It’s Halloween season. Time to pound the pavement, walk door-to-door, and go bother the neighbors for candy, right? Not necessarily. Trunk-or-treat is an alternative to the regular trick-or-treating we see every Halloween, and it offers some added benefits for parents, kids, and neighbors.
- So what exactly is trunk-or-treat?
- No one is sure when or where trunk-or-treat began.
- Not everyone is a fan, though.
- Trunk or Treat
- Superhero Halloween Trunk or Treat Ideas + DIY Skyline
- How to Determine Where to Host a Trunk or Treat Event
- Where are the trunk or treat parties? Here’s the list.
- Are overprotective parents ruining Halloween?
- A Short History of Trunk or Treat
- Convenience Versus Coddling
- The Changing Neighborhood
- Trunk or Treat
So what exactly is trunk-or-treat?
The idea is simple: Participants go and bring their cars to central location, usually a parking lot (for obvious reasons). The drivers and their families decorate their cars for Halloween, sometimes creating elaborate scenes out of their trunks. Then kids walk from vehicle to vehicle, collecting candy the way they would during a normal trick-or-treating outing.
This trunk is wearing its superhero duds. Deonna Wade
“I love trunk-or-treat because I get to really go all out with decorating my car, it’s a safe place for my kids to trick-or-treat, and I get to hang out with all of my friends at the same time,” says Deonna Wade, who runs the Child at Heart blog. For people who live in communities where houses are not close together — or places where there are lots of neighbors who don’t want visitors on Halloween — trunk-or-treat is a convenient way to take part in Halloween fun.
No one is sure when or where trunk-or-treat began.
Though the origins of this Halloween tailgate remain a mystery, we do know that some communities have been doing it since the ’90s. “In Graeagle, Calif., an unincorporated town of 800 residents northwest of Lake Tahoe, trunk-or-treating has been a Halloween fixture at a local church’s parking lot for at least a decade,” the New York Times reported in 2006.
The Times also notes that trunk-or-treat events are popular with schools, churches, and other groups because families can keep a closer eye on their kids as they go from car to car than they would if they’d just release their kids into the neighborhood. (It also quotes one happy kid, who added that he can go around to each car more than once without getting tired.)
Not everyone is a fan, though.
For some, letting your kids go from house to house is the entire point of Halloween. Lenore Skenazy, who runs the site Free-Range Kids, had this to say about the holiday:
The problem is that Halloween is ABOUT kids walking around the neighborhood, especially when they get old enough to go out with just their friends. Think about it: They dress up like grown-ups. They take to the streets. They encounter the scariest possible locals (witches, goblins) at the scariest possible time: night. The whole thing is dress rehearsal — literally! — for adulthood. Trunk-or-treat takes all that away.
Then again, she assumes that everyone lives in a neighborhood where walking from house to house is possible. And some communities offer trunk-or-treat events in addition to the regular trick-or-treating, instead of replacing it.
So, pop that trunk. Load it up with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And let the kids take lap after lap while you chill out in your decked-out vehicle.
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Wandering the neighborhood collecting candy is the crux of the classic American Halloween celebration. We all know about the trick-or-treating tradition, but an alternative Halloween activity has been gaining popularity, and it’s called “trunk-or-treat.” Rather than going house to house in costume, this milder event has children simply taking sweets from decorated car trunks in a parking lot. And as a big fan of Halloween, I think that’s sad. In fact, I absolutely hate trunk-or-treat.
If you went door-to-door as a kid (and you probably did), you might remember the effort it took to procure a full pillowcase. How many houses did you have to hit up to achieve Halloween satisfaction? At trunk-or-treat, it’s a quick jaunt between rows of cars to come up with copious amounts of candy. No effort necessary on the kids’ behalf. As childhood seems to get more and more passive, this doesn’t sit well with me. Rather than playing outdoors with neighbors, more and more children sit inside staring at screens on a daily basis. Now you want them to skip the sidewalks entirely and just make a quick loop through a parking lot? Hard pass.
More: The Cutest Non-Costume Halloween Outfits for Kids of All Ages
The trunk-or-treat origin story is actually a Christian one. The event began in the late 1990s when churches wanted to provide a safer, less “evil” alternative to traditional Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, Halloween historian Lesley Bannatyne told NPR. Many churches don’t approve of the devilish Halloween celebration, Bannatyne continued, so in order to make the holiday more palatable, they watered it down. And thus began the idea of collecting candy from decorated car trunks in daylight.
Perhaps it’s the pagan in me, but I relish the spooky elements of our beloved October holiday, as do my kids. The pageantry of the costumes, the fantasy of ghost stories and witch myths and the slight shiver of fear that comes with wandering around in the dark (or at least the dusk, for younger kids). Removing that small element of fright — however imagined — sucks the magic out of Halloween. And kids have so little magic these days, and childhood is so fleeting. Can’t they at least have trick-or-treating?
