Halloween is upon us and it got me thinking about trick-or-treating. When Andrew and I first moved to Oak Park in 1991 we always had busy Halloween nights, full of tons of kids that would come during the announced hours of trick-or-treat and beyond.

I grew up in a house that didn’t get any trick-or-treaters so it was always fun for me to see all of the costumes and interact with the families that came to the door. As time went on, we figured out that a lot of the kids we would get at our Oak Park home were not from our neighborhood as we originally thought, they were coming from the Austin neighborhood. However, that never bothered me. In fact, I thought it was wonderful that these families wanted to ensure that their kids had a great Halloween and I was happy to do my part! All throughout our time living in Oak Park, I never recall anyone having a big problem with this particular issue and I certainly never heard of anyone giving preferential treatment to kids from Oak Park vs. kids from Chicago.

Well, in 2005 when we celebrated our first Halloween in River Forest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t buy too much candy that year figuring that the Chicago kids wouldn’t come this far and that the majority of the kids would come from River Forest. Well, I was TOTALLY wrong.

We had more kids at our door than we ever had in Oak Park! This time the majority of families were coming from Maywood. We ran out of candy in the first hour and I had to send Andrew to the store to scrounge up anything he could so we could continue to give out treats! In conversations we had at a neighborhood party following trick-or-treating, we were given some advice: buy a small amount of “good candy” to give out to the “neighborhood kids” and then buy tons of “cheap candy” to give out to the rest.

I have been quietly watching what happens on the streets of River Forest as I take my kids around on Halloween night and here is what I have found. Some houses give out full-size chocolate bars, gift certificates and soda pop, but only to the “neighborhood kids”. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this practice. On one hand I realize that , for the kids they know, they want to do something special. On the other hand, I think that the only way for most people to distinguish “neighborhood kids” from the kids coming from Maywood is by the color of their skin.

It definitely doesn’t sit well with me either way, it feels a bit like a form of racism. In fact, it makes me hypersensitive to the way I interact with the kids at my door. I only buy one kind of candy and the only rule I have is that I have to like it, ie. chocolate, and I am evenhanded when giving it out.

If you do a bit of research, you will discover that the origins of trick-or-treating stem from a tradition of poor kids begging at the doors of rich neighbors, so basically this is the tradition being carried on. Instead of folks feeling like the experience of trick-or-treat should be rewarding to those that already have enough, perhaps they should consider that the reason parents and teens without costumes are trick-or-treating is that they don’t have luxuries like candy whenever they want it. Happy Halloween!

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