October 31st means two things in our family: a pillowcase full of candy and an opportunity for me to share the importance of etiquette with the neighborhood children.
My husband is chartered with trolling with our son and several other family friends here in our little corner of the world. They try and scheme to figure out how many houses they need to hit in order to reach a sizeable mother lode - and that changes by the year. I haven’t been keyed into this year’s expected return on investment (ROI.)
I on the other hand, am placed in the all-important role of dolling out treats to good little witches and goblins. I have a plastic cauldron that I stuff with every imaginable sugar treat known to the shelves of Target, our local retail community. And for the next two to three hours I will answer a series of doorbells and knocks and feign fright and plop a handful of sticky, chewy, gooey, chocolaty candies into waiting containers of every shape, size and color imaginable.
I generally enjoy seeing the faces and costumes of the children. As long as they say, “Thank you” all is well. If in their exuberance of the moment they forget their manners, I am of course more than ready with a smile and a gentle, “You are welcome” which usually elicits the intended if not belated, “Thank you” that is sheer music to my ears.
Needless to say DS (Dear Son) and DH (Dear Husband) are far far away trekking through the hinterlands of the neighborhood with pillowcase and gruesome masks whenever I am on Halloween duty. They think I am the wicked witch of the east and the abominable snow monster all rolled into one.
Why do I take such effort to help pass along the good graces to the next generation of potential parents? Well, I will tell you. Several years ago a little girl of eight or so dressed in a confectionary blur of blue and pink that I believe was supposed to be a princess outfit, rang the bell and instead of saying, “Trick or Treat” as is the generally accepted and established custom here in Southern California, proceeded to try and place her hand directly into my cauldron -- which I quickly moved out of her reach.
“Excuse me,” I said in a humorous voice. “Aren’t you supposed to say something first?” She gave me a look. It was a look as if I had green mucus spewing from my nose or something.
“Give me my candy,” was her reply.
“Indeed.” I said looking down the pathway to see whether her accompanying parent or handler might nudge this woefully off the path child back toward the center.
No such luck.
What to do? I pondered this as a gaggle of ragged looking six year-olds dressed up as a band of pirates ran up the walkway threatening to knock over the etiquette-challenged little girl.
“You are supposed to say, ‘Trick or Treat,’” I shared with her.
She looked at me big eyes the color of Blue M&Ms.
I placed a handful of candy into her pintsized yellow purse.
Well, this child may not have figured out how to say ‘Trick or Treat’ but she had no problem demanding in a loud voice, “I want more.”
Not seeing any parent willing to claim this child for their own and within a few feet of being torn apart by a fierce looking group of pirates about to embark upon a mutiny -with me as their intended target I did what any sane and rationale person in a similar situation would do.
I turned the young lass around and sent her back from when she came.
And so this year, I am armed and ready.
I have a sign that reads: PLEASE REMEMBER TO SAY “THANK YOU”- IT GURANTEES A HIGHER RATE OF RETURN…I figured if the little ones don’t get it then the parents responsible for these little ones will and will pipe up with, “Don’t forget to say thank you Junior….”
Did You Know that…
- Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, where lingering Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays.
American almanacs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries do not include Halloween in their lists of holidays.
- The transatlantic migration of nearly two million Irish following the Irish Potato Famine (1845–1849) finally brought the holiday to the United States.
- Scottish emigration, primarily to Canada before 1870 and to the United States thereafter, brought the Scottish version of the holiday to each country.
- The main event for children of modern Halloween in the United States and Canada is trick-or-treating, in which children disguise themselves in costumes and go door to door in their neighborhoods, ringing each doorbell and yelling "Trick or treat!" to solicit a gift of candy or similar items. (CAVEAT I would like to add that children should say thank you when they receive a treat.)
- At the turn of the 20th century, Halloween had turned into a night of vandalism, with destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people.
- School posters during this time called for a "Sane Halloween." Children began to go door to door, receiving treats, rather than playing tricks on their neighbors. This helped to reduce the mischief, and by the 1930s, "beggar's nights" had become very popular. Trick-or-treating became widespread by the end of the 1930s.