More: What to Do if Your Child is Scared of Halloween
I accept that some neighborhoods actually shouldn’t or can’t have trick-or-treating. Churches aren’t the only ones hosting trunk-or-treat now, and it’s not just because of spooky Halloween imagery and religious beliefs. Clubs, schools and other organizations are offering car-based candy collection as a safer alternative to trick-or-treating, and in crime-ridden areas, trunk-or-treat can be a real boon to the community. It’s awful that street crime can prevent kids from visiting their neighbors, and trunk-or-treat is a great way to let them celebrate in a safer space.
But of course, it’s not just crime that prevents kids from knowing their neighbors. As community increasingly moves online, we’re less likely to socialize locally. Roaming the local streets to show off costumes and request candy is just one evening, but that’s one more opportunity for actual, IRL contact with our community.
On this spirited evening, we decorate our yards or doors, fill a bowl with candy and just have fun with each other. Whether greeting kids and complimenting costume choices as we toss treats into bags or escorting little ones from door-to-door, Halloween is a special night to mingle and rally around our children in their quest for candy and magic.
More: 15 Scary (but Not Too Scary) Halloween Books to Read With Your Kids
So, yes, my husband and I will take our kids out in the dark to wander the streets this Oct. 31. And if previous years are any indication, the kids will shriek with delight, race to join friends and work up the courage to knock on doors. And when we come home, they’ll trade candy and gorge on sugar to their little devilish hearts’ delight. (After paying the parental candy “tax” of course.) And like every year, they’ll restart the countdown until next Halloween.
Trunk or Treat
Drop by for a free, spooktacular evening of trick-or-treating in our safe, family-friendly environment. Wear your costumes and meander our decorated, candy-filled vehicle trunks.
If you want to be a trunk participant, click on the link below to register. Residents do not have to decorate a trunk. Residents are welcome to just come and walk through the parking lot and trick-or-treat at the trunks. This is a FREE event, open to all.
Saturday, October 24, 2019
(Rain date Sunday, October 25)
3 – 5 p.m.
Village Hall parking lot
(14240 W. 151st Street)
- Participating vehicles should arrive at Village Hall for check-in no later than 2:30 p.m. Please come to the west side parking area.
- All participating trunks must be decorated and staffed by 3:00 p.m. Vehicles arriving after 3:00 p.m. will not be allowed to participate for safety reasons. Trunk-or-treating begins at 3:00 p.m. To ensure safety, participating vehicles must remain parked until the event ends and the participants have vacated the area (by approximately 5:30 p.m.).
- Family name, e-mail address, and phone number are required for participating vehicles.
- Electricity will not be available for decorating your vehicle. Bathrooms will be available inside Village Hall. There will also be latrines open at the Active Core area.
- Participating vehicles must be prepared to provide store-bought wrapped candy or small toys/trinkets for children. No homemade food items allowed!
- Trunk or Treat is an alcohol-free event.
To sign up your car click here.
Superhero Halloween Trunk or Treat Ideas + DIY Skyline
My son currently loves super hero characters and so when I was thinking about a trunk-or-treat theme, I went with what he likes since last year I chose my own theme without consulting him! 🙂 I got it all from Oriental Trading and I LOVE how it turned out!
I included links to everything I bought so you can recreate this super hero theme for your own trunk-or-treat event! This took us about 10 minutes to set up and your kids will have fun with the Super Hero Skyline long after Halloween is over. 🙂
First I made a little DIY City Skyline with some foam board I had and silver and yellow duck tape! I used 4 large pieces of foam board, cut them to be various heights, and then covered them with the chrome duck tape. I then used yellow duck tape to make the windows. Very easy and my son is wanting this in his room when Halloween is over. This would also make a great backdrop at a Super Hero birthday party.
Ok here is the list of all of the supplies I used from Oriental Trading for this Superhero theme:
Superhero Plastic Streamer
Chrome Duck Tape
Yellow Duck Tape
Superhero Mask Craft Kit (for the pumpkins)
Lightning Bolt Tattoos (for the trick-or-treaters)
Jumbo Superhero Word Cutouts
Construction Zone Fringe Table Skirt (for around the tailgate)
Stretchable Spider Webs
I also used white pumpkins and black and orange blankets that I already had. Here is the final product! I love how fun it is and the kid’s are going to love it on Halloween night!
For more Halloween inspiration, check out Oriental Trading for decorations and Superhero costumes too! Also please check out my Day of the Dead inspired Trunk or Treat ideas from last year! 🙂
I added some little Superhero masks to these white pumpkins and they turned out so fun!
Those giant Superhero words make such a HUGE impact and they were so easy to just tape to the truck and the skyline I made.
