At its very premise, Halloween for kids is incredible. You get to dress up in a costume and be something else? Check. You get to show off said costume and everyone – everyone – tells you how amazing you look? Check. You get to go around the neighborhood while it’s dark? Check. You get to walk a few blocks in your spectacular costume, hold out a bag, mutter in any tone of voice three magic words and you are suddenly gifted with an inordinate amount of free candy? Check. Check check check check check. Halloween. Is. Magnificent.
At least, it used to be.
Parents, adults, everyone in charge of the background stuff of Halloween: can we finally admit we’ve ruined it?
Until very recently Halloween was a one-day affair. You probably dressed up at school for an obligatory Halloween parade or showcase of themed songs, but the real event was on October 31st. At night. In the dark. You dressed up, went out (with or without parents, depending on your age), and went trick-or-treating. At night. In the dark. On Halloween.
For those without kids and in the know these days, Halloween has taken on a completely different meaning. The holiday now starts around October 15th or so, two weeks before the actual day. Children are then inundated with Halloween “events” where they receive some treats, dress up in their costumes, and do various activities. In Chicago, every shopping district has a “Halloween stroll,” where the kids trick-or-treat the shops on the streets. There are “trunk-or-treats” where parents drive their kids to a parking lot, open up the trunks of their cars (decorated), and the kids all walk around to each car begging for candy to simulate old-school trick-or-treating. These invariably all happen in the middle of the day. Schools all have parties, too. There are simply “Halloween parties” which have various activities as well. By the time actual Halloween night comes along kids are simply baffled: why are we wearing these costumes again? What is the point? They’re burned out.
You guys: kids are burning out on Halloween.
This is an atrocity.
And it’s our fault. It’s not the kids asking to go trick-or-treating at storefronts. It’s not the kids demanding Halloween parties. Kids didn’t come up with the atrociousness of a literally-zero-effort “trunk or treat” event.
Adults did all of these things.
And we are ruining Halloween.
It needs to stop.
I’m not trying to imply this slope we slid down was ill-intentioned. If anything, it is a reminder of just how great our own Halloweens were that we want to make our kids’ even better. If kids like one night of Halloween, certainly they’ll like another party! And maybe another one! What if they trick-or-treat at the stores? Or at our cars in the parking lot? Surely all this will be great for them and they’ll love it because we loved Halloween as kids, too!
They don’t love it.
The reason we loved Halloween so much is because of how precious that one night was. We loved Halloween because by the time October 31st came we were bursting with the excitement of wearing our costumes and going out at a time we normally didn’t go out. Our only pre-Halloween prep was pumpkin carving and some decorating. Every ounce of excitement was bottled up as you planned your costume and looked at it longingly for weeks for the one day you got to wear it out.
We aren’t making Halloween more fun for the kids, we’re diffusing the fun and excitement.
There is a limited store of excitement points for kids for things like this. Say each kid has 100 points of excitement ready to go for Halloween. You go to a party and use up 15 points because there’s a bouncy slide. A trunk-or-treat event? 10 more points gone. Go to 2 shopping district trick-or-treat events? 10 points each. Wear your costume to school? 15 points. Professional Halloween photos? 5 points. Another party? 15 more points. We’re at 80 points of excitement stores used up, which only leaves 20 points on the night of Halloween. Compare that to the 15 points we used up at school in “our day” (get off my lawn!), and we had 85 points of excitement for the actual Halloween.
We have to stop this.
And look, I’m all for the one time of year to eat all the candy. It’s a lesson everyone must learn, and Halloween is the time to do it: do you store your candy up and live a purpose-driven life of self-restraint and have a candy cache for a month or do you eat it all in one blissful night and suffer the consequences of the inevitable stomach-ache? But diffusing this lesson out is mucking it all up! Let the kids amass the candy at once, let the parents steal it after they go to bed for their own re-learning of the too-much-candy lesson, and be done with it. Stop petering this candy hoarding out over two weeks!
Finally, don’t rationalize to me with the “Halloween costumes are expensive and I want to get my money’s worth,” because you’ll get your money’s worth when your kids literally cannot even stand still for a picture because they’re so excited they can’t stop jumping up and down. After the 6th time of putting on their costume they’re bored of it, and you haven’t gotten your money’s worth for Halloween at all, you’ve only gotten your money’s worth for little doses of excitement, and that’s not a bargain at all.
Kid Halloween is a diamond in the year in a world full of coal. Our Facebook feeds are delightful for once and it’s because Halloween is precious.
Our family tried the prolonged Halloween this year and I vow here and now: no more. Halloween night in our family is going to be special, damnit, and I’ll be here in my house eating all the candy looking through the millions of pictures I took on October 31st to prove it.
The Meanest Mom on the Block