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Trick or Treaters

October 22nd, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
The age old custom of Trick or Treating originated in the British Isles in the 1890’s but was borrowed from what was once called “souling” in the Middle Ages. Needy people, disguised as evil spirits in order to placate them, would go from door to door on November 1st (known as Hallowmas) to ask for food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day. (Personally, I believe this was a creative ruse devised to quell the stabs of hunger in their bellies brought on by starvation). Interestingly, Shakespeare mentions the tradition in The Two Gentlemen of Verona when one accuses the other of “puling” (whining) like a beggar at Hallowmas.
As kids, we all remember the sheer nervous anticipation of participating in this annual event and the delight in receiving as much candy and treats than could conceivably be devoured. All for nothing. Ah! Let me expound on that. In recent years, engaged in the ritual on the other side of the door, I have witnessed such complacency in the practice causing bemusement rather than amusement. The doorbell rings. I get up and six characters of assorted shapes and sizes stand at the door with their bags out. There is no jubilant chorus of “TRICK OR TREAT!” Not a peep. They stand there mute and expect you to dole out the goods without question. Don’t their parents teach them Halloween etiquette? In olden days, not only was this a prerequisite for receiving the expected treat, but the caller would be asked to recite a poem or sing a song as retribution. These days, by the time each child is given candy, they turn and run off to the next house without my seeing whether they were ghost or goblin, Obama or Mitt Romney (or isn’t that the same thing?)  I feel like shouting, “Wait! Let me see your costume!” But there’s no time for chit chat. After awhile I’m inclined to get a bit perturbed when they don’t say the three magic words. I’ve been known to open the door and say, “Yes? May I help you?” which prompts only one of the bunch to utter a half hearted “trick or treat”. The rest stare blankly or look a bit perplexed as though it were I that has two heads and not one of them. In fact, that might be a good costume with which to greet them.  At least I’d get a reaction.
Since so little is received in return for my generosity to appease the souls of ill informed (and ill mannered) ghouls, I’ll begin using the honor system; place a basket by the door and hope one or two greedy beggars don’t spoil it for everyone else. I can watch from the window at my leisure, examine their costumes that would otherwise escape in a tail end blur, and won’t have to control the urge to smack the hand that grabs too much.  It’s either that or dress the part of a Victorian schoolmarm, “Now say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ or all you’ll get is a note home to your mother”. For the convenience of parents, the following is a handy dandy introduction on the procedure for your kids:
1. Choose a house decorated for Halloween. (Avoid those with none or be prepared to stand waiting for an indeterminate length of time after the doorbell’s been rung several times in irritating succession).
2. Ring doorbell. (Once is sufficient).
3. When the door opens, say “Trick or Treat”. For added emphasis, put some heart into it. It’s supposed to be fun.
4. Wait, don’t grab for treats. And don’t say “Can I have the Sour Patch Kids instead?” because they’re way down at the bottom of the basket causing treats to spill all over the floor.
5.  Say, “Thank you” or if you ask for more for your invisible kid brother, say “please”, then “thank you”.
6. If you have the time, politely allow the home owner to admire your costume. Look monstrously scary or adorably cute, whichever your character dictates.
7. Run off to the next house and repeat the aforementioned process.
8. Along the way, it is acceptable to indulge in some, not all, of the treats, disposing properly of any wrappings. Scattering to the wind is not proper but it is fun. I’ll allow it this once.
9. Remember to smile behind your mask. You’re a kid that’s supposed to be having a good time.
10. One more thing. Be nice to the old lady who only gives you pennies. She needs to get rid of them and this is the perfect opportunity. You can always throw them around and people will think they’ve found pennies from heaven. It will make their day.
So…………..whadayathink? What’s your beef with Halloween Trick or Treaters? Do you see changes in kids over the years or is cynicism getting the better of me? The best Trick or Treaters don’t expect anything. One year upon answering the door, several older boys were sprawled on the front lawn like corpses. In a few seconds, they all jumped up and ran away. The performance was repeated at the next house. All that was required was a look of surprise and a sense of humor.
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3 Responses to “Trick or Treaters”

  1. chip Says:

    Magdalena,
    If cynicism is getting the better of you then join my club! I think the scene you describe is a sign of the times, which is that these kids (and their parents) have a feeling of entitlement!! “Hey, it’s Halloween and that ‘s what you’re suppose to do, give candy to my child they shouldn’t have to work to earn it!” My question is: “since when is proper etiquette working? Since when is fun and proper decency work?” Oh my God, I sound like a Republican (haha).
    Anyway, you have some humorous solutions, but I wouldn’t dare consider the honor system, lest you lose it all.
    Personally I’m a bah-humbug type (I know, wrong holiday) and hate the holiday , but Happy Halloween to you and Michael.

  2. magdalena Says:

    Thanks, Chip. And nothing but treats for you and yours.

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