parents.

Nan said...

I was just talking to a friend about the greedy truckloads of people that come to her neighborhood. She lives in an area of million dollar homes, not a gated community, but a very nice neighborhood and experiences exactly what you outlined; people coming to the neighborhood because they're perceived as having more. Tons of people.

One year I was out there for halloween and we went with her girls and the neighborhood kids were always given something special, whether it was toys or a full size candy bar, it was never the same thing that the others received; they got the same thing as in the neighborhood I was raised in, a couple of small candy bars.

When I was a kid, we went trick or treating as far as our legs could carry us. The apartment building kids trick or treated in the neighborhood, why wouldn't they? They lived there too; however, there were people in the lobby giving out candy too. I would never question what kids from an apartment were doing in the neighborhood they lived in.

I live near a neighborhood with many historic victorian houses and it's a trick or treat destination. No idea where the people are from or whether they just run down that street in addition to their own neighborhood or what; and there's a rather poor area about a mile away, which may be the source of some of the visitors.

John InEastTX said...

It takes a special kind of stinginess to get worked up about giving out Halloween candy to 'those greedy' kids from outside your neighborhood.

Red Cardigan said...

Actually, John, in our case it takes a special thing called economics. We have two daughters in college this year, much-needed home repairs, and too much debt already. Shelling out $100 for candy to take care of all the people who might show up during t-o-t hours isn’t even remotely possible for us this year. So the porch light will be off.

On this topic, though, what about a Catholic blogger who announced that her family would be doing the “drive to the doctors’ and lawyers’ neighborhoods” to get the “good” candy” thing, but that they weren’t handing any out themselves? Why is that okay, but turning the porch light off because you can no longer afford to hand out candy to the people who see your neighborhood as “easy pickings” isn’t?

Red Cardigan said...

Actually, John, in our case it takes a special thing called economics. We have two daughters in college this year, much-needed home repairs, and too much debt already. Shelling out $100 for candy to take care of all the people who might show up during t-o-t hours isn’t even remotely possible for us this year. So the porch light will be off.

On this topic, though, what about a Catholic blogger who announced that her family would be doing the “drive to the doctors’ and lawyers’ neighborhoods” to get the “good” candy” thing, but that they weren’t handing any out themselves? Why is that okay, but turning the porch light off because you can no longer afford to hand out candy to the people who see your neighborhood as “easy pickings” isn’t?

John InEastTX said...

"Why is that okay, but turning the porch light off because you can no longer afford to hand out candy to the people who see your neighborhood as “easy pickings” isn’t?"

I missed the part in what I wrote where I said that turning the porch light off was not okay.

Would you mind highlighting that part where you found that for me?

Or, alternatively, perhaps you might refrain from attributing to me opinions that I do not hold?

Red Cardigan said...

Didn’t mean to offend, John. Battling a nasty cold and in a bad mood anyway.

It’s not you--I’ve actually had conversations (mostly online) with Catholic moms who accused those of us who held All Saints parties of being too “stingy” to give out candy to their kids. I even tried the “leave the candy bowl on the porch while we had our party” thing, and people would ring the doorbell to tell us (sometimes rather nastily) that we were out of candy and could we refill the bowl?

So when people use the word “stingy” to refer to those of us who got tired of being expected to provide candy for what sometimes seemed like the entire DFW Metroplex despite living on one income in a modest neighborhood without (as far as I know) any doctors or lawyers in it (just houses piled on top of each other), I sometimes see red. I can see that you weren’t actually talking to me, though.

Whimsy said...

I thought kids nowadays went to the mall for safer treats :-)
T or T hours here are 6-8 pm on Beggars Night (30th). Very sensible.

L. said...

I think the particular Catholic blogger you mention said she was taking her kids to a different neighborhood, and not handing out any candy themselves, because they live on a rural road with few homes and no sidewalks where T-or-T just doesn't happen? (And her comment box has erupted into a "Halloween is not for Catholics!" debate.)

Halloween has caught on in Japan, in the past 10 years, but it's generally observed on the last Saturday in October.

Red Cardigan said...

You’re probably right, L. The times that I lived rurally people just had parties instead of t-or-t.

It’s not so much the “trick-or-treat in other people’s neighborhoods” thing that gets me; it’s that some of these bloggers decided a few years ago that those of us who preferred to hold an All Saints’ Day party instead of trick-or-treating were “cheating” their kids out of their due amounts of candy.

I’ve shared before that the whole trick-or-treat thing involving store bought candy dates to postwar America (and may have had something to do with candy companies’ struggles to return to a domestic profit model since so much of their wartime business involved sending candy to the troops). But to some people, the only possible way to celebrate Halloween involves trick-or-treating, and they get mad when others choose not to participate in it.

Whimsy said...

Love all saints day parties! Kids come home with a brown lunch bag of candy instead of a brown grocery bag of candy.