a writing by Denis Barter

It’s the last day of October, Halloween, and here in central Ontario, a more sombre and dismal day could not be imagined! Unless a dramatic change comes about shortly, it is going to be a sad night for the wee ones who look forward to their ‘tricking and treating!’ adventures. Cold damp, carried down by the wind from the snow burdened Arctic wastes, seems determined to spoil their fun and games! Weeks of planning and the making of costumes, will come to naught, if they have to be kept hidden under waterproof coats and rubber boots. Disappointment will reign supreme in many households, I’m sure, though doubtless a few hardier souls will dismiss the weather from mind and venture out, notwithstanding the ensuing coughs and colds which many will catch.

Parents who ride shotgun over their charges, will find excuses not to participate in the evenings activities, unless the rain/sleet mix, eases enough to allow the little ones, to parade their finery for householders to see and admire. No second chance for a year, for such is the mystical rituals associated with October 31st, no other day can be allowed to substitute! Furthermore, once midnight arrives, broomsticks and witches, hob goblins and warlocks will be banished from our midst, until another year has passed! Thankfully, my own days of ‘guardian’ are long gone, and today I can sit back and enjoy the visitations of children who come to see if I am bold enough to say “Trick!”. I wonder what or how many of the children, even know how to trick - were I to exercise my choice? I truly figure, few of their parents would know either, and would stand dumbfounded, seeking to give an explanation to a child who regards the traditional Halloween greeting as a given formality, with no substance to the ‘trick’ part of the spoken ritual!

When I was a young lad - yes my memory still keeps a few such events, readily accessible - we often wanted the householder to say “trick!” for we had numerous, annoying but non-destructive, options to hand. Soot on the doorstep that would blacken the steps - kept spotlessly clean by many a housewife, who regarded this ritual as an indication to all, that a house-proud woman lived within! Tying a door knocker or latch to a post or pillar, that would have defied the owner to open it, except, we innocent of such matters, never realised that most doors opened outwards, and this defeated our intent! A tin can filled with small pebbles, tied to the knocker, would rattle the nerves of one who refused us sweet treats! Once in place, one of us would approach and knock hard on the door, then turn, scarper away to join his mates, and watch to see what then took place. Of course, many adults joined in the larks, and their pretended ire, made our evening all the more enjoyable.

When coming to Canada on July 4th, 1966, with three small children, we quickly learned that Halloween here was a far different occasion from that carried out in the UK. It seemed to us, it was little more than a scavenger hunt for candies and goodies, that the children - more so the older ones - sought and tricking was no longer an acceptable alternative. In the almost fifty years we have lived in this great country, I cannot recall one single ‘tricking’ event. Sadly today’s Halloween ritual, places the emphasis on getting a good haul of ‘loot’ as some call it, and no one wants to take a chance on disappointing a child, who has been programmed to think in terms of ‘how much?’ they can amass, rather than giving a home owner an option! Maybe, someplace, some time soon, a brave soul will brave the waters, to see what transpires when they give the alternative reply of “Trick” to this question! Coward that I am, I’ll leave it to another, and bow out gracefully, by continuing to dish out candies as usual!

Rhymer. October 31st, 2014.

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