Family life

Halloween: Separating the rich kids from the poor?

Do "poor" kids deserve to trick-or-treat in other neighbourhoods on Halloween? According to one letter that has gone viral, the answer is no.

Halloween-wealthy-neighbourhoods

Photo: iStockphoto

My parents would be horrified if they found out, but I don’t remember any of my Halloween costumes.

My Halloween memories are of the parades and school assemblies, climbing in and out of my parent’s vehicle as we drove through the starry countryside, teeth chattering in the autumn chill as we stood expectantly on the doorsteps of a neighbour. When we got a little bit older, my mom would take us into the nearest town, 15 minutes away. Trick-or-treating was better there, with brightly lit sidewalks and groups of friends to roam the streets with. Another reason it was better? The candy was more plentiful.

We were far from being the wealthiest family on the block, but we were never turned away by someone who thought we didn’t deserve Halloween candy because of the condition of our costumes. Can you imagine anyone actually thinking class distinctions should bar a hopeful dragon or tiny princess from enjoying Halloween in wealthier neighbourhoods?

Read more: Halloween: Scaredy-cat kids>

Yet, that’s the thinking of a letter writer who posted on Slate last week. In a letter to advice columnist Emily Yoffe, the reader wrote:

“I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?”

The letter understandably went viral and, at last count, it received more than 6,500 comments and 120,000 shares on Facebook. There’s some speculation that the original letter is a hoax, but even if it is, there’s an alarming number of commenters who agree that definite class lines should be recognized and that less well-to-do families should stay where they live. That said, many of the comments sided with Yoffe, who bluntly told the letter writer they were being callous and miserly:

“Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.”

Ouch.

Read more: 10 ways Halloween has changed since we were kids>

When we moved from the city to the country four years ago, trick-or-treating was approached the same way my parents did 25 years ago—in safe neighbourhoods that, yes, more than likely have higher household incomes than we do. Maybe it’s because we live in a small town where people are inherently kind to each other, but never once were my children turned away while trick-or-treating just because we were from out of town.

Halloween is a night of magic and fun for kids of all ages. If you’re feeling like an ogre and don’t want to shell out for families that don’t “fit into” your neighbourhood, the solution is simple—turn out your lights.

Read more: 23 thrilling Halloween events across Canada>

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.