E-T Community Columnist
“Trick or Treat” is the great grandchild (by several generations) of the act of “souling” by which beggars in the Middle Ages would ask for food in exchange for prayers.
This tradition came to the Americas via European immigrants and was annexed to its current popularity by us Baby Boomers. We were the first group for whom “Trick or Treat” became a verb. My first memory of “Trick or Treating” is when I was about four years of age, and my mother dressed me as a hobo — smudging my face with a burnt bit of wine cork.
Google “Trick or Treat” and the majority of articles will say that it is a time when children — yes, children - -go door-to-door in their costumes, announcing “Trick or Treat” with an expectant grin. I have never had a munchkin neglect to say “Thank you” when I tossed a piece or two of candy into his or her bag. Their sweet faces made the donation of the treat a very fair trade.
And this brings me to the crux of the matter of “Trick or Treat.” This year, I was not the door greeter I usually am, as I was busy editing a dissertation for a PhD candidate. So my husband and teenaged son got to “man the door.” And their experiences were absolutely galling. I had stocked up on the usual Halloween fair: candy corn, popcorn balls, candy bars. Here’s what happened:
• My husband gave a sweet little Trick or Treater a popcorn ball. We were saving those for the kids with the most creative costumes. A woman out in the street (sans costume) saw this transaction, broke into a dead run to our door, and said “Trick or Treat” to my husband. He reached for a snack size candy bar to put into her outstretched hand. She pouted and said “I want a popcorn ball.” He was so shocked that he silently fulfilled her request as if he were working a takeout window.
•Another woman called “Trick or Treat” at our door. She had no costume and was holding a baby on her hip. My husband dutifully put a candy bar into her bag. She informed him that there was “someone else” in the car, so she needed more candy.
I won’t bore you with more examples, but these two women were not the exception of the evening — there were many more who had the chutzpa to give such orders to my two candy suppliers.
Suffice to say that there are adults out there who are ruining Halloween. The American tradition is that Halloween is for kids — in some sort of costume. I know times are difficult. But as I told you, my frugal mother made me into a hobo for Halloween. I wore items that were already in the house — no trip to Kmart needed. I said “Trick or Treat” very politely, accepted the treat provided, and said “Thank You” before leaving. The adults we treated not only gave my husband directives on what to place into their plastic sack, they neglected to even say “Thank you.”
OK — I have said my piece. Adults, go to a Halloween party. Enjoy this wonderful time of year. But, please, don’t take away what we can do for the kids. Halloween is a fun time for children. If you want fun, plan a party with your friends! If you are dunning us for candy, we run out way too early, and a six year old meets up with a porch whose lights have been turned out. And for a six year old in his carefully planned costume, that’s just not a very fun—or fair—treat.
Donnie Bryant moved to Stephenville in 1983 to attend Tarleton. She met a local boy, married him and has lived here ever since. She taught at SISD for 20 years and is now focusing on a vagabond career of doing a “little bit of this,” and a “little bit of that.” She is also a member of the E-T's community columnists and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.