I know that a lot of people have strong feelings about Trunk or Treat activities. (For those of you who don’t know what Trunk or Treat is, it’s when a bunch of adults park their cars in one place on Halloween and lure children to their trunks with candy. It’s actually pretty messed up, when you think about it.) I do not have strong feelings about Trunk or Treat, or rather, I don’t really understand my own feelings about Trunk or Treat because I can’t separate them from my feelings about Halloween in general. As a child, I loved Halloween, as all children do. As a teenager I completely lost interest in it, and as an adult I can hardly stand it. I recognize that this is a personal failing. I have never attempted to deprive my children of the joy that Halloween can bring, because I know how important Halloween is to kids. Just because I hate it and think it’s a pain in the neck doesn’t mean I want to spoil it for everyone else. But mention Trunk or Treat to me, and the only reaction I can dredge up is “gah, more Halloween.” So I don’t know if Trunk or Treats are inherently good or bad, or if they’re potentially good or bad depending on certain variables. I just know that they’re part of Halloween and so I don’t care.
I say all this by way of disclaimer because my post today is not about Trunk or Treat per se, but it involves Trunk or Treat, and I just don’t want people to lose focus. Put your feelings about Trunk or Treat on the back burner and listen to (read) my tale.
Our ward has done Trunk or Treat every year for at least as long as we’ve lived here (about 12 years). We have always held it at a local park because it is a convenient location. Non-Mormon families from the neighborhood come to the Trunk or Treat, not just members, because hey, it’s there, and hey, free candy. It’s also over pretty quickly because hey, free candy. Then everyone goes trick or treating for real—because with the exception of the year Halloween fell on Sunday, we’ve always had Trunk or Treat on Halloween.
This year the ward has decided to hold Trunk or Treat the Saturday before Halloween. The feedback they got from ward members was that parents of young children find it a pain in the neck to do two different activities (i.e., Trunk or Treating and trick or treating) on the same night. I personally don’t understand what is so difficult about doing both in one night, or rather, I don’t understand what is less of a pain in the neck about dressing your kid(s) up and taking them out in the rain and mud on two separate nights—but everybody’s different, and I’m sympathetic to parents who find things a pain in the neck. Some ward members are delighted by the change; others—like my husband—think it’s the stupidest thing they ever heard of. But the weird thing about this change, and the reason I’m blogging about it instead of shrugging my shoulders or rolling my eyes, is that now we’re going to have Trunk or Treat in the church parking lot (where I think most wards have their Trunk or Treats) and we’re going to offer cider and donuts so it can be a missionary activity.
Why do I think this is weird? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m pretty sure our missionaries have always (usually) attended the Trunk or Treat, even when we held it at the neighborhood park. I’m also pretty sure most non-Mormons attending our Trunk or Treat knew that it was a Mormon-sponsored activity, if only because they knew the Mormons handing out the candy. (We’re all from the same general neighborhood, after all.) I’m not against cider and donuts (not by a long shot), but I don’t think moving the Trunk or Treat to the church and putting it on a different night is going to make it a more successful missionary activity. First, our church building is not inside our ward boundaries, nor is it in comfortable walking distance. There is a freeway between us and it. Second, if you’re already going trick or treating, it’s not such a big deal to walk past the park and get some free candy from the Mormons. If the Trunk or Treat is held a) not on Halloween and b) not in the neighborhood, that creates two hurdles for people to get over if they’re going to attend the Trunk or Treat. In my mind, creating new hurdles is not the best plan for making something a missionary activity.
I can’t think of any reason why a non-member would be excited to get their kid(s) dressed up on an extra night, put them in the car, and drive them three miles away so they can attend what is essentially a really lame Halloween party. (I understand three miles is not a long distance, but it’s too long for kids to walk, and if you have to get little kids in a car, it’s almost too short a drive to be worth it.) A full-blown Halloween party with games and food and whatnot? Sure. I mean, maybe. I’m not much bigger on parties than I am on Halloween, but some people like them and will go out of their way to attend them. But Trunk or Treat isn’t really a party. The best thing about Trunk or Treat is that it fills kids’ bags up with candy really quickly so they don’t have to spend as much time doing real trick or treating. Why would a parent want to dress their kid(s) up and drive out of the neighborhood to get them a bunch of candy (and possibly a donut before they all run out) two days early? Are they afraid they won’t get their money’s worth out of the Halloween costumes that are only worn once? Are they afraid their kids won’t get enough candy on a single night and think they should probably stock up ahead of time to ensure the kids get enough pounds of candy to last them until Thanksgiving? Ordinarily I think I am able to see things from a variety of different viewpoints, but I’m just not understanding the motivation here. I know why Mormons would do this. (Why do Mormons do anything?) I don’t know why non-Mormons would do it. It just seems like kind of a hassle for not much payoff.
This is assuming ward members are expected to invite their non-member friends to the Trunk or Treat. Such a thing would never occur to me, but I guess some people would do that. I just think it seems more natural to say, “Hey, they’re giving out candy at Friendly Neighborhood Park. As long as you’re out trick or treating anyway, why not stop by?” rather than, “Hey, my church is giving out candy on Saturday night. Why don’t you dress up your kids in their costumes two days early and drive out there? There might be some donuts left if you get there on time. Yes, we are holding it at rush hour. Before it gets dark, you know!” Maybe I’m just too cynical. (Also, I’m the enemy of fun. Or so my family tells me.)
Mind you, I’m not against holding Trunk or Treat on a separate night from Halloween. Plenty of people think that’s the only way to go. I can dig that. I just don’t understand how it improves the activity from a missionary standpoint, when it’s not much of an activity to begin with. But Mormons are famous for calling things missionary activities that aren’t really missionary activities. For example, the dance festival is allegedly a missionary activity. Except that tickets are limited and they’re all going to the families of the kids performing in the dance festival. Also, who wants to give up their Saturday night to watch a bunch of dance numbers performed by untrained Mormon teenagers? Only other Mormons. These are the kinds of things Mormons tend not to think through when they’re planning missionary activities. It’s almost like they’re only thinking of what would be convenient and enjoyable for them, not what would appeal to folks who aren’t them.
I wouldn’t know how to rate a successful Trunk or Treat. To me a successful Trunk or Treat is one that is over. But it seems to me like a successful missionary activity would be one that a) doesn’t inconvenience people and/or b) is something a reasonable person would find particularly fun. (This would automatically exclude people like me, but most of the world is not people like me.) I don’t know. Maybe this post is about the merits of Trunk or Treat after all. But I don’t want it to be. What constitutes a successful “missionary activity”? What are some successful “missionary activities” that you have attended?