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A FEARLESS HALLOWEEN
THE WAY THINGS WERE The leaves are changing, and my neighbors’ Halloween decorations are already going up. I’m not sure if every neighborhood is like this, but, by the end of the month, our street is just as lit up as it is during Christmas. Personally, I’d prefer to turn out the lights and keep the candy to myself. Seeing the amount of hubbub that goes into the holiday these days really drives home how much Halloween has changed since I was a kid. The difference is night and day. People are so cautious with their trick- or-treaters compared to my generation’s parents. We were left to run wild on our own, from neighborhood to neighborhood, without so much as a curfew to stop us from getting all the candy we could. I’d typically dress up as a hobo — the costume didn’t take much to put together, and I got to carry around a big knapsack to store the night’s gains. Now when trick-or-treaters come to the door, it’s a carefully monitored operation. I can understand chaperoning kids from house to house — we did the same for our daughter when she was young. But these parents will also be checking the candy getting passed out, making sure it’s all wrapped and hasn’t been tampered with in any way. Maybe this is just the accountant in me coming out, but it all feels a little too obsessive given the evidence. Every year we hear the same warnings of tampered chocolate bars, and drugs and poison being passed out to trick-or-treaters. And yet, in the entire time we’ve been tracking Halloween incidents, there hasn’t been a single reported poisoning, and very few incidents involving any sort of tampering. In fact, according to Dr. Aaron Carroll, most reported incidents of tampering turn out to be hoaxes or pranks, often perpetrated by the trick-or-treaters themselves. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I know this information won’t make a lick of difference to parents out there. This isn’t just an instance of misinformation sparking a trend. The ever-increasing caution around Halloween has less to do with the holiday itself, and everything to do with the way society is moving.
Between technology expanding the horizons of who we can connect with at any given second, and the 24-hour news cycle constantly reinforcing the dangers of the world, people are cloistering themselves. It’s getting rarer and rarer for people to know their own neighbors, let alone the folks two blocks down the road. In such a closed-off society, sending your kids out to get candy from total strangers does seem ludicrous. The suburbs of Ohio have not grown any more dangerous since I was a kid — we’ve just grown more fearful and less trusting. It’s getting to the point where these old community traditions just don’t make much sense anymore. I feel bad for those anxious parents painstakingly scanning each and every candy bar wrapper for tears; it just doesn’t seem like anyone should spend a holiday doing that. I know Halloween is supposed to be “spooky,” but, hopefully in the future, we can find ways to take the fear out of the celebrations.
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