It’s Cat Boy approved! 🙂
I was given these products by Oriental Trading and these thoughts are my own! 🙂
Added on September 24, 2014 The News Wheel trunk or treat No Comments
How to Determine Where to Host a Trunk or Treat Event
How to Determine Where to Host a Trunk or Treat Event
If you drive down the street, you’ll probably already see one or two houses with Halloween decorations up, and there will only be more in the weeks to come. (Let’s just hope we don’t see any Christmas decorations until long after the Halloween ones come down.) That means it’s time to start planning all your Halloween festivities. What costume will you wear? What costumes will your kids wear? Are you going to decorate your own house? Will there be any fun parties—or should you throw your own? And, perhaps most importantly (or at least to the youngsters), when and where will you be trick-or-treating this year?
Of course, you could always consider attending—or, if you’re up for it, hosting—a Trunk or Treat event instead. But what is Trunk or Treat? Simply put, a Trunk or Treat event is a whole night of trick-or-treating, but instead of going door-to-door in a neighborhood, children will go car trunk to car trunk in a designated safe space with approved participants. Families and friends go all-out decorating their trunks, or entire cars, with a theme. It could be scary or silly—your choice!
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What’s special about Trunk or Treat events is that the party isn’t over after the candy’s been collected. You can have all sorts of fun and games going on with your close family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and classmates in your centralized party location, like bobbing for apples or a cookout. The only problem that remains, however, is determining where to host a Trunk or Treat event, as it requires a big open space that several dozens of cars can access easily and safely.
An example of a trunk on Trunk or Treat night
Photo by ErrorCoins
Never fear: figuring out where to host a Trunk or Treat doesn’t have to be stressful. First, consider places that you know are giving in nature and/or like to foster creativity in children. Great places to start are local churches, particularly your own, or your child’s school. Also consider community centers that are geared toward children’s activities.
You can also try to reserve a local park, but there may be fees involved. Another idea is sectioning off a back road in a quiet neighborhood with orange traffic cones, though you’ll want to contact the city before making that decision.
Local businesses might also be open to giving up parking lot space for a Trunk or Treat event, especially if it gives them any kind of local press. Be cautious, however, as the business might want to open it up to the public, and one of the benefits of hosting your own Trunk or Treat is knowing that your children are getting candy from trusted individuals.
Trunk or Treat pumpkins
Photo by Tojosan
Hold up, though—just because you’ve determined where to host a Trunk or Treat event does not mean all the hard work is over. (But trust me, it pays off.) Check out our complete guide on how to organize a Trunk or Treat for more information.
Car-to-Car Communications: Safety for the Future
Where are the trunk or treat parties? Here’s the list.
Dozens of community parties to celebrate the Halloween season will take place in Monroe County; to include trunk or treat events and street festivals.
Click here for the neighborhood trick or treat times.
UPDATE ON OCT. 28
The Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools trunk or treat party slated for today will be moved indoors because of the weather. The party will be in the gym, doors open at 4 p.m.; trick or treat from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Additional details are at the MCES Facebook page.
Are you searching for family-friendly Halloween fun?
The following trunk or treat events and community parties have been announced for the Monroe County area. Several others took place the weekend of Oct. 20-21.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6 p.m., Bedford Branch Library, south parking lot, 8575 Jackman Rd., Temperance. Advance registration is requested at the library. A donation of one bag of candy per child is requested.
■ Pumpkin Parade: 6 p.m., Frenchtown-Dixie Branch Library, 2881 Nadeau Rd. Children age 10 and younger, accompanied by a parent, are invited to walk through a decorated path behind the library and collect treats. Costumes are encouraged. For information, call 734-289-1035.
■ Haunted Hogwarts: 6 p.m., Ellis Library and Reference Center, 3700 S. Custer Rd. A Harry Potter-themed party includes food, games and a costume contest. Registration is required; call 734-241-5277.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6 p.m., Frenchtown Township Hall, parking lot, 2744 Vivian Rd, Monroe. The Vivian Branch Library will host children ages 10 or younger to trick-or-treat. Costumes are encouraged. There will be refreshments. Registration is required at the library.
■ Halloween Party: 6:30-8 p.m., Community Lutheran Church of Flat Rock, 23984 Gibraltar Rd., Flat Rock. The party begins with trunk or treat in the parking lot; then children are invited to trick or treat inside. The party ends up in the sanctuary where there will be doughnuts, cider and live music.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6-8 p.m., Salvation Army of Monroe, 815 E. First St.
■ Trunk or Treat: 5-7 p.m., Elite Toyota Mazda, 14975 S. Dixie Hwy., Monroe. Children are invited to attend the party in costume and enjoy candy and refreshments. For each child attending, the dealership will donate pet food to the Monroe County Animal Shelter. For more information, call 734-242-3900 and ask for Jennifer Taylor.
