Halloween marks the start of the most exciting time of the year, the beginning of a deluge of holidays. Unlike most of its successors, Halloween seems to be free of any sort of cultural expectation or pressure. There’s no need to spend time with a family that might drive you crazy or to find the perfect person to show off on your feed. Halloween is a time to dress up with friends, eat an unreasonable amount of candy, and participate in candy corn discourse (for the record, I’m pro-candy corn). But, like most things, traditions can’t stay the same forever.
As a child, the Halloween experience involved quite a few things. For one, dressing up, whether as the expected book characters (Hermione Granger) or as something slightly more unusual, like a refrigerator. My friends and I would gather at the same house every year, wolfing down pizza as we impatiently waited for the adults to concur that we had waited long enough. They walked with us, waiting at the ends of driveways for us to rush back, our candy bags slightly heavier each time. They lagged behind us, but always within shouting distance, dictating the path we took, and when it was time to go back. At the end of the night, we would return to the haven of the house, gleefully trading candy and evaluating the haul. Upon completion of this ritual, we would progress to passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters left on the streets. This was done with a great deal of judgment and commentary, on the lazy and skimpy costumes, but most significantly, on the age of the people we were giving candy to.
(Photo courtesy of the author)
Remembering that time, the most frustrating thing imaginable was the constant accompaniment of the adults. Surely ten years old was mature enough to freely wander the streets at night on one of the scariest nights of the year! I envied my friends from school who were able to stay out as long as they wanted and to go where they pleased. I was frequently stalled by the sheer size of our group, or because the (in my mind) actual children were slowing us down. I wanted nothing more than to be able to spend Halloween with my friends and my friends only.
My mother took a more severe view of Halloween (hence why it was a family affair). If we had to beg on the streets for candy, then we were going to do it right, with politeness and costumes that required effort. If I had broken out on my own, then it really would’ve been little more than unjustified mooching off of others. According to her, eighth-grade would be my last year, which I found wildly unfair. I hadn’t done anything wrong, and all my friends were still trick-or-treating, and why was she being so mean? I wore her down on the day of my ninth-grade Halloween, collapsing her principles but greatly pleasing me. After that, the rules regarding Halloween became much more lax.
And so I became the thing that I had so highly disregarded from ages roughly five to twelve. I collected free candy every Halloween, all throughout high school, having the decency to feel guilty, but not guilty enough to stop. I was still having fun, still enjoying myself, and quite frankly it’s hard to admit that you’ve grown up. It seems that as we get older, we subtract things that are fun, and add things that are less so. Abstaining from trick-or-treating to work on college apps is simply a depressing prospect.
So yes, it may be frustrating to see a group of teenagers with cat ears and a pillowcase asking for candy, and in my opinion, such a lack of effort does not entitle them to anything. But consider what else is going on in their life. Some may still genuinely enjoy dressing up, seeing the neighbors’ decorated lawns, and the bustling atmosphere that only comes once a year. It’s understandable to try and hold on to traditions as long as you can. Everyone has to grow up at some time, so why not push it off?
This year will be my first without going out, and though it’s a strange feeling, it’s definitely time. Feel free to join me on November 1st, at the nearest CVS, stocking up on discounted Halloween candy.