There was a time when I hated trick or treaters. It usually meant getting up off the coach in the middle of a Sopranos binge, and trying to smile as some cocky eight-year-old mocked the cheap chocolate I was giving him. (It isn’t cheap, OK, it’s European.) And then we had kids of our own. The only two kids on our road, a quiet lane full of older people, that doesn’t get much action on Halloween.
So when the bell rings now, I don’t see trouble. I see friends for my own kids, I see a community growing in front of me and I don’t even mind that their parents are trying to sneak a peek into our house.
(Only messing, look all you like, as long as you invite us over for a play-date, so we can have a look at your gaff.)
I love the greediness of the trick or treaters. One of the worst things about being an adult is you have to pretend you don’t want a second doughnut.
(Ah would you stop, I’ll be the size of a house.) Kids have no such qualms.
They are willing to go to the gates of diabetes and back if it means you’ll hand over 15 fun-sized Crunchies.
It’s hardly like their parents or minders are going to stop you firing Twirls at a six-year-old; they’re getting their hands on any surplus stuff once the kids go to bed.
(Which, in fairness, is about 1 am, once they coming crashing down off all the sugar.)
This brings me to the main benefit of our little Halloween callers. They are basically like those cleaner-fish you see on wildlife shows, clearing our house of Heroes and other chocolates, which otherwise we’d eat ourselves.
That’s not a great look.
Before our kids arrived, we’d get caught up in the madness of Halloween and buy a trolley load of fun-sized goodies, in preparation for the rush.
For a few years, there was no rush. I’d end up finding a giant bag of Gummy Bears down behind the couch, in April of the following year. Nom, Nom, Nom.
That’s not good for anyone’s waistline and I have the photos from 2011 to prove it.
At least now that we’re getting some callers, there’s less scoffing involved.
Even if your waistline isn’t an issue, our cleaner-fish friends play a vital role clearing out some space in your gaff, so you can fill it up with tins of Roses for Christmas.
(You might have noticed that your local supermarket has them stacked in front of the vegetable aisle, in case you think you’re going to get a couple of weeks off, from pigging out.)
There is of course one final delight to be had from the trick or treaters. Judging other people’s parenting styles.
You can’t lose really.If a bunch of kids turn up in black rubbish bags, with holes for their arms, you are almost overcome with a smug attack, because of the lengths you go to for your own kids.
On the other hand, if kids come in hand-stitched super-hero costumes that they definitely didn’t get in Aldi, you feel their parents could do with chill-axing a bit.
It’s a delicate balance; I hope we get it right when we bring our two out for a spot of trick-or-treating.
I’m looking forward to peering into people’s houses and getting a few fun-sized Twirls for myself.
But more than anything, I’m looking forward to how excited my own kids are going to get, the shrieking and laughing and tricking and gorging that comes from believing in ghosts.
For an hour or so this Halloween, I’ll get to be a kid myself.
As I kid I had a mortal terror of trick or treating. It wasn’t simply because this was the Eighties and you were required to wear those sweaty plastic masks which stank of chemical byproduct and were attached to your head with tensile-steel string.
What really caused my knees to knock together was the obligation to tap aggressively on the doors of strangers — or, even more awkwardly, neighbours — and shake them down for additive-infused treats I wasn’t going to eat anyway. All that human interaction — so horrible!
With my frayed-at-the-corners Frankenstein mask — back then kids, it was either Dracula or Frankenstein — and sorry Dunnes Stores plastic bag, I felt like a presumptive pest forced into an undignified situation against their will. Really, if I was this desperate for free sweets I’d have bought them with my own pocket money. Horror-themed panhandling seemed undignified for everyone involved.
Decades on, I am under no illusions that I WAS in fact imposing. As a grown-up the truth is that meting out goodie-bags to trick or treaters is fun for the first… ten minutes (actually closer to five) After that, it just becomes a stampede — mostly of kids upon whom you’ve never previously clapped eyes.
If you live in a decent sized housing estate, you will be familiar with this phenomenon of trick or treat tourism — parents from outside the immediate neighbourhood driving in with their children for smash and grab raids on the local candy supply.
We’ve been overrun with out of towners these past several years — typically descending early so that when kids from the neighbourhood arrive, all that are left are the hardboiled toffees nobody wants.
The other problem with Halloween is that nowadays it’s an arms race. It’s not enough to stick a pumpkin in the front window and have a few bags of nuts on standby.
There is pressure to transform your house into a ghoulish Disney World — populating your garden with battery powered skeletons, dangling cackling cadavers from the window, installing a temporary doorbell that bellows spooky salutations (to experience true existential horror, ask the price of a spooky doorbell at your local Halloween pop up shop).
At the risk of coming off like a grinch, what’s the point of any of this? Kids love fancy dress — but they do they really enjoy trooping from house to house, filling their bags with sweets which, if their parents are responsible, they probably won’t be allowed devour in any case?
And while we’re on the subject how about a moratorium on the age at which you are allowed trick or treat?
Dispensing candies to wide-eyed pre-teens is one thing. Handing over sugary delights to 15 year olds who’ll probably come back later to pelt your house with eggs or send a firecracker through your letter box is another matter entirely.
If you’re old enough to look menacing in a hoodie, you’re too old for trick or treating.
It’s fashionable to decry the commercialisation of public holidays. In its defence Halloween, in its modern incarnation, was always a bit on the hokey side. But today we’ve let the situation spiral out of hand so that we spend the night disbursing fistfuls of sweets.
The tradition was obviously popularised in American — where people are naturally outgoing and often appear to genuinely enjoy interacting with strangers.
Are you a naturally outing person who genuinely enjoys interacting with strangers? No?
Then, perhaps you will join me in saying a big fat “bah humbug” to trick or treating.
If you live in a decent sized housing estate, you will be familiar with parents from outside the neighbourhood driving in with their children