Fear. Junk food. Mumbling children. This Halloween, I want it all back, including the forbidden words


If you are planning to hand out treats on Sunday night, take a bow.

I salute you. More important, the little goblins, witches, bunnies, vampires, werewolves and hopefully peaceful “Squid Game” munchkins salute you. Your jack-o’-lantern might as well be the Olympic flame. Your willingness to compete during this sputtering pandemic, filling bags with goodies, now puts you in the minority.

A recent Leger survey found only 44 per cent of Canadian homes will be open for candy transactions this weekend. I recall once poking around a bazaar near the Alhambra in Spain. For some reason, about six out of 10 stalls were curtained off.

It was oddly desolate. That’s what this Halloween will feel like for our kids.

Which means there is greater pressure on those of us who have decorated our yards with tombstones and cobwebs. Our homes will be spooky citadels beckoning all trick-or-treaters, far and wide. And we have a moral obligation to provide empty calories and fond memories. It won’t be easy.

I sighed the other day after reading a CTV News story that began, “Kids in Ontario will be allowed to go trick-or-treating this year, but may have to refrain from saying that same phrase in exchange for candy on Halloween night.”

So, what, officials want this Halloween to be a silent movie? You can’t possibly tell me there is scientific grounds to issue a ban on saying, “Trick-or-treat.” Not when those three words are uttered outside by children wearing medical masks under their costume masks. Also, have these health experts ever doled out Aero or Coffee Crisp on All Hallows’ Eve? The kids who’ve come to my door over the years are not opera singers, spewing out concentrated aerosols as they bellow, “TRICK-OR-TREAT!”

They mumble. They are barely audible. I have heard countless “trick-or-treat” icebreakers that sounded suspiciously like a hushed “tryptophan” or “trickle teat.” Kids emit no vapours while soliciting Butterfingers. The younger kids are too freaked out after strolling past inflatable ghouls to even say “boo.”

I stopped wearing my Area 51 alien mask while reaching into the giant bowl because my extraterrestrial visage was turning the tykes catatonic. They slowly backed away in terrified silence as I tried to slip a Tootsie Roll or Twizzlers into their canvas sacks.

So, if you come to my house on Sunday, feel free to say, “Trick-or-treat.” I also promise not to enforce any social distancing on the porch. You’re outside. It’s fine. There will be no temperature checks. At no point will I ask a Baby Yoda or Harley Quinn to produce a vaccination passport so I can scan the QR Code before unhanding a Nestlé Crunch.

You will also not be getting any “healthy snacks” from this household, not on my watch. That trend predates the pandemic, and it’s an abomination. Halloween is the one night of the year in which our obsession with nutrition should be muted by the Monster Mash. Give the kids Kit Kats and M&Ms, not kale chips and Babybels. As I wrote previously, I still have a vivid childhood memory of watching C-3PO have an absolute meltdown after getting a box of Sun-Maid Raisins. The poor woman might as well have given him a rutabaga. He was indignant. C-3PO yearned for an Oh Henry!

You know what else would be grand this Halloween? If we could let the crypt sounds drown out the social-justice warriors. If a child is inspired by and wants to dress up as Black Panther on Sunday, that’s a beautiful thing, regardless of skin colour. To lecture a child on culturally appropriating Mulan is to miss the point of Halloween entirely. Give it a rest already. A pagan ritual is no time to start scolding or raising supernatural diversity queries such as, “Why are all ghosts white?”

On the other side, could you please refrain from using your Halloween decorations as a Trojan Horse for divisive politics or downright racism? I just read a story about how police are investigating because a Kelowna home’s yard display included a Confederate flag and a hanging effigy of a Black mannequin. Sigh.

There are way too many adults among us who are incurably stupid and repulsive.

But the kids, the kids are alright.

On Friday morning, I was driving one of my daughters to school and the streets of Toronto were filled with costumes. The Joker. Cruella de Vil. Spider-Man. I saw a crossing guard who was either Merlin or Gandalf, tough to say. The white beard might’ve been real. There was a teen crossing the Bloor Viaduct in a billowing, yellow getup — Pikachu? — that made me anxious because it was windy, and her parachute regalia was dangerously close to taking flight. I passed dogs in antlers and capes.

It made me smile. That’s what Halloween is all about: happiness.

So sugary hosannahs to the 44 per cent of Canadians participating in this confectionery free-for-all on Sunday. Do not call the cops if an adorable eight-year-old fairy mumbles, “Trick-or-treat.” Just give her an unhealthy treat. She deserves it. This pandemic has taken a toll on our kids; we may not fully grasp the impact for years to come.

But Halloween is a Dracula step back toward normal. Halloween symbolizes our capacity to have a scary, fun time — like we had before the actual horrors of this stupid pandemic.

I can’t wait to fill those bags with goodies.

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