Last Halloween, my three-year-old daughter became absolutely entranced with the trick or treaters who were ding-donging our doorbell every 10 minutes or so, for about four hours.
She couldn't believe it! She watched as these spookily clad kids just rocked up (mostly with a parent, who I didn't know from Adam, loitering on the pavement) and waved a bucket at me, and I poured all sorts of sweets and lollies on top of their already considerable stash.
Not noticing my horrified look when I opened the door to three slightly rubbish ghosts who were each about half a foot taller than me (I think I quite begrudged giving free sweets to teens who were clearly old enough to have Saturday jobs), Ava cooed: "Woweee...! Can WE go out and do that?!"
She already had her pyjamas on, and she was donning neither witch's hat nor face paint. She was only just three years old. Her sister was only just two. I said: "No."
Now, a whole year later, I'm hoping Ava's forgotten all about it, so I don't have to say again: "You're a bit little, darling." Or perhaps: "Never."
Because the truth is, last Halloween my doorstep was graced with many children Ava's age – teeny tots, too shy to actually even say anything.
In return for their mere presence, I gave them stuff to rot their teeth, while their parents yelled from the blackness: "SAY THANK YOU!", and the children muttered: "Q..." before toddling off.
Am I a complete bore for not wanting to do this with my own girls?! The thought of it makes me wince. I know for a fact Ava would not be too shy to say anything. In fact, if we attempted such an outing it'd probably take us seven or eight hours to get from one end of our street to the other after she'd told every neighbour her life story (and Ruby's, and mine).
But trick or treating isn't usually about niceties, is it? To me there seems something quite icky about the whole tradition and I think I just wish it didn't happen at all. I'm dreading opening my door again to slightly terrified (rather than terrifying) looking pre-schoolers. I'm dreading even more opening it to surly boys two stones heavier than me. And I am dreading telling Ava we won't be doing it ourselves.
Don't get me wrong – I don't begrudge any of the children their chance to dress up and have some Halloween capers, really I don't. But I can't remember a single child at my door last year who truly looked like they were having fun.
Wouldn't it be nice if there was a tradition that was more engaging than trick or treating? Halloween street parties up and down the country, perhaps? That would be so much lovelier. People would get to know their neighbours, everyone could bring some spooky food, all the children might actually play and enjoy their costumes, rather than just traipsing the streets in the cold, knocking on the doors of complete strangers.
I've left it too late to suggest anything like that for this year (and I'm sure in areas where a real sense of community exists, trick or treating can be and is fun for all), but I think next year I will. Next year Ava AND Ruby will probably want a bit more Halloween action. This year, I'll still open the door when we get the inevitable ding-dongs (it would be very hard to explain to Ava why we had all the lights off and were pretending we were out). And I'll hand over the loot and smile (at the children who've made the effort anyway – some do look super cute).
But I'll be planning a Halloween revolution. Who's with me?
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