■ Second Annual Trunk or Treat: 6-8 p.m.; La-Z-Boy Center, parking lot, 15555 S. Raisinville Rd., Monroe. This free community event is hosted by Monroe Family YMCA. The “sensory friendly” visiting time is 6 to 6:30 p.m.; the event then is open to the community from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, contact Corey Welch at 734-241-2606, ext 242.
■ Downtown Milan Trick or Treat: 5-6 p.m., Tolan Square, area of Main and Tolan streets, downtown Milan.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6-8 p.m., Flat Rock First United Methodist Church, 28400 Evergreen St., Flat Rock. The event includes face painting, candy, a Halloween egg hunt and a coffee bar. For more information, look up the church on Facebook.
■ Ghoul’s Night Out Halloween Party: 6-7 p.m., Francis Family YMCA, 2000 W. Dean Rd., Temperance. This free community party includes a costume contest, pumpkin decorating, games and scavenger hunt. The leisure pool and climbing wall also will be open. For information, go to www.facebook.com/FrancisFamilyYMCA.
■ 15th Anniversary River Raisin Halloween Festival: noon-3 p.m., downtown Monroe. This event hosted by Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau includes trick-or-treating downtown, music with Walt McNeil of WMAC, “headless horseman” carriage rides, the Hexen Brut (Coven of Witches) Dance Troupe, and a costume contest. For more information, go to www.monroeinfo.com.
■ Kids, Candy and Characters: 1 p.m., Oakwoods Metropark Nature Center, 32911 Willow Rd, New Boston. This event features a nature hike combined with trick-or-treating. Costumes are encouraged. To register, call 734-782-3956. For information, go to www.metroparks.com.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6 p.m., Rockwood First Congregational Church, 22600 Mather St., Rockwood. There will be nearly 40 decorated trunks, scary music and “lots of candy.” Many of the trunks are sponsored by area businesses that will have giveaways and prizes. For more information, call 734-379-3711.
■ Trunk or Treat: 1-3 p.m., Heritage United Methodist Church, 4010 N. Custer Rd., Monroe. This is a free community event.
■ Trick or Treat: 5-8 p.m., J. Webb Farm, 4262 Post Rd., Newport. Families and children are encouraged to wear costumes and bring their own bags for treats. Admission is $5 for ages 13 or older, $5 for ages 4 to 12 and free for ages 3 or younger. The cost includes both trick-or-treating and the corn maze. For more information, go to www.jwebbfarm.com.
■ Trunk or Treat: 5-7 p.m., Ida United Methodist Church, 8124 Ida East Rd., Ida. Kids of all ages are welcome; costumes are encouraged. There will be candy and a prize for the best trunk. For information, contact [email protected]
■ Trunk or Treat Festival: 6:30-8 p.m., Monroe Missionary Baptist Church, 14260 S. Dixie Hwy., Monroe. Children ages 12 or younger invited with their families to collect candy in a safe environment. For information, call 734-241-6860.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6:30-8 p.m., Hope Church, 6370 Jay Drive, Monroe. This free community event includes doughnuts, cider, candy and a costume contest for children. The special guests include the Michigan Jedi Council. For information, call 734-755-2884.
■ Trunk or Treat: 1-3 p.m., Lewis Avenue near Temperance Road, downtown Temperance. This community event is sponsored by several area businesses and organizations; there will be a people’s choice award for best decorated trunks. To sign up to host a trunk, look up Downtown Temperance Days on Facebook; or call Sarah at 734-847-3205. To make a candy donation, drop it off at Temperance ATA Martial Arts.
■ Trunk or Treat: 5-7 p.m., Grace United Methodist Church, 1463 W. Samaria Rd., Samaria. Costumes are encouraged; there will be candy, cider and doughnuts for “kids of all ages.” Those who wish to set up a trunk are asked to register via email at [email protected]
■ Trick-or-Treating: 7 a.m.-noon, Monroe Farmers Market, 20 E. Willow St., Monroe. The farmers and vendors who are participating in the market that day will have candy and Halloween goodies. For information, find the market on Facebook.
■ Family Harvest Carnival: 6-9 p.m., Stewart Road Church of God, 1199 Stewart Rd. Admission is free. There will be food, inflatables, carnival games, doughnuts, popcorn, costumes, hayrides and prizes.
■ Trunk or Treat: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 312 Harrison St. There will be hot dogs, chips, candy and juice; in addition to the trunk or treat.
■ Monster Mash 2018: 1-3 p.m., J. Webb Farm, 4262 Post Rd., Newport. This free community event is hosted by McMullin Dental Care; but tickets are required (limit four per family) and must be requested in advance at the dental office, 116 Cole Rd. There will be hay rides, corn maze, a costume contest, petting zoo, face painting and Vince’s Hot Dog truck.
■ Third Annual Teen Ambassadors Trunk’r’Treat and Kids’ All Star Day: 4-6 p.m., Monroe County 4-H Activity Center, Monroe County Fairgrounds, 3775 S. Raisinvile Rd., Monroe. The awards program begins at 5 p.m. for 4-H Clover Buds and 4-Hers. Costumers are encouraged. Those who wish to distribute treats should park their vehicles in the lot north of the activity center.
