Same day it is every year, everywhere.
That doesn’t stop people from getting a little confused.
Trick-or-treating, the activity when children go door-to-door dressed in costumes asking for candy, is traditionally on Halloween. It should be easy enough to save the date, but city officials say they’re always getting calls from residents who have to ask, “When is Halloween?”
“We’ve had at least two calls this morning from people wondering when trick-or-treating is,” Jacksonville City Clerk Dot Wilson said Tuesday. “We get several every day.”
A little confusion may be understandable. Last year Anniston and many other cities shifted the traditional observation of Halloween to a different day when Oct. 31 fell on Sunday. In that case, cities thought Saturday night might be more appropriate.
“People are out going to churches, and the churches usually like to do something special for the trick-or-treaters,” Jacksonville Chief of Police Tommy Thompson said. “Plus, I guess Halloween isn’t really considered Christian.”
But, according to Wilson, the confusion isn’t anything new.
“Every year we typically get people calling asking when the city is holding Halloween,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll call and ask when the city recommends they go trick-or-treating.”
Thompson said the mayor’s office started getting calls about three weeks ago. The protocol from there is to leave a notice at city offices letting people know, yes, trick-or-treating will be Oct. 31 – same as it always is.
“Don’t ask me why it’s so confusing,” Thompson said. “It’s not confusing to me.”
Perhaps, it’s because the act of trick-or-treating doesn’t have a universally accepted date, even if Halloween, the holiday it’s traditionally tied to, does.
For instance, the Quintard Mall in Oxford will hold indoor trick-or-treating Saturday from 4-6 p.m., according to a press release from the mall.
It’s not uncommon in many parts of the country for trick-or-treating to be designated by the city to start on a variety of different days.
The town of Hopewell, Penn., has made it a tradition to have trick-or-treating take place the Thursday before Halloween, as that Friday is usually a fall break for students at the school, said the town’s receptionist, Patty Owens.
“We always have it on Thursday,” she said. “It’s just something our Board of Commissioners came up with.”
In Eagle, Wis., the town has a traditional town-wide celebration to mark Halloween every year, limiting it to the closest available Saturday.
“It’s a whole-day community event,” said City Clerk Lynn Peppers, who said various stores and city government departments participate in a variety of events. “After the different activities, they move right on to trick-or-treating. It’s always on Saturday.”
While local municipalities are usually the authority on when trick-or-treating takes place, Connecticut state Rep. Tim Larson is thinking a little bigger. According to USA Today, Larson has proposed a bill that would officially designate the last Saturday in October as the permanent home for trick-or-treating in the state, a move he believes would ease strain on parents during the weekday, and possibly even boost economy for the day.
A spokeswoman from Larson’s office told The Star the representative is not granting interviews about the proposal.
Of course, a look into the history of trick-or-treating, like Halloween itself, shows the details are a little murky. Writing in the Washington Post in 1998, Ken Erickson, the former director of the Center for Ethnographic Research at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, said a hard-to-prove but popular belief about trick-or-treating is that the custom was introduced by towns to cut back on pranks pulled by bored children with nothing else to do. It might sound a little far-fetched, but according to an article from 2000 in the Des Moines Register, the Iowa city began celebrating Halloween in 1942 after 550 calls to the police station reporting vandalism convinced one city official something needed to be done.
But, according to Lt. Chip Owens at the Oxford Police Department, what day trick-or-treating falls on is irrelevant. The pranksters are still going to come out.
“You wouldn’t believe how many toilet paper rolls I take out of cars,” Owens said. “We approach Halloween like its Halloween, whether it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. We just patrol the neighborhoods and look out for mischief.”
Star staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546