Trick or Treat?

On yesterday’s Halloween post, fellow cold-toast eater and bloggy friend, Loth, pointed out that:

Halloween is also a very long-standing tradition here in Scotland. We dressed up and went out as children, only back then it wasn’t called trick or treat (drat you pesky north americans!), it was called “guising”. When you knocked at your neighbour’s door, you didn’t just shout “Trick or treat” and expect sweets, you had to perform a party piece – a song, a joke or a poem. The local kids round here still all write a song and perform a sort of group dance on the doorstep – really cool!

Then she goes on to say that they didn’t have pumpkins, so they used to carve turnips.



This is an actual traditional Irish turnip jack-o-lantern that now lives in the Museum of Country Life in Ireland.

Apparently, Halloween is a lot of hard work in foreign countries and used to be a lot of work around here in the olden days, too.

Up until maybe the last 30 years, kids in North America were expected to perform before getting candy. And they all carried UNICEF boxes to collect spare change for kids less fortunate. Whatever happened to UNICEF boxes? And whatever happened to kids working a little for their candy?

Some really old people still ask the kids to sing for them before giving them that yummy home-made popcorn ball wrapped in waxed paper that get thrown in the trash as soon as the kid gets home because it probably contains pins and razor blades. Of course the kids just look at the old codger or coochie like they’re completely bonkers and run away.

Somewhere along the line kids got wise to the fact that singing and reciting Halloween poetry at every house takes up a lot of valuable candy collecting time. Now kids don’t even know that performing was ever part of the whole Halloween schtick. Now they barely say ”trick-or-treat” or even “hello”.  Now they just race around the neighbourhood hitting only the most well-lit and best decorated houses whose front door isn’t too far from the sidewalk.

When I say “race”, I don’t mean that in a figurative sense, I mean they literally race. They’re running full out. They push by other kids. They jostle for position on the front step of the house. If there are a lot of kids at the door already, they just run on by the house – it would take too long to wait behind all those kids. They may start out the evening with a group of friends, but if a friend can’t keep up they get left behind.

There’s no time to waste. They run up to the door, hope the homeowner is ready with a handful of candy so they don’t have to ring the bell, or godforbid, knock. They’re too out of breath to say anything, so they just hold open their sacks, get their stuff and run off. Most of the little ones still manage to yell out a “thank you” as they stumble off to the next house. The rest just flee in silence.

A lot of  parents follow their kids in a car or wait at the end of the block for them. In the back seat is a large Tupperware storage container so the kids can dump their sack at the end of every block. No kid wants to carry a 20 pound sack around all night – especially not since the tradition of shelling out cans of pop or those triangular plastic bags of coloured fluid became popular.

Seriously, what are people thinking giving kids cans of pop on Halloween? Or apples? Or oranges? No kid a) wants fruit for Halloween; and b) wants to carry around a couple of kilos of fruit; and c) would be allowed to eat that fruit even if they wanted to. Just stop it.

And stop with the home-made stuff, too.  It’s nice to mentally live in the 1940s and wrap up fudge and cookies and rice crispy squares to give to the kiddies, but these are pretty much guaranteed to go into the bin. It’s a waste. Sure, these nice people are probably not baking cookies with rat poison in them, but who knows?  Save the baked goodies for close friends.

I hope kids are still enjoying Halloween despite the new fast-paced trick-or-treating and the dangerous treats and the potentially dangerous people lurking in the dark. And I hope the weather is nice. Right now they’re saying a high of 15 degrees (60 F) which is great, but also a 60% chance of rain, which would suck.


28 responses to “Trick or Treat?

  1. What about the teenage “trick-or-treaters”? 15 year olds who show up expecting candy, with pathetic 2-minute costumes (if they have costumes at all).

    Our good friend Don Mills recently ranted about this. (Worth reading, read, by the way).

    Teenagers. Hmph. I have no pity.

    Get a job, or a paper route or something, and go spend $3.99 and buy that bag of Caramilks yourself. Leave the candy for the wee ones.

  2. Which is why I keep the lights shut over the door. Plus I don’t want to be going up and down 3 flights of stairs every 5 minutes. Humbug I say.

    Gotta love a Saturday Halloween – no T or T at the cottage.

    Yeah, I know I’m not a nice person.

  3. If I am not mistaken, the UNICEF orange box campaign ceased because it had become too expensive to administer… rolling pennies and all… but I will stand corrected if someone has another explanation.

    Trick and treating is a blast with little kids. My 5 year old is over the moon about her faerie princess get-up and my two year old is all set to dress as a knight and smite all those who deny him his loot (especially that Conservative party guy down the street… smite away!)…

    The teens – well, maybe they are just missing their childhoods and this is a way for them to reach out and re-live their glory days…. have some sympathy people. 😦

    Aw, just joshin’ ya… they’re jerks!

