Ten years ago, Joel Moreira of Bay Shore couldn’t keep enough candy in the house on Halloween.
“They were coming to the door six or 10 at a time,” says the retired district manager of the Bay Shore Fire District. “It was great because it reminded me of when I was a kid. We’d be out at night with flashlights just going from house to house.”
Now, however, Moreira, 59, says he’s lucky if he gets six to 10 trick-or-treaters in all on Oct. 31. “I feel disappointed. It’s a shame,” he says. “I thought it was great looking at the kids in their costumes and the smiles on their faces.”
Make no mistake, Halloween is in no way dead. School parties, haunted houses, not-so-scary special events and more seem to span from the day the calendar somersaults to Oct. 1 through the official holiday. But many people lament that the day itself has changed, with fewer and fewer kids knocking on their doors, leaving them to eat leftover candy themselves or bring it to the office to tempt co-workers.
“Are people just going to the school events? Maybe they rely on that more,” says Alicia Lam, 40, of Nesconset, who participated with her two sons, ages 2 and 6, in Tackan Elementary School’s Trunk-or-Treat event in Nesconset on Oct. 19, decorating her car like a medical clinic as kids went from car to car to collect candy.
Malls and Long Island downtowns offering trick-or-treating on Oct. 31 siphon off some celebrants who might have been going from home to home. But, certain popular neighborhoods still seem to draw parents dropping kids off by the minivan load. Michelle Maresca, 47, of Selden, a hairdresser with three children, moved from one home in Selden to a bigger one last August, and says she was shocked by the number of kids who knocked on her door even though her new neighbors had forewarned her.
“You know the boxes of chips you get at the store with 22 in a package? I got eight of them,” Maresca says. By 8 p.m., she says she had to turn on her lawn sprinklers to discourage kids from coming up her driveway because she was out of loot.
Though many other, envious Islanders say they wish they had such a crowd.
“I think a lot of things in society have changed in the past 20 years,” says Randi Padover-Kirson of Smithtown, a therapist with a 2-year-old son. “I think a lot of people are afraid to send their children out. People don’t know their neighbors as well anymore.”
In addition, in lots of families both parents are working. “I don’t get out until after 5. Working parents don’t have the time off to use for trick-or-treating,” Padover-Kirson says. And when she does get home, she has to decide between taking her son out to make the rounds or staying home to dole out candy.
Dark, empty houses are discouraging to kids who do trick-or-treat, further eroding the desire to head out house to house, says Ana Rojas, 26, home health-aide from Amityville with four children. “The kids would go ring, nobody would come to the door,” Rojas says. “It’s extremely sad.”
Rojas says she went to BJ’s Wholesale Club and bought a big bag of candy, but she says she has a feeling she’s going to be stuck with it. “It’s a 360-degree change,” she says of Halloween today compared with when she was growing up in Copiague. “I would love it if something could be done so everyone could get that experience we had growing up.”