Ruining Halloween

 My wife says we’ve almost ruined Halloween. It’s one of her favorite holidays. She drags out her string of Halloween pumpkin lights, her motion-activated plastic pumpkin that makes scary sounds and the big gray bat that hangs in the foyer.

Having purchased several hundred treats, Jenny’s ready for a crowd of little goblins and ghosts. The problem is not many come. Whatever happened to the Halloween we enjoyed when we were kids?

I lived on a farm until fourth grade, so my parents would drive us into town to trick-or-treat in several city blocks around my grandparents’ house. The streets would be filled with groups of young kids, mostly in homemade costumes, going from house to house. Seemingly, everyone had a porch light on.

Sometimes we would get a candy bar, but often it was a popcorn ball or a cupcake. I tried to avoid candy apples tossed into my bag, because I didn’t like the sticky things and I was afraid of mashing my cupcakes. Because I was shy, the hardest part of the evening to me was going up to the doorbell and actually saying, “Trick or treat,” to adults I didn’t know. It was good training, though.

Before the night was over, my sister and I would have met up with many of our friends, who attended the same elementary school we did, just up the hill from my grandparents’ house.

Of course, we didn’t eat a lot of our candy that night because we already had filled up on sweets at the Halloween party in our classroom. (Remember when we used to be able to take cupcakes and candy to school?)

Things certainly have changed. We had fewer than 50 kids show up at our house Halloween night. Even though it was a nice night for walking, most arrived by car, having been driven from one porch-lit house to the next.

Many of the houses in our neighborhood were dark. Either the adults had gone off to costume parties or they were lurking in the darkened houses to avoid having to answer the door.

Perhaps your neighborhood was different. I’m told some areas here in New Albany still attract lots of kids. But the idea that it’s something to do in your own neighborhood seems to be in decline.

Halloween has suffered from several things. First, 25 or so years ago, we had a couple of incidents involving tainted food or razor blades in food. And we started allowing our kids to eat only pre-packaged candy.

Then somewhere along the way a few people decided to turn what for most of us was a fun night when we were kids into a religious issue.

Somehow, groups from churches to shopping centers got into the act of offering “alternatives to Halloween.” I don’t think most of us thought we needed an alternative to Halloween when we were growing up.

Often these events provide an opportunity to gets lots of candy in a hurry without getting much exercise. And without meeting up with anyone in the neighborhood.

Why can’t Halloween just be Halloween again—a fun night for handing out candy to little ghosts and goblins? And giving a wave to their parents, standing at the curb with a flashlight.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.

About Chris Elkins

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