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The Great Halloween Debate: Trick or Treat on October 31, or Move Halloween to the Weekend?

halloween kids trick or treating in costumes daytime
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Should we move Halloween to the weekend? This mama argues that most of the fun comes from trick-or-treating on a school night, and wishes Singapore would follow suit

When I was growing up in the 1980s and ‘90s in the United States, Halloween was probably my second favorite holiday (after Christmas, because duh). Not for the candy (though that was nice), but for the once-a-year specialness: wearing costumes to school, getting to stay out late after dark…with my friends!, exploring different neighborhoods, and of course comparing and trading our candy stashes the next day at school.

My parents weren’t both always home from work every night at dinner, but on Halloween they’d be there, my Dad taking me out trick-or-treating, my Mom womanning the door to hand out candy.

I grew up in Massachusetts, not too far from Salem (famous for its witches, and setting for the all-time great Halloween movie Hocus Pocus); in October the air is crisp, the fallen leaves crunch under your feet, and we had plenty of spooky old graveyards that we would dare each other to walk through. It’s peak Fall and, in modern parlance, Halloween AF.

In other words, I’m a Halloween purist. During fall weekends leading up to Hallowen we’d bob for apples, go on haunted hayrides, visit pumpkin patches (then carve pumpkins and roast the seeds) – pretty much all stuff that you can’t realistically do in Singapore, where Halloween often seems primarily a vehicle for themed mall promotions with the occasional condo or neighborhood trick-or-treating event. Unsurprisingly the Woodlands Woodgrove neighborhood around Singapore American School sets the trick-or-treating standard, with thousands descending upon the ‘hood each year on October 31st.

move halloween to weekend kids trick or treat candy

I’m lucky to live in a condo that goes all out for Halloween, with a costume parade, a decoration contest, and quasi-trick-or-treating (there’s no knocking on doors, instead kids generally sprint from one landing to the next grabbing as much candy as they can from bowls).

But one thing drives me nuts: they always do the Halloween event on a Saturday. And this year it’s in November…two days after the actual holiday. I realize this is just a function of life in Singapore, where most of my non-American neighbors didn’t grow up with Halloween or trick-or-treating and it’s just a fun little thing for the kids to do, and I should stop whining and just suck it up and schlep out to Woodlands if it matters so much (and I totally will, when my kids are a bit older).

But my condo event is actually a reflection of a burgeoning movement in the U.S. (e tu, America?!) to move Halloween to the weekend. In fact, there was actually a petition launched earlier this year to “officially” move Halloween to the last Saturday in October, though it seems like a publicity stunt as it 1) petitioned the President, who has no official authority to move Halloween (were they hoping for an early-morning tweet about it?) and 2) was backed by the Halloween & Costume Association, which I’m pretty sure just wants to maximize profits.

move halloween to weekend toddler trick or treating with parent

Of course I understand why so many parents want to move Halloween to the weekend: working parents are less likely to have to rush home early from work; kids won’t be out on a school night; and there would generally be less stress and scrambling between school, dinnertime and trick-or-treating – it could become more of an all-day celebration rather than a compressed evening activity.

Which is, in my opinion, precisely one of the biggest arguments against moving Halloween to the weekend: isn’t it better to limit the sugar consumption and hijinx to a few hours, rather than a whole day (or even two days)? When Halloween falls on a weekday, parents have a legitimate reason to get the kiddos off to bed, and even tweens and teens are apt to feel somewhat more accountable (and are less likely to get into trouble). Perhaps this isn’t too much of an issue in Singapore, but there are also likely to be far fewer pedestrian-threatening drunk drivers out on the road on a weeknight than on a Saturday.

move halloween weekend spooky cemetery graveyard trick or treating

Halloween traces its roots to a combination of Celtic traditions and a November 1 Christian holiday celebrating saints that began around 835 A.D.; I claim no particular allegiance to either. But when I look back, oh so fondly, on my childhood Halloween celebrations, it was that air of mystery and unspoken permission to be mischievous that made Halloween most exciting. Are there any other holidays where kids are encouraged to go out on a school night? Where mild pranks like toilet papering a tree or throwing eggs are at least tolerated? (I draw the line at breaking pumpkins, that’s just jerky!)

Halloween, in its modern form, is primarily a holiday for kids (and single 20-somethings hellbent on dressing up as slutty [fill in the blank] – How I Met Your Mother spoofed this in the best possible way with “The Slutty Pumpkin.” But I digress…). Moving Halloween to the weekend feels more like it’s for parents’ benefit than kids’: we don’t have to rush home for work, or deal with cranky sugar highs at bedtime. We can even toss back a few drinks without having to worry too much about a hangover!

I get it, really I do (and I’m basically doing this for argument’s sake since Halloween generally does take place on the weekends in Singapore…though normally in October). I just think that if we were to move Halloween to the weekend, we’d be taking away a quintessential bit of childhood fun. Kids today are already growing up way faster than we did; why push them to see Halloween as a weekend party (they’ll have plenty of time for that in uni) when it works so well as a one-off weeknight bit of mischief?

Perhaps it’s because I was a bit of a goodie goodie, but it was genuinely thrilling getting to go out on school nights as a small child. And looking back, I think part of me appreciated my parents sacrificing their time to make Halloween so special for me, and for other kids in the neighborhood. It never ceased to amaze me that my normally-strict mom was ok with letting me go out on a school night!

I’m at peace with the fact that Halloween in Singapore is simply a different beast than in the U.S. (where bobbing for apples has probably fallen by the wayside, too out of concerns about spreading germs). But the joy of celebrating Halloween on a school night is one thing this Halloween purist will never let go.

Lead image from; image #1 from;image #2 via Unsplash; graveyard image via Unsplash

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