When I was a kid, I went trick or treating with my two sisters every year. We knocked on door after door in costume scoring candy and trinkets, then took our haul to class the next day to show them off and share. There were so many kids in the neighborhood doing the same thing, that often we’d get to a house and they’d be all out of treats.
Years have passed since then, and I still keep the tradition alive, but now, as an adult, leaving a bowl of candy by the door for any kids who live near me. But the number of them coming for that candy has dramatically decreased. Last year only two or three groups of kids stopped by, and the rest of the night, the streets were empty.
What has changed? Are parents too afraid to stroll with their kids at night? Are kids maturing too fast? Or is the spirit of Halloween simply dying?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 41.1 million kids between the ages of 5 and 14 in the country – all potential trick-or-treaters. And 93.3 percent of households with residents are reported to have considered their neighborhood safe in 2011, according to the same data. So with so many kids, and so many potential safe stops, where is the chilling effect?
Maybe the old peer pressure to trick or treat is dying. Elizabeth Cotte, a Miami mother of a 10-year-old son, Enrique, recalls asking him whether or not he wanted to participate this year. He said no, but didn’t have a specific reason why.
Part of it could also be due to unruly teens, at least in some municipalities. In 2010, Dena Potter of the Associated Press reported on a trick-or-treating ban in Belleville, Illinois. That town’s mayor, Mark Eckert, signed an ordinance banning high-school-age kids from going door to door. In the same article, Potter noted that in Virginia, several cities have age limits to trick-or-treating, as well as cities in Mississippi, South Carolina and Maryland.
There may also an increasing fear of accidents on parents’ part – and it’s not unfounded. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, children are four times more likely to be struck by a car on Halloween than any other night. Last year, State Farm Insurance released a report, too, that the highest number of child-pedestrian fatalities occur on Halloween.
As a response, trick-or-treating activities have largely moved indoors, often to schools and malls without car traffic. As far back as 2006, New York Times reporter Julie Bick wrote that retailers were increasingly using the holiday and candy loss-leaders to boost sales.
And both kids and parents have found it just more efficient. ““It takes hours to make it to 20 or 30 houses,” said Holly A. Curby in the New York Times article. Curby was then marketing director of the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City, Utah. “Here you can get to 120 stores and still not miss your bedtime.”
Giselle Robles is a professional salsa/mambo dancer, photographer/videographer and is an Associate Producer/Librarian for Fusion.