The traditional image associated with Halloween is of pint-sized ghosts, witches and vampires ambling through lavishly-decorated suburban neighborhoods, begging single-family homeowners for a “treat.” This quaint suburban tableau is increasingly an artifact of the past.
Parents in recent decades have become more safety-conscious and cautious about where their kids collect candy. After all, Halloween is a direct contradiction to the age-old command of “don’t talk to strangers.” Also, a pronounced population shift from rural and suburban areas back to densely-populated cities has introduced commercial spaces into what was once a domestic, neighborhood-oriented event. While the suburbs still host plenty of trick-or-treaters, urban living means that candy-craving kids have to get innovative in a world with less front lawns.
So what is an adorable, city-dwelling miniature ghost to do? Different forms of the holiday, such as “Trunk-or-Treat”—where participants meet in a community area (like a church) and pop their trunks to hand out candy and “Mall o’ Ween”—which is exactly what it sounds like, with shops handing out goodies to visitors, have become popular.
These unique approaches and ones like them address the concerns of both parents and kids. Urban areas have no shortage of businesses that can distribute candy, and a well-lit strip of shops is much more calming to parents than a stranger’s house.
Getting into the spirit
Businesses outside of retail stores are flexing their creative muscles and making use of their space to not only draw in potential customers but also to build community engagement. Children’s hospitals hold special trick-or-treat events where sick kids can dress up and collect goodies throughout the building. Volunteers are recruited to not only hand out treats, but to gather them for patients who can’t leave their beds.
Some offices are allowing employees to bring their children in near the end of the day, with the designated destinations for candy being individual workers’ cubicles. It allows both kids and adults to get into the Halloween spirit after a long day. Hotels and resorts offer up lobby trick-or-treating or set up stops throughout the complex, a good compromise for guests who may not want to hear Halloween revelers for the entire night. Restaurants offer a gamut of Halloween perks for costumed patrons, from free kids’ meals with the purchase of an adult meal, to Krispy Kreme’s free donut for youngsters who say those three magic words.
And what about residences? Soliciting people in their homes is still the most classic form of Halloween. It turns out that the move to urban centers hasn’t stopped the residential tradition. Not only can kids trick or treat in their own apartment buildings—knocking on doors that are properly-decorated or have signs—but buildings can also open their doors to non-residents. The administration usually sets up a time period for the compound to be unlocked, during which time trick-or-treaters are free to come as they please.
Change can be good
Today’s Halloween experience may have changed from previous generations, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even the most discerning parent is now able to find a satisfactory place for their kid to participate. In addition, society as a whole has become more aware of limitations such as allergies, with some homes and businesses having two sets of treats—candy and toys—to cover all their bases.
While it’s mostly the kids getting a payoff here, there’s something gratifying about being able to give a Snickers to the shy, three-year-old ladybug celebrating her first Halloween. As ideas of “trick-or-treatable” spaces become broader, no one has to lose out on the fun.