Deconstructing Halloween — Reverse Trick Or Treaters

When I lived in Foster City, every year at Halloween the house would be mobbed by kids trick-or-treating. It was a non-stop barrage of costumed kids, and required quite a lot of candy. I don’t know if things were organized, but Foster City is a very planned community, and my neighborhood was very residential (and very flat). There was a shopping center nearby and I once drove by on Halloween and saw the entire parking lot filled with trick-or-treaters. It seemed like other towns must have bussed their kids in. Perhaps they came from Belmont or San Carlos.

We lived in Belmont for the last two Halloweens and we ended up with a grand total of zero trick-or-treaters both years. After six or seven years of the Foster City mobs, this caught me by surprise. However, in retrospect, there were potentially a few reasons why this could have made sense. The biggest issue was that there really weren’t that many kids in our neighborhood. Second, our house probably felt a little out of the way for the kids, as it was either at the top of a big hill or partway down a hill that you would have to climb back up. So, it probably wasn’t worth it. Finally, that old house was huge and had been broken up into some apartments, so it wasn’t clear at all to visitors where the “front door” was — which may have resulted in a fair amount of confusion.

When we moved to San Carlos last month, even though it was only a mile away, I started to think that this year we would see plenty of kids. First of all, there are a lot more kids in the neighborhood. Many of our neighbors seem to have young kids. The house is walking distance to a bunch of schools, so kids are walking around here all the time. The biggest indicator though was the decorations. I mean, I’m used to seeing people gear up and go all out for Christmas decorations, but you usually don’t see that much effort (if any) going into Halloween decorations. Except here in our neighborhood apparently. It certainly wasn’t every house, but a noticeable percentage of houses had really involved and detailed Halloween decorations. There were huge witches and spiders and cobwebs. More than a few homes had their entire front lawns converted into fake graveyards (some with bones sticking out of the ground as well). Witches crashing into things (garage, telephone pole) were common. It was definitely impressive and it made me think that this neighborhood takes its Halloween seriously.

We bought some candy and I rushed home from meetings in the city to make sure I was around when kids came… and then… no one came. I think that something may have been going on at one of the schools nearby (I could hear the loudspeaker), but no kids stopped by at all. It certainly could be that it’s kind of a pain to get to our front door (you need to walk up a very steep driveway, and the front door is on the side of the house rather than the front). However, when I was a kid, things like steep driveways were never a deterrent to trick-or-treating. We had a pretty strict methodology: ring the doorbell of every house in the neighborhood. It was pretty effective. Perhaps, though, times have changed. One thought is that the lack of Halloween decorations was a signal not to bother.

We did finally get one knock on the door however. I was munching on a post-dinner apple and there was a tapping at the door. So I grabbed the bag of KitKats and swung the door open. It was our next door neighbors with their daughter (she’s probably around 2 years old or so). We’ve met them a few times and they seem quite nice. So I’m all set to give the kid a KitKat and they say “Wait, we’re here for a ‘deconstructionist’ Halloween — we have something for you!” And with that, our neighbor reaches into a canvas bag and pulls out two delicious-looking caramel & nut covered apples. Turns out that one of our neighbors a few doors down is a chocolatier, and made a bunch of these caramel apples. I’m not quite sure why the neighbor three doors down gave the neighbor one door down caramel apples to give out, but that’s what happened. And that was that. We didn’t give out a single piece of candy (most of the candy is still wrapped up, so we’ll return it), but we got two caramel-and-nut covered apples. Of course, since I was halfway through an apple already, it felt wrong to start eating the caramel one… so it’ll have to wait for another night.

In the meantime, it’s an interesting welcome to the neighborhood. Rather than giving out treats, we actually ended up with some.

One Comment » Comet Watching With The Neighbors  on November 13th, 2007

[…] It’s funny that in all the time I’ve lived in California, I’ve barely known any of my neighbors. Perhaps it’s been my fault for being anti-social, but it just seems like I always end up living places where neighbors pretty much keep to themselves. Apparently, that’s no longer the case. Following our Halloween fun with the neighbors (and, yes, the caramel covered apples were delicious), we’ve had yet another enjoyable gathering with some more neighbors. […]

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