I hate Halloween. It was all right when I was younger. It was an odd celebration with apple bobbing and not a lot else. But gradually it has become dreadful (as in full of dread). It is the importation of “Trick or Treat” that has made it so bad. We didn’t have “Trick or Treat” when I was a child. I believe it’s history is ancient and widespread, but it’s current form apparently took shape in America in the 1920’s or 30’s. England re-imported it relatively recently.
I’m sure some of you are mystified as to my negativity on this front. It’s all about little kids dressing up and having fun isn’t it? No, it isn’t. It is about what we are teaching said children and the effect their behaviour may have on the disadvantaged in our society.
Let’s look at “Trick or Treat” without the cutesy overlay. What is it really? “Give us – all of us – a treat or we will play a trick on you”. Does that sound familiar to you? “Give us your money or we’ll beat you up”. I think that is the grown up version. It’s called demanding money with menaces and it’s a criminal offence.
How can it be right for us to teach small children that this is desirable behaviour? I can remember a conversation with a neighbour a few years ago about children playing ball games in a communal area. She said “we don’t mind the little ones doing it, but not the bigger ones”. She didn’t see that the little ones turn into the bigger ones. That you can’t expect them to know at what age you consider them to be too old for such behaviour. If you want children to learn something really well you teach it to them whilst they are too young to question it.
If you don’t want them to do it when they get older, the easiest thing is just not to teach it to them in the first place. Now, I know that many children will grow up and realise that there is a difference between cute toddlers in fancy dress and a teenager in a hoody, but not all will.
And think about what it’s like for those on the other side of the equation, the victims of “Trick or Treat”. I don’t know if you’ve ever been poor, I don’t mean short of money, I mean at the “do we pay the bill or do we eat” stage. I have, and when you are in that place the expectation that you can find the money to buy treats for someone else’s children is not a reasonable one.
You’d be amazed at the number of people who will go without rather than disappoint the kiddies. With some it is testament to their generosity of spirit. With others it is fear at what the trick might be. And then there are those who just don’t answer the door at Halloween, not because of their fear of the supernatural, but because of their fear of the natural, the very natural indeed, when you teach it.