Monday, November 01, 2010

The cookies next time

The block I live on gets light trick-or-treat traffic of mostly neighborhood children. This is a neighborhood that still supports a traditional mix of store-bought and homemade costumes. In these respects, it is not very different from the neighborhood where I grew up several decades ago.

What has changed is the nature of the treats handed out. Beginning in the mid-1960s, according to Snopes, rumors about razor blades in apples began to circulate (some suspect with help from the candy manufacturing industry), leading to police warnings, hospitals offering to x-ray kids’ hauls, and a complete shift toward individually wrapped commercial candy. No more homemade cookies. No more apples. No more anything that didn’t come out of a candy factory.

Well, that’s two generations of children experiencing a debased, corrupt, commercialized Halloween. And two generations of baseless paranoia is enough, sez I.

So I tried an experiment. In one bowl I offered candy. In a second bowl I offered beautiful, polished apples that we bought yesterday from the grower at our local farmers’ market. Of the dozen or so kids who came by last night, I’m happy to report that three chose apples. (One little girl, grabbing a handful of candy as her younger brother chose an apple, said, “He’s the smart one.”) Clearly the sample was too small to have any statistical significance, but I count as a small victory the fact that their hovering parents allowed these children to accept unwrapped apples.

Maybe next year you’ll try something similar. And the year after that your neighbors might. In Arlo Guthrie’s immortal words, “And, friends, they may thinks it’s a movement.”

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