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Is Halloween Broken?


I was looking forward to being back in the good ol' USA for Halloween, since they don't quite do it right in England. Imagine my surprise when they didn't quite do it right here, either. I would say that more than half the kids we had at our door on Friday night had to be prompted to deliver the requisite line: "Trick or treat!" Some said "Happy Halloween!" Most just stood there gawping, as if I'd rung the doorbell at their house.

"What do you say?" I'd ask. Some of the youngers one would go, "Um, thank you?" I'm sure their parents had stressed that they must say "thank you" while forgetting to point out that you say that after you've been given the candy--and after saying "Trick or treat."

"No," I'd say. "You say 'trick or treat.'" Then I'd toss a few candies in their bags. I'm instructing My Lovely Wife to buy a single brand of candy next year, not an assortment as she did this year. The problem was the trick-or-treaters could see that my big bowl contained all manner of goodies and they felt they could order their particular favorite, as if I was a waiter at a restaurant. Some kids would say "I want a Twix!" as I went to drop a Three Musketeers in their sack. Others demanded Reese's Cups. One kid looked at the little box of Charleston Chews I proffered as if I'd given him a dung beetle.

Halloween shouldn't be about choice. You take what you're given and complain about it later. Or better yet, you spread your bootie out on the floor when you get home and trade with your siblings or friends. Halloween prepares you for life, both the disappointment of the Charleston Chew and the savvy negotiation that lets you swap it for a KitKat.

How was your Halloween? Did the l'il trick-or-treaters seem to know what they were doing? Do we need to institute remedial Halloween classes?

Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What a Beautiful Day
I confess that spending money makes me feel good. When I decide that I'm going to buy something I feel an endorphin rush similar to that experienced by top athletes. New end table, you will be mine! Seven-passenger minivan, Consumer Reports says you're the best! I expect a lot of us feel this way. It might explain the last 10 years and the predicament we find ourselves in, financially speaking. To keep getting that high, you have to keep spending.

But I was reminded over the weekend that there's something money can't buy that can be experienced by everyone: a nice day. They don't come much nicer than Saturday in the Washington area. Unseasonably warm, not a cloud in the sky. I didn't mind walking the dog in the morning and I didn't mind mowing the lawn in the afternoon--any excuse to be outside. Best of all, I didn't have to pay for it. If you were anywhere around here, you didn't either.

I suspect we'll all be looking for things like that in the future. We'll nurse the car for another year instead of replacing it. We'll think hard about refinishing the basement. We'll pick Netflix and a night in over the multiplex and a night out. And we'll take extra pleasure in the gift that rich man and poor man alike can enjoy: the beautiful day.

Where in Washington Contest, Week 3
I told you things would get tougher. Do you recognize this area landmark, depicted on a 1913 postcard (from the collection of David Stinson)?


E-mail me your guess. The first correct answer I receive wins a Washington Post postcard autographed by a Post Pulitzer winner.

By John Kelly  |  November 3, 2008; 10:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Halloween, contests  
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Is that George Washhington's tomb at Mt. Vernon? Haven't been there in ages, so it's just a wild guess!

As far as Halloween goes, I only had 2 small groups of Trick or Treaters this year - on a Friday, no less. Normally I've got kids following me up the front steps as I get home from work, and the knocking doesn't stop until 9pm. I wonder what happened this year? I did get a combination of "Trick or Treat" and "Happy Halloween" from each group, but I'm not fussy. No one had to be prompted by a parent to say "Thank you", either. Bonus!

Posted by: kbockl | November 3, 2008 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what happened, but it seemed as though Halloween didn't even happen this year. I didn't see anyone dressed up or into the spirit at all. I wonder if people are just too focused on the election this year.

Some of my friends houses didn't even have one kid come by. How sad is that?

Posted by: TerpPhysicist | November 3, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I believe kbockl is right about the location...

It took until past 7:30 for anyone to show up at our door. Many kids in our neighborhood also seemed confused about the trick or treat process, and we have noticed an ever decreasing number of candy collectors over the past few years. Of course we also were doing last minute prep. It took me visits to three stores Friday afternoon to find the proper candy, and I did not carve the pumpkin until after 5pm on Friday...

Posted by: TC14 | November 3, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

same story with Halloween. no kids. our neighborhood has a Halloween parade, I wonder if that is taking the place of trick or treating?

I couldn't agree more about Saturday, the most beautiful November day. I walked my daughter for an hour in the neighborhood (she fell asleep and I couldn't bear to stop) and didn't even mind the blisters.

Posted by: chiquita2 | November 3, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Actually I've noticed fewer and fewer trick or treaters since 2001 (I wasn't home this year or last to count them). Maybe parents are simply getting more and more paranoid about the potential for something to happen to their kid?

Posted by: | November 3, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

We had two small groups, no Trick or Treat or Thank You from either. The Halloween party at the Rockville Senior Center was more fun.

Posted by: OldLady1 | November 4, 2008 6:18 AM | Report abuse

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