Trick or Treating Traditions Changing in NJ

Everyone celebrates the holidays differently, but there are universal elements to each one. We associate Christmas with Santa Claus and Christmas trees, and Hanukkah with lighting the menorah; When we think of the Fourth of July, we can almost hear the fireworks popping in our ears. On Thanksgiving, it’s likely that the whole neighborhood is sitting around the dining room table with plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and apple pie where there’s room – and if we’re being honest, there’s always room.

And Halloween, to many Americans, means dressing up in costumes, eating candy, pumpkin carvng, and haunted houses.

But, while Halloween has been traditionally celebrated by herds of trick-or-treaters going door to door until their pumpkin-shaped buckets and pillowcases are overflowing with chocolate bars and candy, this custom is slowly being replaced by what many parents deem as safer alternatives.

Over the years, traditional means of trick-or-treating in your neighborhood have been replaced with “trunk-or-treating,” a new way of giving children the Halloween trick-or-treating experience without going from house to house.

Instead of knocking on strangers’ doors, “trunk-or-treating” allows parents to bring their children car to car, usually with decorated trunks set up in a parking lot and monitored by police and other officials, and trick or treat in that confined area.

And while some parents disagree with this method of celebrating and feel that it takes away from tradition, others prefer “trunk-or-treating” in lieu of allowing their children to wander around neighborhoods that may not be safe.

“It’s safer, it gets all the kids in one spot, there’s police and other officials around,” said NJ resident Tom Harris. “It’s sad to say in this day and age, but you never know. You don’t want a bunch of five year-olds running around in the middle of the night. It’s sad, but true.”

Harris and his wife have been participating in the Trunk or Treat event in North Arlington, NJ with his wife for the past two years. Harris said he plans on participating for as long as they’re able to.

“We love Halloween. We bought a hearse, we go to a lot of horror shows, stuff like that,” said Harris. “So we figured, what better way to help the town and celebrate a holiday we love?”

Evidence shows that crime rate actually does spike on the holiday. In 2015, The Huffington Post reported about crime rates spiking on three specific holidays, one of them being Halloween. And, both Canada and Boston reported having crime rates spike on October 31st as opposed to any other dates during the year, according to The Huffington Post.

In addition to residents like Harris and his wife, crowds of parents and children attended the Trunk or Treat in North Arlington on Halloween night that followed the town’s Halloween parade at 6 p.m. And while some strictly stuck to Trunk or Treating, which took place behind Borough Hall, some parents didn’t feel it was necessary to prevent their children from traditional trick-or-treating.

“My kids go trick-or-treating, and then we do this at night,” said NJ resident Maria Alho who attended the event with her family and had a trunk of their own set up at the event. Alho said she participates for her kids’ soccer association, not as an alternative to trick-or-treating.

“I just think it’s nice because the whole town does it, but I don’t have a problem with my kids trick-or-treating either,” said Alho.

Like Alho, other parents feel like this new idea of Trunk-or-Treating and other Halloween alternatives have taken away from conventional ways of celebrating the holiday. And according to statistics, Safe Kids Worldwide shows that despite the fact that 75 percent of parents express Halloween safety concerns, only one third of parents actually still take their children trick-or-treating.

“Keep it old school,” said NJ resident Linda Evans, who stuck to traditional neighborhood Trick-or-Treating with her husband and children on Halloween this year. “Go around your neighbrhood, go where you know. I guess we just feel safe enough in our neighborhood, so we still go.” said Evans.

“When I would go trick-or-treating back in the day, I didn’t even have a parent with me,” said Evans’ husband Chris. “I would just go by myself. Now we won’t let them go alone.” According to Evans, despite being in favor of tradition, he and his wife still think the practice is not as safe as it has been in the past. Other parents have even gone to the extremes of driving their children from home to home rather than walking

New Jersey is one of the many states that have taken these kinds of precautions over the past month to ensure a safe Halloween for kids, especially given recent rumors circulating about clown threats and alleged sightings in the area leading up to the already frightening holiday.

Districts have banned the costumes in schools and stores have stopped selling them, to prevent any incidents from occurring, but only in certain areas. One Spirit Halloween in Totowa, NJ, kept the creepy costumes on its shelves during the weeks leading u to Halloween night.

These extreme measures of banning costumes and providing these Halloween alternatives have angered others, who don’t feel like these measures aren’t necessary.

The question is – are these alternative ways of celebrating necessary in today’s society, or will they eventually make tradition go extinct.

Montclair State | New Jersey

Krista Cerminaro

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