■ Trunk or Treat: 2-4 p.m., Dundee High School, parking lot, 130 Viking Drive, Dundee. This event is hosted by Dundee Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization; registration forms were distributed to the elementary students and are due Oct. 24. Kid-friendly decorations and “prepackaged treats” requested.
■ Trunk-N-Treat: 12:30-2:30 pm., St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, 343 E. Center St., Petersburg. “All school age children Pre-K through 8th grade are welcome! We will have many of our families decorating their vehicles and passing out candy. Please dress up as scary or as cute as you would like. Hot dogs and drinks will be served afterward,” the announcement said. For information, call 734-279-1949.
■ Trunk or Treat: 5:30-7:30 p.m., South Rockwood United Methodist Church, 6311 S. Huron River Drive, South Rockwood. Prizes for best adult costume, best child costume and best decorated trunk. Snacks provided. The public is invited to this community event.
■ St. Anne’s Children’s Halloween Party: 4-6 p.m., St. Anne Catholic Church, 2420 N. Dixie Highway. Admission is one paper product donation for the St. Anne Food Closet. Those who are hosting a trunk are asked to bring enough candy for 100 children. There will be games and a light supper. Costumes are encouraged. This party is hosted by St. Anne Men’s and Women’s Clubs.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Bedford High School, bus depot lot, 8285 Jackman Road, Temperance. This community event is hosted by Bedford High School’s Students in Action Group.
■ Downtown Dundee Halloween Bash: 4-5:30 p.m., Devine Delight, parking lot, 208 Tecumseh St., Dundee. This event sponsored by Village of Dundee along with many local businesses and organizations includes games, prizes, hot dogs and snacks just before the village trick or treat time begins. For information, go to www.facebook.com/IndependentNewspaper.
■ Halloween Costume Closet: 3:30-5:30 p.m., L.S. Navarre Branch Library, 1135 E. Second St. “Not quite ready for trick or treating? No problem, Join us and check out our donated costume closet,” the announcement said. There will also be face painting available. For information, call 734-241-5577.
■ Trunk or Treat: 6:30 p.m., Crosswalk Community Church, 925 S. Telegraph Rd., Monroe. There will be free food and crafts.
If you have a trunk or treat or other community event to announce, please email it at least one week in advance to [email protected] If you are looking for costume or trunk or treat inspiration for the season, you’ll find dozens of ideas on the Halloween-themed Pinterest boards at www.pinterest.com/monroenews.
Popular Halloween costumes may change every year, but over the past few decades, trick-or-treating has stayed essentially the same: Grab a pillowcase and some friends, then go door-to-door threatening your neighbors to give you something good to eat or face the wrath of your stinky feet. Or so the saying goes.
Over the past few years, though, a trend has bubbled up in cities nationwide, particularly in places where you may not know your neighbors very well—or the houses are so far apart that by the time the kids have hit house No. 4, everyone’s ready to call it a night. It’s called Trunk-or-Treating, and the premise is simple: A bunch of parents band together (typically in a school or church parking lot), deck out their trunks with Halloween decorations like they’re starring in an episode of Pimp My Ride: Spooktacular Edition, and let their kids meander from car to car, collecting candy at each stop.
If at first this seems a little lackluster, just wait until you see the cars. Some people really get into creating themed designs that blow away most of the houses in a typical neighborhood, like this SUV-turned-pirate-ship:
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OnStar Trunk or Treat #piratetheme Thank you @scenicdesign for letting me be a part of this project #design #designers #trunkortreat @cmedesigns
A post shared by C Me Designs (@cmedesigns) on Oct 3, 2015 at 7:54pm PDT
Disney movies—from Frozen to Toy Story—tend to be just as popular as spooky, traditional Halloween-y themes. Another favorite that pops up all over Pinterest and Instagram (#trunkortreat) is a variation on Candyland:
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A post shared by brittanyy_clanton (@brittanyy_clanton) on Oct 29, 2014 at 7:36pm PDT
The most popular style, though, involves turning your trunk into a giant monster’s face, where kids have to stick an arm between its jaws to get to their beloved candy corn and mini Snickers bars.
The proof, though, that Trunk or Treat has truly hit the mainstream? Party supply stores have started selling their own trick-out-your-trunk kits, so you don’t have to be a DIY expert to participate. (Cue sighs of relief from every overextended, always-on-the-go family out there.) Seriously, if you want to host a party but don’t have the time—or crafting skills—to pull off something epic, you can invest anywhere from $6 for a Party City kit, which includes cardboard teeth, googly eyes and a “Trunk or Treat” banner, to Oriental Trading’s $305 Wild West-themed kit, complete with an inflatable cactus, a split-rail fence and horse finger puppets to hand out to kids.
