Halloween, 2012, suburbia: How sad is this? Between prescribed hours, costumed kids will go trick-or-treating. Their parents, fearing one of the neighbors will snatch their child off the porch or otherwise lure them inside for evil purposes, will be standing guard from the sidewalk. Then darkness will fall and the streets will be deserted except for bands of high school kids, too old to be trick-or-treating.
In some neighborhoods and towns "scary" costumes and decorations are forbidden. In others people will take their cars to large public parking areas, open their trunks, and pass out candy to groups of costumed children, marching by in orderly procession. The kids will be watched over by parents and police.
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Halloween, circa 1950, Chicago and Des Plaines: How magical was this? After darkness fell I would join a band of my costumed pals roaming the block on which we lived and trick-or-treat at every house. We even hit the one where the elderly couple insisted we come inside and perform a treat (we sang "The Star Spangled Banner") before giving out the candy.
In the routine of most days outdoor play ended when the streetlights went on. But on Halloween, we took to the streets after those lights went on and without parents hovering nearby. Then the familiar sights of the neighborhood where we played in daylight became deliciously eerie when bathed in shadows cast by streetlights.
Parents' involvement in Halloween was limited to taking charge of our loot and doling it out until that day we came home from school to find they had thrown it out because "it was getting too stale." Kids of 2012 are cursed and blessed at once. They're cursed because they don't know what they've missed. They're blessed because they don't know what they've missed.