Sunday, November 1, 2009

Drive By Trick-or-Treat

Last night, we were counting on only a few trick-or-treaters to come to our house, so we put out a few pumpkins and changed the normal porch light to something a little more festive. I grabbed the old boom box (yes, we still have one) and put it on the porch to play scary sound-effects. I figured we'd probably get 15-20 kids. Well, it turns out that we had a lot more than expected. Yes, our little display actually grabbed the attention of more children and parents than we originally anticipated. Fortunately, Lindsay and I planned ahead and had plenty of candy for the little ones.

I took a moment to look outside, and considering the volume of people we had, there weren't many people walking the street at all. In fact, most of the time, there was no one on the street. Where were all these people coming from? I got a clue when I sat next to the window and looked outside. People were coming in cars. The parents would park, and the kids would get out. They'd come to my house and then stop by my festive neighbor's house, and then get back in the car and drive off. Is this the new way of trick-or-treating? Drive-by?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. My neighbor and I were the only people who decorated our homes with Halloween stuff. Both of us had carved pumpkins, lights, and things to grab the attention of the lil children who wanted some candy. Every other house on the block was dark; no decorations adorning their porches, no lights, and no indication that trick-or-treaters were welcome. Why walk all over the neighborhood looking for that one house in a hundred that will actually answer when you can cover more ground in a car and actually get more candy? The idea is to get to the candy.

Things have changed since I stopped trick-or-treating. The last time I went out in costume, door to door, looking for the sweet goodness of candy was when I was 14 years old. At that time, I lived in a large apartment complex, and the pickins' were good. But most of the trick-or-treating I reminisce about, and love the most, is from Hoquiam. Hoqiuam is the town where my first memories are from. On Halloween, I remember going door to door for candy and treats. Everyone would open their doors. Everyone had some candy for you. Everyone had lots of decorations, and some people really went all out to scare you, excite you, and make you laugh. It was a good time, and Halloween soon became one of my all time favorite holidays.

Hoqiuam was laid out a lot like Tacoma. It was a boom town back in the days of the logging industry, and many of the houses are similar to the homes found in Tacoma. On Halloween, the streets were littered with children looking for the same thing as me. The costumes were in great abundance, and responsible parents followed their children wherever they would go; many times the parents would be in costume as well.

It seems, however, that door to door trick-or-treating has fallen away and has been supplanted by mall trick-or-treating, or the so-called "trunk-or-treat" that a lot of churches do. These places offer more security and protection than hitting the streets - or so they claim.

It's a violent world out there, and I'm sure there are hooligans who do all sorts of things, like bag snatching, vandalism, theft, and whatnot. People are all worked up over people who do things like put razor blades in apples, inject poison into candy bars, and cook up home made treats with arsenic and reefer.

The funny thing is that none of that crap ever happened. Aside from a few incidents of bag snatching and theft, they were mostly just horror stories parents told their kids to keep them safe. It was meant to keep the children's feet on the ground as they ran from house to house, knocking on doors of people they didn't know.

The hysteria grew though. Even with the lacking evidence to back up such paranoia, parents started taking their kids off the streets, homes started going dark because residence feared reprisals if their treats weren't good enough, and slowly the streets began to be far less lively until they fell silent on Halloween. How sad.

It seems that more and more these days, people celebrate holidays less and less. Participation in something that is supposed to be really fun has dropped. Back in the day, you could go from house to house on Christmas looking at pretty lights and awesome decorations. You could go around on Halloween and see scary spooky sights, and some haunted homes. It just seems that people have become lethargic, apathetic, or they are just "too busy" to actually live life to the fullest.

I have to admit. I've been a little guilty. Last year, we only had a porch light on. I'm sure that's one of the reasons people passed our house instead of stopping by. This year, we put up welcoming indicators to invite our neighbors to our porch. Looking out of our house, I realized that two homes in twenty were decorated. My neighbor's favorite holiday is Halloween. His home was decorated. We were the only homes in the neighborhood that were decorated.

I have made great strides in recent years to be really festive. Each year, our home gets more lights at Christmas time, next year, I will have more spooky stuff to make my house cool and attract more trick-or-treaters. We had 60 this year. Next year, I want 100. I will do my part to keep the holidays we celebrate alive and well. In spite of what is always popular, I will always strive to be better than the average bah hum bug out there. Long live holidays and long live Halloween!

-James

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