If you really want to go all out, you can even buy customizable Trunk or Treat invitations and treat bags on Etsy. Basically, being effortlessly on-trend has never been so easy.
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Candace Braun Davison Deputy Editor Candace Braun Davison writes, edits, and produces lifestyle content that ranges from celebrity features to roll-up-your-sleeves DIYs, all while relentlessly pursuing the noblest of causes: the quest for the world’s best chocolate chip cookie.
Are overprotective parents ruining Halloween?
SALT LAKE CITY — Halloween can be scary for kids. That’s half the fun. But these days, it may be parents who are most frightened. And that could be a problem.
Nearly 77% of parents report being fearful on Halloween. They worry about their kids being hit by a car or truck (31%), poisoning from tampered or spoiled treats (24%), abductions (15%), and other fears, according to a national survey conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide. Their fears aren’t entirely without justification: children are more than twice as likely to be hit and killed by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year.
Some parents are taking their kids off the streets with more controlled Halloween alternatives. While “traditional” trick-or-treating is reportedly on the decline, trunk-or-treating — in which kids go from vehicle to vehicle in a parking lot to ask for candy under the safe, watchful eye of parents or police — has grown in popularity over the past decade.
But some child psychologists and parenting experts have raised concerns about trunk-or-treats, saying that the practice deprives children of the growing opportunity traditional trick-or-treating provides — to step into the dark and out of one’s comfort zone, to get to know one’s neighbors, and to develop confidence and independence — and is emblematic of a larger national debate about overprotective vs. free-range parenting.
“The trunk-or-treat events are making the child’s world smaller and more predictable, which is unfortunate because that’s not a sample of what real life is like,” said Bonnie Zucker, child psychologist and author of “Anxiety-Free Kids.” “If we eliminate this opportunity for children to gain confidence, particularly when it’s rooted in our own parental anxiety, we’re doing a potential disservice to the child.”
Is “trunk-or-treating” a safe and fun alternative for kids to meet new people and get extra candy — or is it the result of overprotective parenting that’s ruining Halloween?
Halloween isn’t just about candy
Parental fears about Halloween date back to the 1960s, when an urban legend began circulating that neighbors were putting razor blades in apples, spurring the rise of “stranger danger.” Some real horror stories followed: Ronald O’Bryan, Houston’s “Candy Man,” murdered his 8-year-old son on Halloween with a cyanide-stuffed Pixy Stix in 1974, and in 1982, seven people were killed in Illinois around Halloween with cyanide-laced Tylenol. In response, city councils began issuing official trick-or-treat hours and age restrictions.
The media hype that resulted from these rare, shocking incidents created a fear among parents that still affects parents today, when in fact studies show that the risk of poisoning and abduction by neighbors on Halloween is extremely low, said Lenore Skenazy, president of Let Grow, a nonprofit dedicated to childhood independence.
That’s why Skenazy, who started the free-range parenting movement, takes issue with trunk-or-treat events: because they help perpetuate the notion that allowing children to participate in traditional trick-or-treating is unsafe, she said.
“It is billed as a safe alternative to trick-or-treating, which immediately makes trick-or-treating sound like it’s dangerous — which it isn’t,” she said.
The more sanitized nature of trunk-or-treats may soothe parents’ fears, but in Skenazy’s view, they place too much focus on candy and overlook what makes trick-or-treating a powerful growing experience for kids: the chance to taste the fears and freedoms associated with adulthood.
“It’s a holiday when kids get to practice being adults for a night,” she said. “They have to put on adult clothes — Superman, a police officer, a doctor, or a rock star. Then they have to go to their job, which is cold-calling their neighbors. They have to engage in a little conversation with adults, which is trick-or-treating. And then they are responsible for bringing home the goods.”
This experience presents children with new challenges and new rewards: the fear of going out into the dark, getting lost, and talking to new people, and also the thrill of navigating the world by yourself, bonding with your friends, and trying on a new persona.
“It’s the one time of year that we say to kids: we trust you to be responsible and resourceful,” she said. “And even on that one day, we are taking that away from them, and instead giving them the opportunity to collect candy in a sanitized, safe environment, as if the holiday is all about candy.”
For children who suffer from anxiety disorders, Halloween can be a particularly powerful growing experience, according to Zucker.
“For kids with social anxiety or separation anxiety, we definitely want them to face their fears,” said Zucker. “Even if we have to do it in a step-by-step fashion, where they only do five houses this year and 10 houses next year, we definitely want them to get out there and explore the world. Anytime we do something that’s hard for us, we become more confident.”
Salt Lake City police explorer Finau Angilau high-fives Iker Tercero, dressed as Spider Man, at the Utah Foster Care Pumpkin Festival at The Gateway in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Building community — or delaying maturity?
