Halloween is a fun holiday, short and sweet. It doesn’t require a lot of prep and is over in a few hours.
Whether or not you like or celebrate the holiday is not the purpose of this discourse. Rather, I would like to address a disturbing trend in the history of trick-or-treating. Having celebrated this rite for 20 years with my own children, I noticed a change two years ago.
Being the official candy-giver-outer in our household, I was stunned when not one but several teenagers rang the bell, holding out their hands for candy, with nary a glimpse of anything pretending to be a costume. They were in typical teen garb — jeans, sneakers and T-shirts. I was so surprised at this Halloween faux-pas I gave them candy anyway.
After the night was over, I gave their solecism some thought. Why had I been so surprised by this social gaffe? Well, up to this point I had always thought that a holiday like Halloween was sacrosanct. The rules of the game were clear, and everyone understood and abided by them. You dress up, you get candy — pretty straightforward.
In my day, it never would have entered anyone’s head to go trick-or-treating without a costume. It seemed to me that I was seeing a paradigm shift in which Halloween had become a microcosm of the welfare state, where even children thought they were entitled to something for nothing.
I decided to do my part to nip this disturbing trend in the bud. I was determined that if children were going to take partake of my sweetened largesse, they were going to have to do something to earn it. Like wear a costume, at least. So last year, I made a big sign and propped it up on the porch. It read, “No costume, no candy.” Then, I waited.
Sure enough, it wasn’t long before two teenage girls hopped up my stairs, sans costume. Now, I give out good candy — M&Ms, Reese’s cups, Jolly Ranchers, Skittles. No Mary Jane’s or malted milk balls here. I could see them drooling over the candy bowl. They sang out, “Trick or treat!” and I smiled politely and pointed at my sign.
They looked crestfallen and rather shocked. I told them they could still get some candy, but they would have to earn it.
I gave them the option of singing a song to earn their cavity-inducing treat. I told them, “Sing ‘I’m a Little Teapot, Short and Stout’ and I’ll give you candy.”
They laughed, looked at each other, dropped their pillowcases pregnant with candy and belted it out, complete with motions. They received their candy and departed, good will all around. A single girl arrived later, and I gave her the same routine. She stomped off in disgust, candy-less.
My favorite experiment of the night was a teen couple. She had on a cute costume, he didn’t. No doubt, he was too cool for all that dressing-up nonsense … but not too cool to beg for candy. When they came, I gave her some candy and explained the situation to him. As it sunk in, she laughed hysterically at her boyfriend, while he stood staring in dismay. Suddenly, I saw his face light up and a gleam came in his eye.
“Wait,” he said.
He reached behind and whipped out a black bandanna from his back pocket. He tied it around his face, over his nose and mouth and then said, in his best cowboy twang, “I’m a bandit.”
I laughed and gave him some candy for his quick thinking.
“But next year, don’t come here without a costume,” I warned.
They grinned and went on their way.
Now no doubt there are people thinking, “Boo, humbug!” or calling me the Scrooge of Halloween, which would be an injustice. I enjoy Halloween as much as the next person. I just feel that if you’re going to participate in something, you need to at least make some sort of effort to be a part of it.
Therefore, I am sending out a plea to all the candy-giver-outers out there. Join this noble crusade to rid the world of costume-less trick-or-treaters. And when you are hailed by one of these freeloaders this Halloween night, you know what to say: “No costume, no candy!” Or alternatively, “Boo, humbug.”
DeBry lives in Richmond Hill.