Sunday, November 7, 2010

Halloween Reflections



I've always enjoyed Halloween, both for the colors of the season and for the creativity it inspires in crafters. Henry and I have also really enjoyed the multitudes of kids who have come by in the last three years at our home for candy. Our previous home was about fifteen minutes out in the county and we averaged about three kids per night, so having a few hundred at our new home was a blast. This year has been a little different. We decorated the outside as usual, bought tons of candy as usual and decorated inside as usual. But, the crowds this year were different. We had about a third as many kids this year as before. I'm not sure if there is any one reason for this.
For one thing, our county decided this year to break Halloween into three nights since it fell on a Sunday. Friday night was for city kids, Saturday night was for county kids and Sunday night was for the kids on Seymore Johnson Airforce base. I can go along with choosing either Friday or Saturday night, not just because many here would object to having it on a Sunday, but also coming from a school teacher, it's a school night. But this was very confusing. Even my students at school, who are usually authorities on these things, weren't sure.
The crowds we did get, fortunately, became friendlier as the night progressed. I was having a lot of misgivings from the first wave of kids and their parents. Many kids came to the door and just stood there. We had to prompt them to say, "Trick or Treat," and then they just turned and walked off without saying "Thank you." Even their parents who also stood with a bag or plastic jack-0-lantern begging also said nothing. Instead, they glared at us (I'm sure I had a questioning look) until we dropped candy in their sacks. Since when do grown people demand candy? And maybe we need to post a sign next year? I heard from friends that they experienced the same phenomena.
When my husband was growing up in Ohio, he notes that you not only had to say "Trick or Treat," but you had to tell a joke or do a trick. We loved this when we lived in Wilkes-Barre, PA for a few years. I remember one child just walking into our living room to turn a somersault in his costume. These kids really worked for their candy! Most of them had a joke to share.
I did note more parents walking with their kids this year. This is a definite plus for safety reasons. It was also nice to hear parents prompting their shy kids -"What do you say?" There were more of these than the aforementioned, which ended our evening on a happy note.
I would hate to see the Trick or Treat tradition die out completely. I understand a parent's hesitancy to allow strangers to give their kids candy or to turn their costumed kids loose in a different (or their own) neighborhood. I hope the maybe two-hundred kids we didn't see this year had an opportunity to go to a centralized center, such as a mall or fall bazaar, and to dress up and pretend for an evening.
Creativity happens early in life. Just stand back and watch and listen to a group of four- or five-year-olds. Their language is full of pretend, and full of carefully thought-out images. Imagination comes naturally to humans. We choose to let our children develop it or not. What a lot of people don't seem to realize is that creativity and imagination are linked to intelligence. Technology wouldn't be possible if someone didn't imagine a better world. Freedoms in this country wouldn't be possible if someone didn't imagine what they could be like to live under better conditions.
You may object to Halloween for whatever reason, but I could see some real thought processes having gone on in some of the costumes which graced my front porch. I also saw an opportunity for parents and children to interact in a positive way, creating a a work of art in the guise of a costume, learning etiquette, and just plain spending time together without videos, tv or cell phones.

P.S. Thanks to http://dcwvinc.blogspot.com/2010/09/ready-for-halloween.html for the Halloween paper designs.