Monday 1 November 2004

it'll catch on, one day

We got around 6 or 8 trick or treaters last year, so I thought I'd pick up some miniature chocolate bars just in case we got some again this year. As I was sampling a few on Saturday, Paul pointed out that they are supposed to be for the kids. I pointed out that this was our son's first Halloween and he has dressed up as a football, and ate five more chunky miniature Kit Kats. I attempted to carve a more intricate pumpkin this year with a Finding Nemo theme, however my clumsy hands and inferior carving equipment led to the untimely collapse of poor Nemo's face. "We can stick a candle on the windowsill instead," Paul suggested.

So on Saturday, the doorbell rang. "Trick or treat!" shouted the little blonde girl who lives across the road and her two friends. "Um. You do realise that Halloween is tomorrow night?" I was answered by perplexed smiles and hopeful hands holding plastic bags. I threw a large handful of chocolate in each bag and said they could come back again on Sunday night if they liked. They shouted their thanks and scampered away.

On Halloween night, our first trick or treaters rang the bell at around 5pm. A father pushing a stroller stood there with two small children, as they held out bags and mumbled "trick or treat". "You're my very first trick or treaters of the night!" I told them with great enthusiasm. Blank looks, father continues to stand there saying nothing. "Erm. Here you go then," I said as I handed them some candy. One kid said something to me, but I couldn't understand a word through his oversized mask - which didn't seem to matter as the father was already halfway down our driveway trying to escape the crazy foreign lady who dares to speak to strangers. "How odd", I said to Paul. "The father didn't even say hello or smile. You'd think he would have been a bit friendly to someone giving his kids free chocolate". "We're English", Paul explained. Which really did sum it up.

I think I mentioned this last year, but it seems like most of the kids who come round aren't actually enjoying themselves. Trick or treating is a relatively new concept to the British, and as it's not a tradition yet, I think that children are rather confused about the whole thing. They know if they go to enough houses they might get some candy, but they're not entirely sure why - or if it should be fun. It's a great shame; I feel like they're missing out on the excitement of Halloween. Some might argue that going door to door and demanding candy is all part of that American "give us something for nothing" mentality, but to me, the candy was secondary to the fun of trick or treating. I remember some parents would make us do something like tell a joke or sing a song before we'd get our candy, some would put up elaborate decorations with spooky sound effects and jump out of their bushes at kids as they approached the house. We'd dress up at school for the day and have costume contests and stuff ourselves with candy apples. It really wasn't just a matter of ringing bells and getting little packets of squashed crisps, it was an entire day and evening of excitement.

We got around a dozen kids this year (compare that to the 133 kids my Mom and Dad got last night in Toronto), all of them actually dressed up this time, and no surly teens rang the bell at 9pm demanding candy without bothering to put on a costume. I think it's getting better, but as I said to our friends Micky and Susan last night, I might have Halloween parties and invite kids over when our son is old enough to get into it, rather than take him out trick or treating. At least that way, it might actually be fun for him.

Before I forget, I must have a question answered that's been bothering me for years. What do Francophone children say in Quebec when they go trick or treating? No one ever could tell me what the French (Canadian - I realise they don't do Halloween in France) equivalent of "trick or treat" was. Someone please enlighten me.

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