Where have all the trick-or-treaters gone? Many of my friends have lamented the decreasing number of children at their door on Halloween night. Is the tradition of trick-or-treating dying? We are fortunate to live in a community where Halloween is alive and well, with the streets crowded and the candy flowing. Even here, I have noticed a small, but steady decline in the crowd over the past ten years.

There is a well-meaning movement to stop the door to door community exchange. Some parents view trick or treating as an unnecessary danger for their children. There are warnings online each year about drugs or sharp objects in candy, and the fear of child predators. Alternatives to traditional Halloween are plentiful. You can trick or treat at the mall, the church, or the library, confident that your children are receiving “safe” candy and that they are protected from questionable characters and reckless drivers. For those religiously opposed to the holiday, children have a chance to participate in a fall festival without mention of monsters and demons.

These events are fun, but they don’t replace the community connection that comes from the traditional Halloween custom of trick-or-treating. I meet neighbors and serve my community when I open my door to the children that walk my street on Halloween night. I am not an anonymous entity for these visitors. Perhaps they won’t remember me specifically, but they do remember the generosity of my neighborhood as a whole. We open our doors to anyone who knocks. We give freely to anyone brave enough to ask. There are no barriers between the rich and the poor. This is a day when the less fortunate can receive gifts without the guilt of begging. Everyone participates in the exchange with gratitude and glee.

Adults who grew up in this town remember going to Davis Shores as children for the “best candy.” When hurricane Matthew destroyed many homes in that area, nearby neighborhoods invited the Davis Shore children to their community, promising plentiful candy in order to give safety and joy to those who were suffering. It was a beautiful example of neighbors supporting each other using Halloween as an impetus.

trick or treat community

Our neighborhood goes all out for Halloween. My children recognize homes based on the Halloween decorations and the treats they distribute each year. There’s the glow bracelet house, the full candy bar house, and the haunted trail house. They remember these people all year long and are delighted when they see the Halloween decorations going up each fall. I hope my neighbors understand how much of an impression they have made on my children with their generosity and creativity.

I implore you not to abandon the tradition of trick-or-treating. Open your doors, buy the candy, and enjoy the festivities. Please give candy to all the children. Do not judge them for worn out or incomplete costumes, they may have purchased them at the thrift store or borrowed them from a neighbor. Have an alternative for the kids who have allergies. They shouldn’t have to miss out on this part of childhood and they will be grateful you remembered them. Give candy to the older kids because they may be younger than you think, have a disability you can’t see, or they are simply hungry. This may be their last Halloween before they decide they are “too old.”  Give candy to the people who don’t live in your neighborhood. They live close enough to come and you are an ambassador for your community.

Teach your children to say “Thank you” or “Happy Halloween.” No one is forced to participate. Say thank you for the raisins, pretzels and water bottles from healthy families. Healthy treats cost more than candy (and a water bottle on a hot night in Florida is a true gift). Say thank you to the elderly who take a little longer to get to the door. Take a moment to talk with them if they seem willing. This may be more interaction than they have in a month. This is what community is all about.

Until I get a group of carolers in our neighborhood at Christmas, this is it. This is the big holiday for neighbors to look each other in the eye and say hello. It is a rare opportunity to connect with others in “real life.” And for all those curious about what to buy for their Halloween visitors, chocolate is understood as the universal “good” candy, with Resse’s Peanut Butter Cups the reigning champion.

See you on Halloween neighbor.

Signed with love,

A mom who looked forward to Halloween as a child because she was part of a “healthy” family and on that one night she got to eat loads of candy. Do it for the children!