Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rocktober: Trunk Or Treat Playlist

Billy and I would be remiss, would we not, if we did not have at least one Rocktober post that focused on Halloween and the music that relates to it.  While it might be easy to cite "Monster Mash" or "Werewolves Of London," I'm taking a different tack this year.

I absolutely despise the concept of "trunk or treat."  I mean, despise it.  As defined at, here is a good explanation of the event:

Trunk or Treat is a Halloween event that is often church- or community-sponsored. People gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks, or the backs of their vehicles, and decorate them. Then they pass out candy from their trunks. The event provides a safe family environment for trick or treaters.

But as a Halloween activity, it is built upon one or two flawed concepts, and maybe both:

1.  That trick or treating is an unsafe activity for a typical suburban or small town or small city or rural or subdivision kid, either because there people giving out razor blades in apples or because it is no longer safe for children to walk around their neighborhood.  You live in a dangerous, urban area and feel the need to trunk or treat, more power to you.

2.  That Christian children or socio-economically similar children, and their families, are best served by spending this most pagan of holidays together in a spirit of fellowship, like mindedness, and safe exclusivity.

Both conceptions are wrong.  First, the belief in maladjusted neighbors giving out dangerous treats has long been proven to be nothing but Urban Legend,  and even if they weren't, children could be trained not to eat those tainted apples until they got home.

The most dangerous woman in my neighborhood on Halloween makes children recite a Bible verse before she will give them candy; the second most dangerous house gives out toothbrushes, which clearly ignore the spirit of the holiday.

But it is the second belief, the safe, spend-the-night-with-people-you-know aspect of trunk or treating that I find most troublesome.  It is holiday as privilege; it is holiday as exception.  Rather than mix with The Great Unwashed, these families who meet in a well-lit parking lot or a school playground or within reach of a national chain store isolate themselves with high quality, expensive candies, stellar costumes, and clean, new or newish automobiles to create the Halloween equivalent of a gated community that keeps out the riff-raff, whether it come from lower social status, lower "Believer" status, or simply people of different races.

My neighborhood, by contrast and whether it likes it or not, has more children from out of the neighborhood than in it, traipsing along its sidewalks and streets in a never-quite-expected-enough frenzy of costumes and candy, parents and chaperones, extra bags for relations who couldn't be there and a willingness to keep knocking on doors after the neighborhood's stated curfew.

Halloween is the wild in us, the irrational, the holiday that makes no sense in terms of nutrition or protection.  It only makes sense in terms of hospitality, in giving to strangers, in spending money for people we don't know, and welcoming them to our yard, our front door, or even into our homes.  Trunk or Treat is a violation of all that Halloween stands for, even all that America stands for, or at least those parts of America that are still willing to rub elbows with each other.

In the spirit of trunk or treating, though, I offer this playlist to pipe from the fine sound systems of the clean cars at such an event:

1.  "Ooh, The World Is Scary" by No Shades Of Grey.
2.  "Onward, Christian Trunk Or Treaters" by The Sunday Schools.
3.  "Lock The Door, Turn Out The Lights" by Neighborhood By Day.
4.  "Just Us" by Us.
5.  "Ain't No Junk In This Trunk (radio edit)" by Workin' Out Women (featuring Annie Rex).
6.  "You Can Choose The Candy, But You Don't Get To Eat It" by The Moderations.
7.  "Jesus Wants You In Bed By Eight" by The Near Christmases.
8.  "I'll Pick The Costume, You Pick The Position" by Creative Counterparts.
9.  "Daddy's Got Candy" by The After Darks.
10.   "Your Friend Sarah's Got A Nice Momma (Who's A Good Christian Woman)" by The Ten Commandments.

Happy Halloween!


troutking said...


As in scary ghost, not disapproval of your message.

Billy said...

Because I feel a vague sense of moral obligation, I must offer a tiny slice of "perhaps this is not always so...":

Our church's Trunk or Treat program is coordinated with the nearby minority low-income high school. Seniors from that school volunteered as helpers with games and other activities (and will again this year). Flyers were sent to four schools in the neighborhood, three of which are minority-as-majority, and low-income. The event's attendance last year was very predominantly minority for a church that is 98% white. The event was not an attempt to protect "us" from "them," as you claim, but rather an attempt to create a safe space for "them" to feel welcomed into "our" territory, which is in "their" neighborhood. Halloween offers that rare enticing excuse for "us" to gather together, not so "we" could Do Good Things for them, but just to enjoy a cool holiday and jump in inflatables and play silly games, without any of the weird vibe that can come with other white churchy or white schooly attempts at community service where it's "us" Doing Good Deeds for "them."

So, while your observations are mostly valid and legit, it seems to me there are probably some (mostly) churches which use Trunk or Treat to create a(n admittedly-weakened) version of the kind of neighborhood experience that is increasingly difficult to find.

Anonymous said...

Good call, William. I retract anything I've said to the category of "mostly." Of course, I did think I covered your exception in my "You live in a dangerous, urban area and feel the need to trunk or treat, more power to you" section, but maybe not. If not, my apologies.

Tockstar said...

At last, someone speaks out against the scourge that is Trunk or Treating. Thank you.