As a kid from small town America, not to mention one who shares his birthday with Halloween, I may not be an expert on the holiday, but I’m intimately familiar with how it works.
Halloween is one of those holidays that parents either seem to love or express worry about due to its glimpse into the darker side of humanity; death, scary costumes and decorations, haunted houses, and people shouting boo. This leads schools to transmogrify the event into “Fall Harvest” celebrations or to ban costumes like ghosts or witches.
Unfortunately, asking kids to dress up as historical icons doesn’t impart the same spirit of fun and adventure as say Iron Man, Harry Potter, My Little Pony, or Princess Buttercup. Not to mention it forces parents to come up with double costumes for the same day. Even if you could dress a kid like Harriet Tubman or Winston Churchill (try finding those costumes on Tao Bao), I doubt most kids would be keen to give a history lesson every time someone asked who they were dressed as.
Still, even businesses can blunder the holiday as many a family found out at one major shopping outlet in Beijing (I won’t name names, but lets just say it was Mauve Mall). Despite shops having signs to indicate participation in the trick-or-treating program, every time our kids entered a shop, the employees looked at them like they were from another planet. Our daughter declared that the employees were all tricking the kids this year. Fortunately the restaurant staff at “Mauve Mall” saved our outing. They had plenty of candy and other treats for the kids to enjoy.
But the foibles of the holiday go out to Beijing homes too. While escorting my kid and her friends around a compound with designated apartments for trick-or-treating, we ended up at the one home with no decorations on the door. The kids rapped away and yelled, “Trick-or-treat!” The door opened and a man stood back and beckoned the children to come in. There were no spooky decorations or anything to indicate that the place was Halloween ready. Never discouraged, the kids marched into the home, around the corner, and into the living room (I followed) where they found several trays of goodies laid out on the coffee table. Call me over-protective, but it was the one place that I felt scared for the kids as visions of Hansel and Gretel played out in my mind.
Maybe next year I’ll buy my kid some candy and we will stay home and read history books together. I’ll even dress up like Captain Kangaroo. Now there’s a historical costume we can all identify with. Right?