Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and the Entitlement Culture

Today being Halloween (although, almost over), my mind started wandering to the whole premise of trick or treat, and I started wondering if it's popularity is somehow related to the whole society of entitlement that we seem to have nowadays.

We don't really do Halloween in our family. My daughter watches all the popular children's cartoons, so she knows what it is, but we don't go out trick or treating, purchase Halloween costumes, or anything like that. She did play dress up today, wearing a princess costume I bought a couple of years ago on the day after Halloween (50% off). She also got candy, since our church had a movie night to go to.

Since we don't do Halloween here, I think of the scenario of what happens when/if someone shows up on our door begging for candy. We do have some candy in the house, and I suppose if someone had shown up, I'd give them some and a gospel tract. We have lights that turn on when you walk up to the front door and stay off the rest of the time, so that didn't happen.

The premise of Trick-or-treating... give us candy or we'll play a trick on you... isn't very appealing to me. Most people nowadays don't vandalize a person's house for not giving out candy, but the phrase implies the threat. I was curious if the rise in popularity of trick-or-treating was in any way correllated to the rise of entitlements, so I looked it up in Wikipedia.

There are various forms of begging for treats that go back hundreds of years... in the 1500s, poor people used to go around promising to pray for the dead in exchange for food. However, the earliest reference for Halloween begging was around 1915. But it wasn't something commonly done.

The phrase "trick-or-treat" came from the 1930s, when begging for Halloween candy became more widespread. In the 1940s and 1950s, trick-or-treating became more mainstream, appearing on TV shows, magazines, and a Disney cartoon.

Oddly enough, from the 1930s to 1950s, many adults though of trick-or-treating as a form of extortion. Some adults didn't even know what trick-or-treating was, and the children had to explain it to them. In 1948, even the children protested trick-or-treating... the Madison Square Garden Boys Club carried a banner saying "American Boys Don't Beg."

Coincidentally, perhaps, the entitlement programs started around the 1930s as well. There is some correllation but it may not actually be linked. 80% of adults plan to give out Halloween candy, and 93% of children go trick-or-treating. So while it may be seen as an entitlement by some kids, it is one that many adults don't mind bestowing on cute, costumed children.


Laz said...

I'm still sort of on the fence about celebrating Halloween.

Well certainly the dark roots of it are not to be celebrated.

I'm speaking more of the dressing up thing and trick or treating. I did tell my wife that we should probably hand out candy since this is our first year in our new home and I didn't want to seem like a stiff.

We went to our church's fall festival and thus avoided the whole trick/treat scene.

It seems like this issue falls under the Romans 14 category.

I did consider dressing up this year. What do you think about dressing up like Santa for Halloween?

Brooke Lorren said...

LOL, funny.