Trick-or Treat contemplation

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By Laura Maychruk

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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Reader Comments

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Jack Hughes from Chicago  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 11:10 PM

Gag me with a spoon!

Laura from River Forest  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 5:01 PM

Just to set the record straight, I do know that everyone that I know passes out the same candy to all that come to the door. Maybe a few familiar faces get an extra piece or two, and maybe a couple families buy extra treats for the immediate neighbors, but "racist" is not a term I would use for any of our neighbors!!

Alan Hoffstadter from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2010 11:01 AM

Thank you so much, Laura, for enlightening me. For all these years I thought that the wondrous "border crossing" at Halloween, was just our selfish pleasure on the east side. We truly look forward to this parade of (mostly) costumed children whose parents love them enough to provide them participation in this holiday of pretending with an almost ironclad guarantee of safe passage. Thanks to Dan Haley, who lives on our block, I know that the number of children was in the 700 range. We ran out at 500 and we thought we had overdone our purchases. Everyone gets the good candy!

Donna from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2010 10:20 PM

Thank you for a thoughtful perspective. Your reminder about the history of Halloween really resonated with me. I remain conflicted. Not enough room to expand, but I have had enough discourteous incidents (over the top ones) to mar Halloween. I'm happy to be part of Halloween for any kid in costume. Would love to see an expanded article on this topic with some positive way to think about the negatives. It's every year and it's depressing.

Libbey Paul from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2010 6:33 PM

Laura, thanks for this posting. I was really disappointed this year because we gave out only 3 bags of candy. I hear my friends a few blocks east ran out -- and it sounds like my friends to the far west also ran out. I guess we have to encourage our guests to come into some of the interior streets...

Eileen from Oak park  

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 8:46 AM

I'm with you, it's a day for everyone and it's nice that kids from other places feel safe to come here. As mentioned they all say thanks, and seem happy, that is what matters.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 2nd, 2010 7:52 PM

A great article and a great reminder. We live on Oak Park Avenue and most of the neighborhood children live on the interior street, so about nine of ten kids at our door were tourist from Austin. We were thrilled to see them. It was a excellent lesson for us. The children were great, the parents and families that accompanied them were polite, courteous and friendly. No one forgot to say trick or treat or thank you. It was a fine ride on the diversity express.

Dan Haley from Oak Park  

Posted: November 2nd, 2010 4:40 PM

Over on my block in east OP we had about 700 kids turn out. Vast majority from Austin as is usual. I've got no problem. Very positive day.Hadn't occurred to me that in RF there might be scads of kids from Maywood. Appreciate your take on doing what is right and fair.

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: November 2nd, 2010 11:19 AM

Thank you for saying this, Laura. I've been reading comments elsewhere in which people are expressing annoyance at the children coming from other neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in Oak Park, and I find it sad. If parents who live in less-safe areas like Maywood or Austin want to give their kids a fun, safe Halloween by bringing them here or to RF, we should be applauding those efforts. Anyone who complains should consider whether they wouldn't do exactly the same thing in that circumstance.

Swati from Oak Park  

Posted: November 1st, 2010 2:21 PM

I'm in shock at the good/bad candy idea. I believe that Halloween is the one time that childless people like myself can interact with kids from a different neighborhood and strata and most likely, less fortunate than we are. All 800 kids coming to our house get the same candy - and that will *never* change. Thanks for writing about this, Laura. I hope more people feel like 'Melanie' above, and have a change of perspective.


Posted: November 1st, 2010 11:26 AM

Thanks for your perspective, Laura; it has been helpful to me. I admit to a rising feeling of resentment yesterday, especially after running through 300 bags of microwave popcorn (my treat of choice) after only two hours of handing out treats. Your comments have removed that resentment forever--I will willingly buy more treats in the future, realizing I can provide what will delight those with much less than me and mine.

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