Monday, May 20th, 2019

It seems like everyone’s sweet on Halloween


This column appeared in the Waukesha Freeman in 2007. I hope you enjoy it. Re-reading it brought back some fond memories.

It seems like everyone’s sweet on Halloween

Teenagers begging for treats as popular
as giant glowing lawn displays these days


October 25, 2007

The children of the Wigderson family couldn’t wait for Halloween this year. Even before the Fall Equinox, my wife was compelled to bring down from the attic some of the candle holders and pumpkin lights as “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” played in the background.

My 6-year-old son is the biggest enthusiast, of course. Now an old hand at trick or treatin’, he’ll be leading the pack this year to fill buckets full of candy, with buckets full of dental bills to follow.

My almost-3-going-on-16 daughter is not far behind in her enthusiasm, although she was even more excited about seeing Christmas Tigger in the attic. “It’s Tigger!” she squealed, prompting mom and I to calm her down with, “Tigger is not until Christmas” followed by the 6-year-old, “It’s Tigger!”

“Not until Christmas!” We were a little louder for emphasis. We may lose this battle yet, and Ho-Ho-Ho Tigger may be waving a Halloween bag of candy while playing Christmas carols on our front porch.

I’m not sure where the enthusiasm comes from for Halloween. After all, I’ve always been a little cynical about the holiday.

My parents were respected breeders of Great Danes when we were growing up. We also had a very long gravel driveway. The combination was enough to drive away all but the most determined trick or treaters.

This never stopped my parents from stocking up as if preparing to greet the Normandy invasion. My parents were very careful to select only the candy they liked. H-Day in Milwaukee always conveniently fell on a Packer football Sunday, of course. Our closest friends would briefly interrupt the game and then the candy horde was left all to my parents.

Meanwhile, my brother and I would spend hours knocking on doors with our friends begging for candy. We would return home with an entire shopping bag (paper, not plastic) full of candy bars, candy cigarettes, straws of pure sugar, caramels, toffee and the occasional penny.

My father, a Goldwater conservative much of his life, became a New Deal liberal on Halloween. Every year he announced a “tax” on candy and would proceed to pilfer the best of the bags’ contents, ostensibly also claiming to be examining the candy for foreign objects. My mother, often a single-issue tax protester in real life, rarely raised a protest to my father’s confiscations as much as she was a beneficiary. And if we weren’t paying attention, the dog would help himself to a little snack at the expense of our hard labor, too. He should’ve been named “Fica.”

I understood the Laffer Curve well before my college years. After observing that there was plenty of candy at home, as well as Sunday football, and the consumption of the candy required almost no work and no taxes, why would I be foolhardy enough to venture out to knock on doors?

Unlike today’s teenagers who trick or treat long past the age when it is seemly to do so, I quit the racket at an early age. Halloween became just another football Sunday in October.

While my interest was elsewhere, America’s interest in the holiday increased. Years later, after I met my wife, I discovered how big the holiday had become in the absence of my attention. Yards are now filled with the giant inflatables and blow-plastic figurines once reserved for brightening Christmas. Halloween costumes and decorations are no longer the province of specialty stores but are as ubiquitous as fireworks stands in late June.

My wife is an enthusiast of the holiday, and we have the now-obligatory Halloween display in front of our house. I’m concerned that some local business might try to land a helicopter in my front lawn guided by the glow of our white ghost with the light bulb far above the recommended wattage.

As for me, I keep it simple. If the kid says “please” or “thank you” or at least “trick or treat,” I give them a small handful of candy. If the kid doesn’t say anything, the kid gets one piece of candy that I don’t like. If the kid can show me his driver’s license, I tell him to get a job.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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