The Mindset of Halloween

Last night Kim & I filled in for our neighbor who couldn’t take her son trick or treating because of a back injury. We love this boy (herein referred to as “our boy”) anyway so we figured it was a great opportunity to get out & experience Halloween in a new way once again. Since I still wasn’t feeling great recovering from a short bout of illness, I was in a good mood, but subdued pumpkin1.jpgand very observant. What I noticed is a pretty scary reflection of the mindset so many people adopt and live by and don’t even realize they are doing it because it is so ingrained at a young age.

We live in a small development where the residents range from the truly uncultured and unsophisticated (and that’s the nicest way I can put it) to smart singles and families who are either getting started with their first house or simply choosing to live within a reasonable price range for a small single home (imagine that!). The houses are fairly close together with the largest yards being 1/4 acre. So, close together, but not claustrophobic. It took us around an hour and forty-five minutes to do the loop at a leisurely pace.

People (especially kids) Can Be Mean

I’m not sure why we feel the need to judge and taunt one another. Nowhere is it as evident as with young children (except maybe in politics). Our boy is 11 and a most creative young man. He is cute as a button, polite, and wise beyond his years. He had an awesome costume that would make any drag queen on Commercial Street beam with pride. He was an Egyptian Pharaoh complete with the costume, headband, and awesome makeup. He truly looked authentic. A lot of people, especially the adults sick of seeing the same dozen princesses and hobos really loved his costume and commented on it (although I’m still not so sure what the people who thought he was Julius Caesar were smoking). Yet a few kids would pass by and smirk “nice costume” or “nice makeup” and not in the complimentary way if you know what I mean. All I could think was — it is Halloween for Christ’s sake — it’s a costume and the kid is 11. Apparently our prejudices run deep and start early. I have to hand it to our boy, though…. he is who he is and doesn’t let anyone faze him. He is naturally comfortable in his own skin.

Scarcity Mindset

I couldn’t find a better example of scarcity mindset and the unrelenting drive for more more more than Halloween (well, maybe Christmas). Here you’ve got kids, many of them older kids schlepping from house to house begging for candy. No longer is one treat sufficient. Oh no. Now it is two, three, or a handful. And, they walk around with multiple bags filled so full that they drag on the ground like a thin plastic grocery bag filled with several gallons of milk. Still…. they want more. Scurrying faster toward houses with lights and then complaining loudly about houses without candy or lights saying “another Dud that sucks.”

Now I am all for the thrill of an adventure and mapping out keen strategies for the Halloween mission. I sure did it as a kid. We got lots of candy and covered lots of territory and had a good time doing it. However, I have to wonder what behaviors and beliefs are so deeply ingrained so early that we have to be a scavenger for “more” and too much is never enough? After all, we’re talking candy here. Several bags of which I am certain are sitting in their cupboards at home (albeit not quite the breadth of variety as available from trick or treating…).

What ever happened to just the thrill of dressing up and being “spooked” and having fun for the night? Now it is all about results measured in pounds of excess candy. Our kids’ worth get measured by how much candy they can score compared to their friends.

Knowing When to Move On

I am always amazed at the number of older teens trick or treating. Now, I’m all for dressing up and having fun if you enjoy that. Thus the invention of the Halloween Party or a haunted house/cornfield/something or another tour. These kids don a black shirt and consider it a costume and then roam from neighborhood to neighborhood looking for candy. A handful of them were smoking or hanging all over and kissing their boyfriends/girlfriends as they wandered around. All I kept saying was…these kids are almost old enough to drive and probably already contemplating (if not already having) sex. Isn’t that a good time to stop trick or treating? Perhaps they never got the memo that it is time to move on… On the one hand kids are rushing to grow up well before their time and yet in another instant they can’t let go and move to what’s next for them.

Personal Responsibility

I was surprised at the number of adults who were either 1) totally tuned out to what was going on around them and with their kids or 2) bitching and moaning about trick or treating the whole way while checking their PDA’s. Maybe it’s just me because I don’t have to deal with the stress and responsibility of having kids, but isn’t being present and partaking in their childhood part of what you signed up for? While we are in a fairly safe neighborhood (although reading the police blotter in the paper sometimes makes me wonder) I was surprised by the number of kids alone in the street and the number of cars whizzing by faster than they should (especially on Halloween). I don’t think these things happen because people are “bad” just so very often tuned out or numb to what is going on right in front of them. All I wanted to say was – wake up and take a peek around…your kids will grow up and this moment won’t come again so enjoy it; you’ll thank yourself if you do.

Maybe it is because I don’t have to deal with raising children day in and day out, but I found this little adventure to be tiring and a little too eye opening for me. Sure there were also a lot of really great people being “big kids” in their Halloween displays and little kids in awesome creative costumes. I enjoyed that the most – just seeing the real little ones in awe and wonder of all that was going on. It was also very cool to see what a fine young man our boy is and how well he handles himself. It was also a great excuse to just enjoy being outside on a crisp autumn evening and watch the dusk turn to black and see the stars come out. Lest you think I am too serious, though, after all that activity we settled in with a cup of tea to tap into meaningful entertainment… a chance to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”!

2 thoughts on “The Mindset of Halloween”

  1. Pingback: Queercents » Blog Archive » The Economics and Psychonomics of Halloween

  2. I am so thankful that my Halloween night was quite innocent and fun. My son is 6, my daughter 15 months. My son carried his sister's bag for her and he didn't once complain about the type or amount of candy. He marveled at how full the bags were getting, but it was just pure happiness, not greed. Then after about 45 minutes he decided it was time to go home. Of course we're in Canada so the weather 'encourages' us to head home early.

    Then he spent the rest of the evening helping to hand out candy.

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