Over the years we’ve imported some amazing things from America into the UK. Like rock ‘n’ roll, for example, which I think is one of the best things ever to have found its way across the pond.
But there is one US import that royally ticks me off every year: the ‘tradition’ of trick-or-treating.
I have no issue with celebrating the ancient religious festival of Samhain, the pagan new year (which is what Halloween is supposed to be about). But turning this festival into an excuse to send kids begging for sweets at neighbours’ doors really irritates me.
There are several reasons for this.
First, there’s nothing in it for me. If carol singers knock at the door, it’s a two-way thing: I get to enjoy a nice bit of festive music and am happy to reward the singers with a couple of quid. If a Jehovah’s Witness knocks, I get a fun 10 minutes talking about religion and all the reasons the caller is not going to convert me (more fun than it sounds; tell ‘em you’re somewhere between druid and atheist, and watch the confusion set in). If a charity collector comes a-knocking, I get the pleasure of helping someone in genuine need.
But when trick-or-treaters knock, I get nothing. Nada. Just the opportunity to give them sweets or have a trick played on me. How’s that fair?
It’s just begging, in my opinion – and parents are actively encouraging their children to do it. And from a stupidly young age, too. Mums with little toddlers who don’t even understand what’s going on trudge from door to door, with their little darlings dressed in silly (and probably expensive – isn’t there supposed to be a recession on?) costumes, making householders feel guilty if they haven’t stocked up on expensive, unhealthy ‘treats’ with which to fill their little bags and buckets. If one such mum turns up at your door and you’re stupid enough to open it and say “I’m sorry, but I haven’t got anything in” – prepare to be tarred and feathered, because you are very clearly a bad, evil person.
Anyway, don’t kids stuff their faces with sweets all year round? If I don’t give them any more sweets, I’m doing them a favour: I’m saving them from a future where they’d be riddled with tooth decay and gum disease, where they’re forced to visit the gym five nights a week to burn off the childhood obesity caused by knocking at people’s doors demanding sweets.
When my daughter was a child (she’s nearly 22 now), she was never allowed to go trick-or-treating. Sure, she hated that she wasn’t allowed to do something that all her friends were allowed to do; but she appreciated my reasons for forbidding it. Ultimately, she didn’t actually miss out on anything. She was still allowed to go to Halloween parties – it’s just the door-to-door begging I object to – and it didn’t stop her having fun. I did at least practise what I preached!
So tonight I’m going to do the same thing I’ve done every Halloween for as long as I can remember. I’m going to draw all the curtains before it gets dark, turn the TV up louder, and completely ignore any knocks at the door.
Unless of course it’s a religious group trying to recruit me, in which case I’ll enjoy telling them all about my pretend “weird religious views” for at least half an hour. There’s horror, and then there’s horror…