CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story listed Pontiac's trick-or-treating hours as lasting until 6 p.m. Pontiac actually allows trick-or-treating until 7:30 p.m.
Most residents turning on their porch lights tonight can probably remember a time when they bought a lot more candy for Halloween's trick-or-treaters. While likely grateful for having to set aside a smaller hunk of a paycheck, those who can recall when, decades ago, streets were filled with youngsters in spooky costumes are also probably a bit nostalgic for those times, too.
Participants in Halloween traditions have been on a noticeable decline even in the last five years. According to polling data from the National Retail Federation, participation in handing out candy declined from an estimated 129 million in 2011 to about 106 million in 2015. Adults who took children trick-or-treating similarly declined in that five-year span from 54.5 million to 43.2 million. Other activities, like pumpkin carving and visiting haunted houses, saw general decreases, albeit ones occurring in peaks and valleys; however, trick-or-treating was a much more linear decline.
“As a kid, almost every house in the neighborhood would hand out candy,” said one local mother, 28, with two kids of her own. “We would have the biggest bags we could find, walk what seemed like a million miles until we hit all the houses and come home with our bags overflowing with candy.
“Now that I get to take my own kids trick-or-treating, it seems like very few houses actually give out candy or have their porch lights on, and children don't have to walk house to house anymore. Most parents drive their children from house to house.”
The mother of two boys, however, pointed to the rise of trunk-or-treat events as the reason for traditional trick-or-treating decline. Trunk-or-treating, where children may go from car-to-car in a designated parking lot in order to fill up their loot bags, are especially popular in rural areas such as Livingston and neighboring counties.
“Instead of Halloween being on just one night like when I was a kid, it's almost a whole week filled with different activities like 'trunk-or-treat,'” she said. “They don't have to walk miles; they literally just have to hold out their bags and people drop candy in. No manners, it's just expected.”
Overall, though, she thought it was a positive change on balance.
“It's stressful for parents because it has now become more of a whole-week thing, but it is a great time for the kids and they get more use out of the Halloween costume that costs a lot,” she said. “So it's pretty much a win-win.”
But a 27-year-old mom of one (with another on the way) was less than enthusiastic about the change.
“We were at this trunk-or-treat event where we stood in a line for about an hour, which to me is also bizarre to stand in line to trick-or-treat, and when we got in, none of the kids said trick-or-treat,” she noted. “They just took hands full of candy and did not pay any attention to the people handing it out.
“It's just not the same.”