After sitting on my porch last night for two-and-a-half hours, and being disappointed by the lack of trick-or-treaters, I wondered if there were honestly many kids that still go out. I remembered when I was young enough for trick-or-treating, I used to be out until there weren't any houses that I haven't knocked on. Last night, I didn't see a single kid out on my entire street, which raises the question, does anyone really go out anymore? The answer is: why would a person want to walk around the entire town? Instead, they could be at parties held at school, recreation centers, and at different people's houses.
Before we discuss whether trick-or-treating is dead or not, readers should first understand the history of Halloween and why we celebrate it.
The word Halloween or Hallowe'en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word "Hallowe'en" means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening." It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day). In Scots, the word "eve" is even, and this is contracted to e'en or een. Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Hallowe'en. Although the phrase "All Hallows'" is found in Old English, "All Hallows' Eve" is itself not seen until 1556. The costumes that we wear today is thought to come from classic folk tales with some derivative from Christian influence. Children go in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" implies a "threat" to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. The practice is said to have roots in the medieval practice of mumming, which is closely related to souling. John Pymm writes that "many of the feast days associated with the presentation of mumming plays were celebrated by the Christian Church." These feast days included All Hallows' Eve, Christmas, Twelfth Night, and Shrove Tuesday. Mumming practiced in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, involved masked persons in fancy dress who "paraded the streets and entered houses to dance or play dice in silence."
This past summer I moved into my new apartment and the question that I was constantly asking myself was, is my street this constantly dead on Halloween? I asked my landlord/neighbor if it is ever busy, and he told me that the street has been slowly dropping in numbers. He continued to tell me about when he moved here years ago the street was once one of busiest zones in town. Every year since then, fewer and fewer children had come in the area. This raises multiple questions. Is it the quality of people that live here? Are we not giving enough or adequate candy? Are the kids going somewhere else? Is the population dropping in my city?
Since I have been living here for a few months now, I have met most of the people that live on my street. The many of the people that live on my street are in their mid-20s or they are elderly. Even though I didn't see many decorations on my street, I doubt that it is due to the quality of the people on the street. I can't speak for the people on my street, but I personally just bought the party mix so it had a mixture of everybody's favorite candy. For my third question, I do believe kids are going elsewhere and do other things besides trick-or-treating. For the past few years, more and more events are coming up to distract kids. In my city alone, we have a rec center, schools, and personal parties that all offer fun for all ages. So why would you go walk around town in the cold and beg for candy, when you could go hang out at parties where they have food and games?