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No ‘Trick or Treat?’ this year

Nov. 10, 2008

by Roz Kohls

The candy is gone, the costumes and Halloween decorations are put away, and already, stores in Hutchinson are playing Christmas music on their public address systems.

This year’s Halloween was strange, however.

The first strange occurrence was the absence of trick-or-treaters saying “Trick or Treat?” When I was a kid, we went through the neighborhood in groups. We gathered around the front door of a house, and in unison, cried out “Trick or treat?”

This year, when kids came to our door in Glencoe, they rang the doorbell, just stood there, and waited silently. No one said “Trick or treat,” – no one.

Often, the kids who came with a parent, were coached to be polite and say “Thank you,” after we dropped the candy into their bags or plastic pumpkins. But no one said “Trick or treat.”

Originally, “trick or treat?” was a form of extortion. If the homeowner didn’t provide a treat, the kids soaped the house’s windows, threw eggs at the house, or did some other kind of vandalism.

However, if the homeowner would have chosen a trick instead of providing a treat when I was a kid, we would have been so surprised, we wouldn’t have done anything. We thought just dressing up in costumes and getting candy was fun.

Another strange occurrence was how many trick-or-treaters came in cars, instead of walked. Granted, there are only two houses on our block, but the blocks around us are full of houses.

If I had told my parents to drive me house-to-house for trick-or-treating, they would have thought I was crazy. Half the fun of Halloween was walking through the neighborhood after dark, and having other groups of trick-or-treaters see our costumes.

Also this year, several high school-age boys came to our house for treats. No one in high school would have been caught dead trick-or-treating when I was that age. Trick-or-treating was for little kids.

When my husband was growing up in New Germany, no one went trick-or-treating. The kids dressed up in costumes, and went to the city hall for a party. They promenaded around in a circle to display their costumes, and those wearing the best costumes received prizes.

The residents of New Germany provided a party to prevent vandalism, and because trick-or-treating wasn’t considered safe, he said.

I remember hearing horror stories about kids receiving apples with razor blades in them, or of kids being offered coins from a red-hot plate, and burning their fingers when they touched them.

I never actually saw anything bad, though, when I went trick-or-treating. In fact, when I think back on it, the homeowners we went to were incredibly generous. Often, they gave out individual bags full of candy, and full-size candy bars, not the miniature ones we use today.

It’s possible the parents of the kids going trick-or-treating now, are like my husband, and never went trick-or-treating themselves. After all, you can’t teach what you don’t know.