But while some see trunk-or-treat events as taking kids away from their communities and making them less trustful of their neighbors and the world around them, others view them as a powerful vehicle (pun intended) to build trust within communities.
One of those people is County Commissioner Jeff Wall of Madison County, Tennessee. In 2007, he noticed that across the nation, the relationship between youth and law enforcement had deteriorated and kids were looking at police with distrust and fear. So he had the idea of bringing kids, parents, police officers and first responders to the same trunk-or-treat event.
“The idea was simply to bring our community closer together,” said Wall. “I was trying to bring everyone under one roof so that children could develop a positive relationship with law enforcement and see the good that they do for the community.”
The first year, there was just one fire truck and one patrol car. Wall picked up $100 worth of candy from Sam’s Club and was delighted when 60 people showed up. But it grew into an annual event. In 2017, 3 million pieces of candy were handed out at the Jackson-Madison County Trunk-or-Treat. This year’s event, held Monday, drew a record crowd of 16,000 children and their families, with a $15,000 budget funded by local businesses, he said.
For kids living in neighborhoods with high crime rates, or in rural areas where there is no place to go trick-or-treating at all, trunk-or-treats are a great solution to ensure that children have a fun Halloween experience and allow community members to get to know each other in a positive environment, said Susan Groner, founder of The Parenting Mentor.
David Nelson, professor of family studies at Brigham Young University, agrees. Nelson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said his congregation hosts a trunk-or-treat every year as a church social.
“It comes down to context and the reasons people are engaging in these events,” said Nelson. “If you’re using it to create community connections, it’s a great idea. If you’re using it to delay maturity in your kids, it’s a terrible idea.”
Skenazy said the important thing for parents to focus on is giving kids opportunities to gain trust in the world around them and build confidence — and sometimes the best way to do so is by allowing kids to step out of their comfort zone.
“Halloween is an opportunity for spontaneity and adventure,” she said. “What can make your kids safer than anything is confidence, learning how to be flexible and resourceful, dealing with surprises, so they can improvise when something goes wrong.”
It assumes Halloween is all about the candy, when there’s actually far more at play.
October 31st is fast approaching. It’s the annual night when paranoid parents, in a sad attempt to ensure safety, offer their children watered-down versions of the activities they themselves enjoyed while growing up. One example of this is ‘trunk-or-treating,’ a terrible idea in which “laziness and paranoia collide in a parking lot” (to quote Ian Fortey of Cracked).
The idea behind trunk-or-treating is to prevent children from trick-or-treating in the usual sense – you know, going around the neighborhood and knocking on doors for candy. Instead, cars are parked in a lot, their trunks are opened and decorated, and the owners hand out candy to costumed children walking by. It’s typically organized by and for a certain community group, such as a church or a school. As Halloween historian Lesley Bannatyne told NPR, “It’s very similar to Halloween, and you don’t any of the great stuff like costumes and candy, but you can control it and keep away the imagery that you don’t like.”
But this misses the whole point! Halloween is not just about the candy. If it were, kids would be satisfied to stay home and receive a basketful of goodies directly from their parents, no costumes needed, all risks averted (sugar overdoses aside). Or, as Fortey put it, “Give it a few more years and we’ll just mail each other boxes of candy for each other’s kids, and a few years after that we’ll just set up sucrose IVs and dim the lights, call it a night.”
But kids aren’t interested in that because there’s a lot more at play on Halloween night. It’s a chance for them to exercise independence and to engage in activities that go against everything they’re told not to do for 364 other nights of the year – looking at gory imagery and spine-inducing decorations, dressing up in creepy masks, approaching strangers for candy, knocking on unknown doors, strolling in the dark after bedtime.
In the words of Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, traditional trick-or-treating is a glorious (and literal) mini dress rehearsal for adulthood, whereas trunk-or-treating is yet another adult-led activity in a world already full of those. It also reinforces damaging and inaccurate assumptions about the world:
” subtly suggests that kids are in peril walking up to any neighbor’s porch. This reinforces the community-killing idea that kids aren’t ever safe outside the home, school, or supervised program.”
The safest kid is the one who is comfortable and confident in his or her neighborhood, who knows how to cross a street safely and walk themselves home, who knows how to talk to strangers politely and firmly, who does not exude a feeling of victimhood or fearfulness everywhere they go. Participating in activities like trick-or-treating on Halloween help to build up that confidence and, eventually, mold a competent young adult out of the child they once were.
Do your kids a favour and stop with the Halloween paranoia this year. Let them trick-or-treat to their heart’s delight. It’s good for their present and future selves.
Halloween in the American suburbs is eerily quiet these days.
Neighbors knowing neighbors and building community based on physical proximity have largely fallen by the wayside, but communities based on choice and preference continue to increase. The uptick is especially noticeable on the approaching holiday, when neighborhoods remain ghost towns and church, park, and school parking lots seem to host all the little ghosts.
