Trick or Treat

I’ve never understood Trick or Treating in New Zealand.

When I was a kid in Arizona, part of the fun of Trick or Treating was that it seemed like we walked down the street and knocked on everyone’s door. Nice house, scary house, possibly-empty house – it made no difference. All the neighborhood kids were out in the dark, like gangs of tiny muggers, robbing random adults of their candy. It was a community activity and gave you a chance to meet your neighbors (while dressed as a werewolf or Asterix the Gaul). And before anyone suggests that it was a different time and we lived in a safer community: we lived in a poor neighborhood next to the railway lines, with hobos and drug dealers and semi-regular acts of attempted murder. One of our neighbors across the road (an address I’d visited several times, as for some reason we kept getting their mail) got raided by the FBI for being part of a big-time cocaine trafficking ring.

Yes, it was a different time. We collected a big haul of candy and then went home to check all the packaging for needle marks.

However, there is some kind of weird resistance to Trick or Treating in New Zealand. Part of the resistance, no doubt, is because it’s seen as an American thing and therefore bad and a feature of some sort of ubiquitous cultural avalanche. But part of it, I think, is because people just don’t know how to do it right. They’re terrified of pissing off their neighbors and disappointing their children.

Every year, I see tiny handfuls of kids out Trick or Treating – maybe 2-3 kids per street. They are generally under the age of 10. They toddle down the road dressed as witches or vampires (because nobody here seems to be bored of the scary costumes and chooses to dress their kid as Tinkerbell or a fried egg, yet) and only seem to knock on pre-selected doors on a pre-determined route. Nobody ever knocks on our door, and I suspect it’s just because our neighbors don’t know us and therefore can’t be sure that we’re not child molesters (or cocaine traffickers). The parents direct the kids towards the neighbors they know, just because they know their kids will be safe…

Seriously?!?! What’s the point of that? Trick or Treating actually should be a chance to meet your neighbors in an innocent and bizarrely amusing exchange. It’s the one time that the drug dealer probably won’t pull a gun when somebody knocks on his door, because the person knocking on his door is 3 foot tall and cute and dressed as Humpty Dumpty, and only there to steal his Milky Way bars.

Or perhaps I’m just grumpy because now I have to eat all these Milky Way bars myself…



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