Saturday, October 31, 2009

Culture: Trick-or-Treaters Here

TORONTO, ONTARIO - I still remember trick-or-treating in the neighborhood (there is no "u" in neighbourhood there) where I grew up. I remember having dinner and then setting out in the dark (no daylight savings time on the last day of October then) to ring the doorbell of every house with a Jack-O-Lantern displayed, which would be the vast majority of the homes. This was already an era of safety in trick-or-treating, so I don't recall ever being offered a candied apple (or any other fruit), just candy or maybe a granola bar if the household didn't want to contribute to cavities. If there was a choice, and there were Snickers bars, that would be my first choice. I was partial to the Mars-M&M line of candies in general at that age.

Often I would go alone, with my mother or father staying at the street as I went up a walkway to the house's door and just escorting me between houses, but a few years I went with friends. One year in particular was especially memorable, as a friend and I went through much of his large Surrey Downs neighborhood and probably had the largest haul of my lifetime. Then, some older teenagers on bicycles attacked us and made off with most of his candy. Because I was using a plastic bag, they couldn't get a good hold on my bag and I don't think I lost anything. Apparently in the dark, my friend didn't notice this and offered to give me some of his remaining candy. I just looked at him funny and muttered something about getting that backwards. When we got back to his house, he was so surprised that that he declined any portion of my candy, and I ended up with all of that huge loot after all.

In my high school years, safety became such a concern that trick-or-treaters vanished from the streets of Bellevue, Washington. I remember one night that my parents only received two rings at the door the entire evening. The lure of going to the mall, where one could safely go to all the stores looking for candy without worrying about walking around in the dark or teenagers on bicycles trying to steal their candy, had cleared the streets of the long-standing tradition.

Since moving to Toronto, I have never been home on Halloween evening. Either I was working so late that by the time I returned to my neighbourhood that I did not get home until children were home from trick-or-treating, or I have been out of town traveling. This year, though, I was around, and was surprised to find the sidewalks busy with trick-or-treaters. Furthermore, the costumes were all things I recognized--rabbits, pirates, ghosts, firemen, even a postal carrier. It was almost like going back in time twenty years. Halloween is still celebrated here.

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