This phenomenon, where pre-appointed gathering places and themed car trunks displace making the neighborhood treat rounds, is commonly known as Trunk or Treat, and it has quietly overtaken the American suburban neighborhood.
“Halloween is the bellweather of what we’re doing to kids,” said Lenore Skenazy, founder of Free Range Kids. “They should be driven everywhere, there must be a parent, we must be concerned about being poisoned. All of that translates to everyday.”
A Short History of Trunk or Treat
Churches founded this new tradition in response to popular ideas about the ghoulish, garish, and grim history of All Hallow’s Eve, creating community events in parking lots and church facilities and re-casting the holiday as Treat-or-Treat.
Rural communities have been practicing a faith-based version of Trunk or Treat for decades.
“We grew up in the Southwest, and our homes were not on paved streets and we had no lampposts,” said Ruth Moritz, a mother of two who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. “So it didn’t make sense to go from one house to the next; we would have to cross acres. So we just went to a few closest homes for trick or treating, and we did the church thing.”
Many such gatherings replaced Halloween-themed décor with biblical characters and concepts.
Convenience Versus Coddling
The past decade has seen a mass exodus from the door-to-door trick-or-treating tradition as schools, clubs, and other youth groups relocate to parking lots. The market has taken notice. Pinterest links to thousands of car and truck decorating ideas and themed kits are purchasable online. A Google search of Trunk or Treat links to more than 2 million pages in less than one second.
Many faith-based websites tout the popularity and purpose of trunk or treating as a “safer” form of Halloween, where children and parents are comfortable with their community and “walk less.”
“All the warnings are totally unfounded,” Skenazy said. “…The people who have actually studied sex offenders on Halloween crimes against children go up. More children get hit by cars because they are not used to walking across streets and drivers aren’t used to seeing children in the street.”
In Moritz’s neighborhood, a highly organized form of the old door-to-door tradition still stands, but with an appointed time, place, and parent-supervised “start.” Community members are asked to hand out candy from their driveways on the designated route, with instructions printed on community flyers in the week preceding Halloween.
“It almost seems like it’s rushed in our neighborhood,” Moritz said. “It’s more of an amazing race of two streets than walking door-to-door and knocking. I wish our neighborhood would slow it down.”
Many groups promoting Trunk or Treat say it’s a safer environment and less walking for young children, but there are trade-offs, too.
“Trunk or Treat really upsets me for two reasons,” Skenazy said. “The holiday is not all about candy, it’s about children getting this one chance one time a year to act like adults. They interact with strangers like adults…independence is the real goal. We can’t even give them this one hallowed day of independence.”
The Changing Neighborhood
Sociologists have studied the trend, too. As society continues to modernize, communities suffer. Urbanization and industrialization have played a role in decreasing dependence on local community, but the insular tenor of the modern American home highlights the crumbling of strong community relationships among neighbors.
“If you choose your neighborhood where you want to raise your kids, raise them there,” Skenazy said. “Trunk or Treat is based on, as far as I can tell, that you can only trust a certain subsection of people and that it’s an unhealthy abnormal idea that children would be outside around their neighborhood on their own. It’s so insular and paranoid.”
Yet Moritz recognizes the value of the trick-or-treat tradition.
“If anything, it forces our kids to go around to neighbors they normally don’t see,” she said. “It allows them to approach their neighbor and say ‘Trick or Treat.’”
“I don’t mind Trunk or Treat as an add-on for Halloween, but it shouldn’t be an alternative or replacement,” Skenazy said. “Kids being outside and having free time has evaporated, and we’re just now noticing.”
Trunk or Treat
Get your costume on and come join the fun!
TRUNK OR TREAT DOWNTOWN JACKSONVILLE – COMMERCE & MAIN
Monday, October 28, 2019 – 5:00 pm – Until Candy is gone. Festivities targeted for toddlers to 12 years old, no dogs or pets allowed.
Costume Contest sponsored by JEDCO. Entertainment provided by Boogie Butt Productions.
Check out what JISD will be giving away!
Admission $1.00 PER FAMILY. Benefiting HOPE & Crisis Center. Entrance 205 E. Commerce (across the street from Austin Bank).
If inclement weather, festivities will be moved inside the Norman Activity Center
If your business would like to participate, entry forms are available at the Chamber office, 526 E. Commerce or click the link, http://www.jacksonvilletexas.com/events/details/trunk-or-treat-vendor-registration-6731 . Your vehicle will be your display so decorate, dress in costume and hand out lots of candy. If you are unable to participate please consider donating a bag of candy, drop off locations, Chamber of Commerce, or Picture This, 111 E. Commerce, or make a monetary donation for candy to be bought. There is limited space, participants must submit an entry form to the Chamber of Commerce to participate. Send entry form to Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, 526 E. Commerce, fax to 903-586-6944 or email [email protected]