This past Halloween was a good day for the trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood. The number of houses offering candy well outnumbered the number of kids walking the streets with their bags. Desperate to get rid of their excess candy, adults ended up encouraging kids to take two fistfuls or more due to the low foot traffic on their street. As a result, most kids, including my own, came home with an abundance.
Moreover, the quality of candy has significantly improved this year. Apparently, people got the memo—or maybe just recalled their own childhood Halloween experiences—that aggressively rationing out low-tier candy like Tootsie Rolls and candy corn is not appreciated. This time around, households were rightly handing out Twix and Snickers, sometimes full-size candy bars, to the kids.
Beyond the treats, many more houses in my neighborhood went all out with their decorations. People had elaborate displays of skeletons, spiders, zombies, monsters, graves, and the like. Many of them even had soundtracks. Some truly dedicated homeowners transformed their front lawns into fully immersive haunted houses (my children didn’t appreciate these houses). While the Christmas season still inspires more people to decorate their places, Halloween is now competing with it.
So what does this all indicate, if anything? Quite a few things actually, most of them positive and significant.
First, COVID hysteria is on the wane—at least here in Texas. People are comfortable showing their faces and getting in close proximity with their neighbors, handing them candy and wishing them a Happy Halloween, and the only masks that most people are wearing are ones that go with their costume. While there are a few households that put out bowls to eliminate physical contact with trick-or-treaters, many adults were out there to greet everyone coming—or jump out and scare them. In this way, Halloween, a day that celebrates the macabre and wearing costumes, ironically went the furthest in reestablishing normalcy.
Second, although some people might complain that trick-or-treaters are being picky and entitled in picking their candy, they are simply recognizing the reality of the situation: they have choices among competing interests and they are exercising them.
This is an important political and economic lesson, and an empowering one at that. If governments or businesses intend to attract citizens or customers, they need to offer good reasons for them to follow. In the same way, households must think of ways to attract trick-or-treaters—with better candy, more of it, and cool decorations. When this lesson isn’t applied, quality of life and the quality of goods decline, and systemic reform becomes necessary. Today’s leaders would do well to don a costume on Halloween and relearn this truth.
Third, the growing celebration of Halloween, a holiday that grew out of the Church tradition of All Hallows Eve, is something to celebrate in itself. As opposed to state-sanctioned holidays that dictate what people should celebrate, Halloween is a purely populist ritual. People celebrate Halloween because it’s tradition, it’s fun, and there’s nothing all that political about it. Contrast that with Columbus Day, Presidents’ Day, or even Independence Day, which progressives have ruined with their imposition of partisanship on it.
Nor has Halloween been ruined by commercialization. There isn’t a mad dash for people to purchase goods, nor are economists gauging the health of the global economy by sales made in October. True, people will buy decorations, costumes, and candy, but the spirit of Halloween isn’t defined by crass consumerism in the same way Christmas now is.
Fourth, and most importantly, there is nothing more local and inclusive than Halloween. For many modern Americans, this is the only time they actually see their neighbors in person. It’s also the only time that many families walk together through their neighborhoods and actually consider who lives around them. At a time where everything has been made virtual and impersonal, Halloween defies such trends and never seems to change.
This is why it’s so encouraging to have a high participation in Halloween activities. It’s a sign that communities aren’t dead and that people are still human and crave some kind of interaction with real people. There’s also the wholesome experience of seeing so many young people walking outside and acting their age. At a time of low birthrates and an adult-centric culture, the sight of trick-or-treaters gives us adults a reason to be hopeful.
So rather than grumble about Halloween and its occasional excesses, we should all cherish the holiday and think of ways to multiply its unique virtues. It has retained all the good qualities that the other holidays have lost. And if it goes the way of those other holidays, Americans will be all the poorer for it—we will all be tricked, and have no treat to look forward to each autumn.