Parents are taking all the fun out of Halloween

Oct 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. ET
Image: Arianhabich/Getty Images

When I was growing up, I don't think my parents ever worried about anything like I worry about today when my own kids go out trick-or-treating. At the risk of sounding like some old crotchety ghost of Andy Rooney, here are eight ways Halloween is different from when I was a kid.

1. Everyone is allergic to something

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Growing up, I think I knew of one kid who was a cousin of a friend of a friend who was allergic to bee stings. Sure, there are plenty of kids with actual, real, doctor-diagnosed allergies, but these days it seems like every kid that my kid knows has a life-threatening allergy to pumpkins or ghosts or candy corn or something.

2. Costumes cost more than prom dresses

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Growing up, my mom made all of our costumes with things we had around the house or stuff we got at thrift stores. Now kids have super-expensive costumes they have to order from catalogs along with matching accessories and shoes and themed treat bags that coordinate perfectly with what they are dressed up as. I had a plastic grocery bag or pillowcase or a dimestore plastic pumpkin.

3. There were tricks

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When I was growing up, on Halloween you could expect to be scared. Either by a group of teenagers waiting to jump out at you from behind the bushes, or an adult with a particularly scary costume. I can't even imagine the lawsuits that would happen if adults actually scared kids on Halloween these days. The other tricks that came into play were teens who would egg or toilet paper houses. Now people are much more likely to press charges than call them annoying pranks.

4. We actually ate our candy

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I remember my parents giving my Halloween haul a cursory glance to make sure it didn't contain razors or thumb tacks, but I don't remember them putting a limit on how much candy we were allowed to consume on Halloween night. Nowadays parents dole out one or two pieces after trick-or-treating and either save the rest to hand out piece by piece or throw the rest away.

5. Halloween specials were a big deal

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My parents would always check the TV Guide to see when The Great Pumpkin or the Garfield Halloween special was on, and we would get so excited about watching these things. Now kids have all this stuff on either DVD or via pay-per-view services so there's no excitement or anticipation with watching these Halloween specials on TV.

6. We wore our costumes to school

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Growing up, we always had a Halloween parade at school followed by a big class party. My own children aren't allowed to wear costumes to school, and they have something called a Harvest Celebration. I'm not sure what's so celebratory about it because it has nothing to do with Halloween.

7. People would sometimes give us homemade treats

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There was always a house in the 'hoods I grew up in where the owners would invite you in for punch or cider and cupcakes or Rice Krispies treats. My parents never worried about us being kidnapped or poisoned, just that we would forget to say thank you properly.

8. Halloween movies scared us

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A lot of kids today watch shows like The Walking Dead or American Horror Story or have seen a mess of terrifying movies on Netflix, so if you were to show them something we found terrifying when we were young, like Carrie or Halloween, they wouldn't bat an eye. I saw a preview for The Exorcist growing up and it gave me nightmares for years after.

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