Remember trick-or-treating? Not the giving out part, but the receiving?
When I was very young, I had no idea what the term meant. I thought it must have been just a single word: trickertreat. I didn’t find out until later, when I was an older kid and started going out on Halloween with my friends that I broke the term down for the first time into two concepts: getting treated or being tricked.
It was adult-sanctioned childhood extortion. What could be better?
Back in those days, if you didn’t provide the little fake ghouls with a treat, and a good treat at that, the kiddies would gladly soap your windows, toilet paper the tree out front, or throw eggs at your front door.
And it made no difference whatsoever whether or not you left your front porch light on as a welcome beacon. It made no difference whether or not you were even home. If the little extortionists went to your house and didn’t get a treat, you were in serious jeopardy of getting tricked.
Of course, the tricks were fairly benign. Soap washes off easily. Toilet paper decays away. And eggs are scrubbed off easily enough unless you allow them to get dry and hard. True vandalism, breaking windows, setting fires, destroying property, was rare.
Today, of course, the tradition is a little different. The rules of engagement have changed. Parents accompany their kids on their candy-seeking journey until they are almost too old to engage in such activity. And you never go to a house uninvited, one with the porch light off.
The term, trick-or-treat, has lost almost all of its former meaning. It virtually has become a single word. If kids come to your house and you’re out of candy, you can feel fairly safe that you won’t be tricked. Well, that is unless the trick-or-treaters are teenagers. Then all bets are off.
While younger kids and preteens offer little threat, teenagers often forgo the asking-for-a-treat part of the night in favor of concentrating on the tricks. They don’t need to dress like a dork and ask the neighbors for candy; their smaller siblings will provide a bounty for them.
And if you’re in certain larger cities, like Detroit, the tricks have often gotten out of hand. Older teens and even young adults find it amusing to go out on an arson spree on Halloween night. Thankfully, those kinds of serious tricks of outright vandalism are not common in most civilized neighborhoods.
I stopped trick-or-treating when I was about 12 or 13. These days, I often get visits from kids in their mid teens making their rounds. Some of them are simply taking their younger siblings around and so join in the act. Others go out in groups on their own.
Even so, I’ve been fortunate enough over the years not to have been tricked. My first year out of college I got my car egged. And there have been two or three less troublesome tricking events, but nothing major.
There was a time, back in the ‘80s, when the tide got turned and the treat givers started playing dangerous tricks on the costumed kids. Sharp objects such as pins and glass started showing up in apples and candy.
Although there have not been many reports of candy tampering in recent years, the incidence did spark a sense of heightened awareness by parents. More parents are checking the treat bag and more parents are taking their youngster around the neighborhood to trusted homes.
It’s just another way Halloween traditions have evolved over the years. We’ve come a long way from the ancient practice of beggars asking for soul cakes on Halloween in exchange for their prayers on behalf of the dearly departed. Today, a Snickers bar will do just fine.