Toward a trick-or-treat philosophy

Tomorrow evening, as I’ve done on this date for the last two years, I’ll put this sign on the front door:

If you’ve come in a scary costume, please ring the bell.
Otherwise, try again next year!

It worked last year and the year before.

In the preceding years, half a dozen kids, ten-year-olds on average, usually in pairs, would present themselves at the front door and cry ‘trick or treat!’.

When it comes to American cultural imperialism, I’m as indignant as the next red-blooded Australian. But I have very fond memories of this particular Halloween ritual, from some childhood years spent in the U.S. (spot me in the picture). So, when the crunch came, I couldn’t bring myself to be a complete wet blanket: on those problematic occasions, I would scrounge up an assortment of treats — from lolly bags confiscated after parties, from chocolate boxes brought by dinner guests of bygone years, and maybe throw in a ginger-nut biscuit to give it an Aussie touch — and distribute them in brown-paper sandwich bags.

But I always seethed with resentment. It wasn’t right. The essence of trick-or-treat is the scary costumes, and these local urchins weren’t playing the game, either through ignorance or laziness. In any case most of them were too old.

I can’t bring myself to tell this to their cute little faces, so my sign is a good solution. It saves embarrassment on both sides and establishes that, far from being a Halloween grinch, I’m a heroic defender of standards and traditions. If the effect is to squash trick-or-treating down under, that’s the ideal outcome; if it forces the current crop of globalised, wired-in children to do the thing properly, I’ll settle for that.

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14 years ago

Better than what I do, which is to draw the curtains early and refuse to answer the door.

(OT: Fidelio in Vienna was great, but it is a flawed masterpiece. The quartet and the Prisoners’ Chorus were excellent, though. Figaro – well, I’ve never seen it done better and never expect to. For the Viennese, singing Mozart seems to come as naturally as breathing. So much better than the Australians, I have to regretfully say. And caught a brilliant chamber performance of The Barber of Seville at the Palazzo Barbarigo in Venice. No second-stringers they. It’s a wonderful run-down old palace facing onto the Grand Canal.)

Joshua Gans
14 years ago

No need to apologise for switching tracks to music, Rob. Indeed I’d be disappointed if you didn’t. The Venice Barbieri sounds wonderful.

Re. Mozart, I was pretty happy with OA’s Cosi. Jose Carbo stole the show as usual, but they were all good, and I discovered that Henry Choo has charisma after all. Whether you like hearing it in English or not, Jeremy Sams’ translatiuon is pretty staisfying. But I’m much easier to please than you: as long as the singing is adequate, it’s the staging and acting that make or break a production for me.

14 years ago

James, I was far too sweeping there – OA is capable of great work. It’s just that the last two OA Figaros I’ve attended (one in Italian, one in English) were both quite awful. But I do remember seeing a televised version of Cosi which was quite marvellous – not least because in what I thought was a fabulous twist to the plot, Fiordiligi and Dorabella twigged that their suitors were having them on dressed as Turks, deliberately played along and brilliantly turned the whole ‘test’ thing back on Fernando and Guglielmo.