AKA: why mall trick-or-treating sucks

I’m a firm believer in having my kids trick-or-treat in the streets where we live. For me, Halloween night is more about being an active part of my neighbourhood than it is about candy. (Except Rockets – I love those!) For those of you still unsure where to spend the evening with your little princesses and superheroes, I offer up seven reasons why I think Halloween should be given the community building recognition it deserves.

1)   Meet your extended neighbours

Halloween is one of the only times in the year that it’s normal to knock on the door of an unknown person, have that person happily open the door, have a bit of a conversation and leave with everyone feeling good about it. Take advantage of Halloween to get to know the faces of the people who live nearby.

2)   Teach your kids that people are good

Kids have been taught “stranger danger,” but the truth is that most people are good people – they’re not child molestors who slip razors in Coffee Crisps. You might not know the person who lives two streets over, but that doesn’t mean they’re dangerous or bad or should be avoided. Halloween is the perfect time to make that point.

3)   Meet other parents

For parents of young children walking around the neighbourhood with their little trick-or-treaters, it’s a chance to meet other parents doing the same thing. It’s another chance to talk to your neighbours, share a laugh and help to turn a bunch of people who live in the same geographic location into a community.

4)   People like handing out candy

For lots of people, seeing kids come by in their costumes and handing out candy is the best part of Halloween. They carve their pumpkins and keep their houselights on hoping for a good turnout. It’s disappointing to go through all that effort if only a dozen kids show up. Keep not showing up and eventually people won’t make the effort, leading to dud neighbourhoods, leading to more kids going to the mall, and so on…

5)   Malls are not a community

Shopping centres host trick-or-treating events because it gets a prime demographic through the doors to spend a couple hours window-shopping. They’re billed as “safe” alternatives, giving the false impression that neighbourhood trick-or-treating somehow isn’t safe (see #2). But retail stores are not your neighbours and the people handing out candy are being paid to do so. Taking your kids to the mall instead of exploring your neighbourhood sends your kids the message that commercial entities are preferred (more trusted?) than people down your street.

6)   Better candy haul

Mall trick-or-treating is overcrowded, candy supplies run out early and to handle the mall crowds, stores often hand out single, small pieces of inexpensive candy. Lame. Neighbourhood trick-or-treating still offers the chance of the house that hands out FULL SIZE chocolate bars.

(off topic: The Switch Witch? Ew.)

 7)   Adjusting costumes for the weather is a Canadian tradition

The end of October is unpredictable. Sometimes the weather is positively lovely and poses no threat to costumes. But I do remember those bitterly cold Halloweens where costumes had to work around snowsuits and mittens. Some people claim that going to the mall means that kids get to show off their costumes they way they were intended. I’d argue that trick-or-treating in the cold is one of the iconic things about being Canadian and we should embrace it rather than hide from it.

Let me know what you think. Have I overlooked some reason why malls are a preferred choice over a neighbourhood? Does anyone have any fond, rosy childhood memories of that treat you got from your local Body Shop cashier? Or share your favourite neighbourhood trick-or-treating story.

See you in the streets!