  4. I don’t know how your concept of trick or treat got so disastrously twisted. It was never an invitation to doing a trick, song, variety show in order to get the grinches to give up some swag.
    It was a threat that some horrible trick would be played on the grump if they didn’t come across with an acceptable bribe.
    As such it is the quintessential north american tradition.

  5. My Trick or Treat days were the 1940’s and early 50’s, although a bunch of us did dress up when we were about 16 and go to the places that housed boys we wanted to interest (who weren’t home, of course, bad idea). There were only a few places I went where I was asked to recite or whatever, and did so with rage in my heart because it embarrassed me so much.
    When my kids were small, we lived where about 100 children arrived at our door every year. I did not carry on that tradition. We are talking the ’70’s here, and even then there were some fast running kids that shoved the bag at you, silently panting. Many of them just begged, though. They had a chant ‘AnyTHING for Hallow EEn’. Teens in good costumes got candy from me. See above.
    My Halloween dress is an orange sweater and black pants. My porch is dressed in an evil orange fabric face over the porch light and a pumpking, usually. This year I have added a horrible wreath of pumkin faces that glows garish green. Ook. Moment of madness.
    I now make special treats for the two families of kids who visit us on our rural road – wrapped and labelled and handed to their parent/driver.

  6. i used to get sick to my stomach with excitement on halloween. i have passed this down to Gracie, it’s almost too much handle 🙂
    i also used to get soooo uncomfortable when people asked for a trick. gawd, way too shy for that.

  7. UNICEF boxes are still going strong. My step-daughters had boxes last year. Perhaps some kids don’t like mixing charity work with their candy, but it’s still an active program.

  8. I thought the UNICEF thing was new because I had never heard of it until we moved here (8 years ago). I believe the little girl that does it in our neighborhood is the same little girl that collects peanut butter and jelly once a year to make school lunches for poor children. She does a good job with that and usually wins for her troop. We get a thank you note every year with a picture of her in front of tons of PB&J. What I don’t like are the kids that ring the bell and just stand there with their bags open. I posted my 3 rules for treak-or-treating in 2006 and then repeated them in 2007:

    1) If you are an adult DO NOT come to my door carrying a 4 month old baby dressed in a cute little costume to collect candy. The baby will not remember the experience and the baby does not need candy. This only applies to people with an only child. If you have an actual real child that is trick-or-treating, feel free to bring along your cute little baby, but do not ask for candy for the baby.
    2) If you are a kid that is taller than me, do not come to my house. If you are 5′ 5″ or taller, you are too old to trick-or-treat.
    3) Say “Thank you” and mean it or I will put a wicked curse on your ass.

  9. Friar – Yes, I read Don Mills. I’ve even seen adults trick or treating. Well, they were either adults or teenagers who’d led very, very hard lives

    Jazz – You’re a fine person. The handing out candy part is boring and makes you feel victimized – it’s like being gang-robbed. I’m never home for that part, either.

    Trashee – So, will you be the one who gets to go out with the kids or are you the one who’s stuck at home to greet the beggers?

    Bandobras – Hey, where have YOU been? Long time no comment. Anyway, ya I know the phrase is extortionist – give us treats or we’ll TP your house and egg your wife, but before that the kids were also expected to perform – then comes the threat to pay up for the performance, or else. Right?

    Grouchy – Either way it’s all so very wrong. We spend so much time warning kids about stranger danger, don’t accept candy from strangers, don’t talk to strangers, don’t wander around in the dark, candy’s not good for you, etc. And then? Then we send them out to break all the rules in one night. We should be ashamed.

    Mary – Maybe I lived in a different part of the province, because kids were still expected to sing for their candy where I grew up. And it sounds like you’re a wild and crazy Halloweener these days!

    Meanie – Hey, if you’re too shy to sing for people then you shouldn’t be out begging for candy. Ha! And ya, my daughter used to be beside herself with excitement on Halloween too. It’s still her favourite day of the year. She’s been plotting costumes since last year.

    Susan – Good to know. I wonder why we hardly see kids with the boxes anymore then?

    Geewits – Good rules, although there are some mighty tall 12-year-olds around, especially the girls. I can’t believe people have the nerve to go trick or treating with a baby!

  10. My turnip lanterns were never as impressive as that photograph. After three days of hacking at a turnip with a tablespoon, one tended to give up in despair.

  11. Meanie – She found a poodle skirt and saddle shoes so she’s doing a 50s thing and her friend is a flapper and another one is a hippy. They’re all doing a decades theme thing.

