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Keeping the Halloween Spirit Alive
In the old days, when people actually knew their neighbors, costumed kids would roam the streets in groups with an older sibling or an adult and knock on doors. The idea was that good-humored adults would give out candy in exchange for a costume parade of cute kids (the treat) and perhaps a chance to spook them out when they come to the front door (the trick). Today, however, many neighborhoods and communities have become less involved. The fine art of trick or treating is slowly becoming a dying tradition.
Photo by: Paul Keleher on Flickr Creative Commons
“Haunted” neighbors’ houses are replaced by brightly lit shopping malls. Retail employees, who would undoubtedly rather be handing out goods from their homes with some friends and a few drinks, dump out packaged candy to kids in long lines. Homes are closed for private parties; churches and other community organizations host festivals to veer kids away from the streets; and some residents, worried about of being left with massive bags of tooth-decaying candy, just give up and hang signs on their door that read, “No candy here.”
Fortunately, there are still neighborhoods where the spirit of door-to-door trick or treating is very much alive. JR Lentini lives in a neighborhood near Washington, D.C. Each year, he carefully considers the trick-or-treaters on Halloween and goes all out with the treats.
“I make a point of having the best damn candy on the block: generally a dozen or so full-sized bars, a ‘handful rule’ for the poorly named ‘fun-size’ bars and usually a couple of gourmet chocolates for the adults tagging along,” Lentini said.
Lentini has seen a fluctuation of trick-or-treaters in the last few years and says it depends on where you live. “My former neighborhood always left me with piles of leftovers, but last year, our new neighborhood practically cleaned us [out],” Lentini said. “We had groups of kids coming and going for about two hours, not nearly as many as there seemed to be in my neighborhood when I was a kid, but still a respectable number.”
Photo by: Profstewartfk on Flickr Creative Commons
In smaller towns, the spirit of Halloween is still going strong. Amber Mckay-Glinski , a resident of New Boston, Mich., says while she has noticed fewer households participating in Halloween these days, it is still a huge event in her neighborhood, and there is definitely a community effort to spook it up and entertain the kids.
“In town, the fire station hands out cider, donuts and hot chocolate,” Mckay-Glinksi said. “There are many hayrides and party trains that always join in on the fun. Most folks go in large groups with their kids, and in town, it is like a reunion every year. We usually run into many folks from high school.”
From the evidence in party stores and costume shops, people still thrive on Halloween and look forward to celebrating the artistry and effort of little trick-or-treaters who knock on their front doors. These festive Halloween enthusiasts encourage kids by decorating their yards, dressing up in costumes and stocking their homes with enough sugar to hyper activate the dead. But what do these neighborly candy-giving patrons have to say about the Halloween spirit coming from the kids?
Cincinnati resident Jason Sparks is not impressed with recent trick-or-treaters that come to his front door.
“Whatever happened to the good costumes?” Sparks said. “Halloween is about witches and warlocks, ghosts and goblins. When did Britney Spears become Halloween? And I’m sorry, but a pillow case, ripped-up jeans, a white t-shirt and some facial makeup do not constitute a Halloween costume. Trick or treating is for kids, not teenagers who just want free candy.”
So, the spirit of Halloween goes both ways. It takes a good neighbor to perpetuate the haunt and provide candy, but it also takes genuine trick-or-treaters who actually put forth some solid effort into their costume. Traditionally, that’s the deal. The spirit of Halloween is, after all, a mutual effort between neighbors to bond the community through combined generosity and imagination. If it’s just the candy you are after, go buy a bag for yourself at the store.
Many people are disappointed that the Halloween tradition is being “sold out” to shopping malls and contained festivals. George Franks from Bethesda, Maryland agrees;
“Today it is more about parents and partying,” Franks said. “It is a big-dollar corporate business, and it is less about kids. When it is about kids, it is over-structured, over-sanitized and activity-driven, like everything else for kids today.”
Photo by: Uriel 1998 on Flickr Creative Commons
Dave Mason from Minneapolis, St. Paul says Halloween in his community is stifled by unusually strict rules and limitations. “When I was a kid, and my three children were of that age, we made our costumes, and that was a big part of the fun. There would be a Halloween party at school where the kids could wear their costumes and have fun. Now, we get a list of the things they can’t dress as, including ghost, witches, etc. [Is Halloween] gone? No. Changed? A lot”
Halloween is one holiday that brings out the kid in all of us. Adults and children alike can wear costumes and visit or create spooked-out homes for tricks and treats. Today, some feel that Halloween has lost that personal connection with the community, as the tradition is being gradually outsourced to commercialism. It takes a grassroots movement from each of us to keep the original spirit of Halloween alive.
April Lentini writes for Apartmentguide.com
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Jason Bond Halloween Costume 2009
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