Halloween is not the easiest of events to connect to self-protection or the martial arts. This is despite some wonderful efforts by colleagues of mine who have put forward advice dealing with the "Zombie Apocolypse". Neverthless I did write something regarding fear for my non-martial arts blog, where I wrote a section regarding self-protection, "Paint it a Blacker Shade of Dark". This year I would like to briefly touch on the customaray practice of "trick-or-treating" and how it flags up the ridiculouslness of the "Stranger Danger" concept.
Despite what badly informed British chauvanists will tell you, the practice of trick-or-treating isn't an American import. It possibly has its roots in the British practice of "souling", where the poor went from door-to-door begging return for prayers for the dead. Despite what badly informed fundamentalist Christians may tell you it has nothing to do with devil worship either. Being a part of a Christianized seasonal festival, the wearing of spooky costumes has more parallels with the gargoyles that turned up on the architecture of churches than it does to do with anything related to satanism. I have more in dept information on this in my non-martial arts artcle, "My Case for Halloween".
I will be producing an article looking at the whole "stranger danger" myth, but for now I would like you to consider the message being put across when children go trick-or-treating. Depending on the child's age and/or the reputation of the neighbourhood may or may not be accompanied by an adult when they go from house-to-house, dressed in a costume, asking for sugary treats. The presence of the adult is irrelevant, as the entire practice demonstrates possibly talking to people the children do not know and asking for edible items. In many other contexts this idea might seem absurd. For example, we advise teenagers, as they start going to unsupervised parties or to clubs not to leave their drinks unattended because of the practice of "spiking". Now I am not saying that unfortunate things might happen to trick-or-treaters. Children and adults should have a good knowledge of the areas they are going into and awareness should be maintained of other trick-or-treaters. Halloween has also become a time for pranks and unruly behavious. Gangs of youths have used it as an excuse for intimidation and general aggrivation, as any they do many other festivals. However, on the whole, the existance of this customary practice proves a degree of healthy trust we place in our local neighbourhoods.
Besides viewing the whole event as a massive fancy dress competition that everyone is invited to and as a connection to medieval and ancient customs, there are personal security lessones children can learn. It is a great time for them to be able to venture out at times when normally they are not allowed outside. Self-protection is all about taking control is this festival is a good opportunity for children to begin doing that under controlled conditions. This night of freedom can be a time for children to report back their observations and their interactions with strangers. It can be a really fun and educational part of their growing up. Happy Halloween!