As special event days go, I feel Halloween is not really measuring up to its full potential. Yes, the sense of obligation amongst the general public is fairly universal when it comes to the practice of handing out treats when costumed individuals arrive on the scene. No problem there. My issue is with what is being handed out, and I blame the major snack companies for not doing more advertising to create an aura of societal expectation and obligation.

Snack food giants need to attach a stigma to any homemade, healthy or “message” items that might be finding their way into kids’ trick or treat bags. Oh sure, they claim they’re trying their best, offering easy to buy single serving Reese cups or one bite Oh Henry’s packaged in spooky Halloween-centric packaging. Sorry guys, not enough.

Any kid knows the difference between a good score and a lame treat. It’s not all that hard. Anything backed by a flashy TV commercial or that enjoys a prominent place next to a supermarket check-out is pretty much guaranteed joyful acceptance when offered.

My concern is the lack of effort at creating a moral absolute behind more significant Halloween gift-giving. They did a better job with Valentines Day, ensuring that anything “homemade” is simply not enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I know individual effort went into making those popcorn balls. I even appreciate the time taken to tie each little saran-wrapped bag of candies with a ribbon, but seriously, no kid can plausibly feign excitement at receiving them.

Ungrateful? Of course. A little kid going house to house looking for freebies is not building character. He’s practicing for his eventual role in our organized welfare state. Easy come, easy to complain about, no?

Crispy Crunch. Butterfinger. Old Dutch. Snickers. Mars. Lifesavers. Mr.Big. Planters. Twix. You know what’s acceptable. Anyone dropping unwrapped popcorn balls into my bag is just not trying hard enough to be part of the festivities.

Now, there are always going to be people immune from coercive advertising. Usually it is anyone over the age of eighty-nine who insists on handing out walnuts as treats. Walnuts? Please, turn your lights out, close the blinds and go to bed, you’re missing the point. The other group often immune is young college guys that forgot about Halloween altogether and resort to handing out packages of Ichiban noodle soup. Not great treats but at least some effort is evident.

One year I even received a beer from a guy, immediately followed by a front row seat to a domestic argument concerning the corruption of minors. Bad Halloween treat. Great experience.

The real question is why are the candy companies not running aggressive ads exposing the givers of lame or pathetic treats as inadequate? It’s a perfect opportunity. Nobody wants to be thought of a cheap so and so. This is their chance to hit ‘em hard.

Picture this. A little kid in an adorable dinosaur costume rings the doorbell. Homeowner answers, gives the requisite “Awww, how cute” and then drops a plastic bag of nasty, clumped raisins into the kid’s plastic jack-o-lantern.

Immediately have the kid start crying. Then, other guests in the house can begin to complain and finally shun the bad treat giver. Maybe she could lose her job or even her husband when her status as a bad treat giver is revealed to all.

Hershey could then explain the importance of generosity and how you get one chance each year to prove how good and thoughtful you really are by spending a minimum of two days salary on giving out full size chocolate bars. Mark my words, it may take a few Halloweens but eventually it would be considered a major faux pas to give anything less than a Toblerone as big as a horse’s leg.

It worked for diamonds didn’t it?

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