Why yes Virginia it is. Across much of the East Coast citizens took to social media about moving “trick or treating” this Halloween. Folks it was UGLY. Parent shaming, name calling, job threatening and threatening voting elected officials out of office – all over Halloween. It comes down to this is Halloween, a holiday. Even numerous internet searches cannot come to an agreement on that. Some states were in a tornado watch on the 31st prompting some towns to postpone trick or treating for the safety of the community. Other areas were expected to have thunderstorms or heavy amounts of rain with higher than average wind gusts prompting changes. Is it in anyone’s responsibility to change trick or treating? Before the internet and social media how would a town change something like this last minute. Short answer, it wouldn’t nor would a development or a community without the majority’s agreement. Today we have social media and many in the community on social media think everyone is on social media so just listen to them. Is it really that simple?
As many took to social media to “cancel” Halloween and move the date, is it really up to a town, city or community to move Halloween? So many towns and communities were caught off guard with these demands from residents to postpone trick or treating. Many were left scrambling to figure out who has the authority and if it was actually something they should do. These people were tasked, and some might say, mercilessly to find the solution. In the United Sates there are some areas that already have laws/ordinances concerning trick or treating with the main focus of those laws or ordinances on the maximum age of trick or treaters, most with an age of 12 cutoff. The town of Boonsboro in MD age cutoff is 12, and the town designates the hours to trick or treat. Meridian, Mississippi as well has an age cutoff of 12 and designates times for trick or treating. The state of Virginia also has several towns that have age limits on trick or treating. Yet, is it a town right to limit or regulate trick or treating? In Alabama it’s a crime to dress up in religious garb though not crafted for Halloween it is applicable. But as to a reference for towns and communities to find guidance for demands for postponing Halloween, the resources were limited.
Many town and community officials were conflicted with the obvious concern for the community with the extreme foul weather forecast and the limits of their authority. The Supreme Court has ruled that restricting residents the right to go door to door is a violation of their freedom of speech. So, while maybe pushing the limit as trick or treating is not canvasing or soliciting for a cause there is a basis for residents taking offense to restrictions or cancellation of trick or treating. Many towns have been wary to involve themselves in the Halloween festivities as it’s not worth the aggravation and until this year typically did not require a second thought. This year on a lot of the East Coast there were unprecedented severe weather warnings. Residents rather than using common sense were demanding those in charge cancel the event and reschedule it for an alternative date. Many were not aware of the myriad of issues this request could cause. Many areas add additional police on staff for the holiday to ensure that there is a larger presence, so a date change has a broader reach. As well, there is the ability to notify all residents of the change. It is expected that Halloween will occur on Halloween. It’s never been spelled out; however, there was just a community national understanding that trick or treating started close to dusk and ended at a reasonable hour, typically no later than 9 PM. Everyone knew you only trick or treated to homes with their front porch lights on. There were no memos that went out to all with this basic information. Police would routinely remind parents and children of steps to take to be safe.
Communication is still a 21st century hurtle. The addition of social media, the internet and email have made communication easier, but it does not guarantee everyone will be reached. Take for example Facebook as that was a heavy medium for residents to advocate for a rain date for Halloween. In fact, many used Facebook erroneously to substantiate their claims that a majority of a community wanted a change based on polls or the response on Facebook. 54% of Americans are on Facebook of that not all users are on the site all the time, but for ease of this argument, let’s say they all were for the trick or treating debate for a rain date. A poll is completed, and 65% of the poll are in favor of a rain date that only equates to 35% of the potential population not necessarily a true reflection of the majority’s opinion as not everyone participated. Some suggested an email blast for feedback, and many towns and communities do not have the resources to handle managing that. Website voting was also another avenue suggested to get residents opinions on changing the date, again also plagued with the how many people are aware of the voting and access or ability to complete the online voting. Short term changes to an event steeped in traditional expectations is riddled with problems. It is no wonder so many communities and towns struggled to do “ the right thing.” I guarantee for next year, many of these communities and towns will have a plan in place for weather issues concerning Halloween trick or treating. The positive to this is that it will give all of the residents of those communities an opportunity to participate in the decision making process and have their views heard. As for this year, it appears that most communities and towns ignored the community demands and based their decisions solely on the severity of the weather forecast, which from a logical perspective was the only way to make a fair and unbiased decision not weighted by some of the outrageous antics of some in the public.
This Halloween trick or treating rain date posts on social media for those located on the East Coast would make an excellent trailer for a horror movie. A lesson hard learned is that messing with a tradition is a hotly debated topic with fervent supporters of both sides. The advocates for not granting a rain date for Halloween pointed out that historically many have found something else to do and that’s part of the charm and beauty of Halloween – the predictability that no matter what it’s Halloween. Those demanding a rain date pointed out the possible severity of the weather and their concern for everyone’s safety. Regardless, it was a Halloween for the history books as the tradition has now forever been changed, and already the new breed of Halloween enthusiasts has evolved. Coming soon to a town near you “Halloween designated as a weekend event.” Good luck folks!