    Loth – I can’t even cope with doing a pumpkin, so I don’t blame you for giving up on the turnip. That’s just insane. Whoever came up with that bright idea must have been drunk.

  12. My kids’ school doesn’t do the UNICEF boxes anymore. I thought they deemed it to be unsafe. Anyway, instead, at their school, they ask people to send in donations. If she school raises enough money, then teachers and the principal will get a pie in the face. My daughter is very excited about that part.

  13. That turnip is as hideous as the mummy (which I did steal for my post, thank you very much).

    I carried a UNICEF box. I don’t remember much about it except that it wasn’t unusual and that there were commercials about UNICEF on TV.

    I remember that we were told, even back then, not to accept apples or fruit because it was rumored that someone in the U.S., some unlucky child, had bitten into an apple with a razor in it.

    I also remember a man twirling a kitten by its tail. When we told him to stop it, he asked us if we wanted it. We were afraid to take it with us because we didn’t think our mom’s would let us have it. My mom marched me back to his house to get the kitten but it was late and the houses were dark and looked different and I couldn’t remember which house it was. I still feel yucky about that.

  14. *points flashlight upwards under chin and clears throat*

    This is a true Halloween story. That picture XUP posted at the top of the blog is *not* a turnip jack-o-lantern. It’s what happens to an actual human being……


    he or she…….

    (oh this is almost too horrible to contemplate)

    eats too much cold-buttered toast.


    (Toldja it was scary.)

  15. Jennifer – Yup there’s no better fundraiser than the chance of dunking your boss/principal in a water tank or smacking them in the face with a pie.

    LoLa- How horrible. And what a position to put a little kid in. He probably went on to become a serial killer and is not rotting in prison somewhere.

    Alison – AAAAAAAAAAArrrrrggggghhh!!!!! It’s a story that’s both scary AND delicious — hot buttered turnip…mmmmmm

    Grouchy – It’s okay. You still have the actual Halloween to get through and that ought to knock all the toast-related horrors from your mind.

  16. my mom told me that unicef boxes were stopped because people were keeping the money or using unicef boxes to get money, so they stopped doing it. Anyways, that what she remembers. maybe only North Carolinians stole from charities on Halloween. Sheesh.

  17. I used to love Halloween-couldn’t wait for it to get dark so we could go out and get our candy. I love the excitement of little kids and their costumes. They don’t have it here. I sort of miss it-except for the teenagers you mentioned.

  18. laura, your mom rocks. i would’ve tried to go back and find that cat too.

    xup, i love the idea of kids doing a little ditty/dance/song thing i wonder how we could start a movement to bring it back into fruition? that would be awesome.

  19. LoLa – That makes sense. I’m sure kids here wised up to that opportunity, too.

    Linda – I’ve heard that some expatriates make a half-hearted attempt at doing Halloween in France, but the French won’t go for it. You’ll have to make a visit home in time for Halloween with the kids one year.

    Lost – Ya, it would be nice if they actually still said that even. But they don’t. They just show up, hold out their bag and run off. Without even a thanks most of the time.

    Rambler – Vouchers for what? Candy? Ha ha.

    Leah – Good luck with that. You could be like the old people who demand a performance before parting with their unwrapped breath mints.

  20. I love the idea of performing for treats. I’d much rather stay home and be entertained all evening as I’m sure my little ones would also enjoy the free shows. How can we get this going again?

    We’ve been mowed down every year by the speeding trick-or-treaters. Oh, and the kids who dump the entire bowl of candy left out on doorsteps really irk me. They’re usually the same racing kids. I can’t help but smirk when I find them wiped out on the concrete a block later after failing to clear some shrubbery.

  21. When my brother and I were teens we went halloween caroling, mostly because we wanted to dress up. We didn’t ask for candy, although a few places gave us some anyway (they didn’t want leftovers). We sang “dont eat your mother” and “the eggplant that ate Chicago”… and maybe other things I can’t remember now.

  22. OTC – The obvious solution is to start a FB petition. That’s where all major world change begins these days. You’re not the only one who feels this way. I’d sign it!

    Kalie – See, that’s cute. Go join On The Curb’s FB petition to bring the fun back into Halloween

  23. people still make stuff? my mom never let us eat home-made stuff. ever. they were strangers and you didnt know what was in them

    apples also. they were cut up and tossed in teh back yard for squirrels

    poor speedy is always the kid that is so busy saying trick or treat and thank you and telling the person that whatever candy she got is her favorite, or her moms favorite that she gets shoved into the corner of a porch. all these other kids come flying up behind her and she is too nice to shove them out of her way. so she just waits. once the crowd leaves and she can actually get down the steps safely then she will go.