October 31, 2005
The Sociology of Trick-o'-Treating
Posted by Christine Hurt

To riff on the title of Vic's hilarious post about the young urban party scene on Hallowe'en, I have been thinking today about the sociology of trick-o'-treating and the cultural norms that surround it.  Here in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, Hallowe'en is the Sunday closest to the 31st of October, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.  If you would like to close off your block, please contact the Village.  This superstructure for trick-o'-treating struck us as artificial at first, but we have grown to like having the festivities on a day and hour when both parents can be involved.

But the topic that is really haunting me today is the immigrant trick-o'-treater.  TOT'ing is essentially a neighborhood pastime, yet in most of the neighborhoods that I have lived in as an adult, much TOT'ing seems to be done by groups of people in cars who have come from a different neighborhood.  Am I a bad person to notice this?  Am I a bad person to mention it?  I am generally a pro-immigration person (although I recognize that my social welfare tendencies make my position economically untenable), so I would be a hypocrite to care about Hallowe'en immigration, even if it requires me to buy two or three times more candy than I otherwise would need to buy.

Mostly I understand that I would be heartless to complain because the Hallowe'en visa holders seem to be coming from neighborhoods where safe evening walks and fun treats don't seem to flow as freely as they do on Kent Avenue.  Any additional burden on me seems to be tiny.  A few years back, I was witness to a female neighbor complaining about the influx of TOT'ers ("And they don't even have costumes on, and they just have plastic grocery bags for candy!").  I turned the full force of my sharp, sarcastic wit on her, so I think it's safe to say that she had a "perspective epiphany."

So, next year -- my house.  We'll leave the light on for you.

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