As all of you obviously know—because you are all capable of doing things like reading a calendar and wearing your usual plaid shirt to work while claiming to have dressed up as the “Bounty Paper Towel Man”—today is Halloween, an undeniably important day in the life of just about any child in these United States. When I was a child, I know that it was an important day in mine. I’d work on my routine for weeks, walking around the house wearing my costume and carrying an empty pillow case and knocking on random doors, before opening them myself and imagining one of neighbors on the other side. Then I’d launch into my joke: “where does dracula like to water ski…” I’d say to the air, pausing for way too short a period of time before continuing. “Lake Eeeeeerie.” In my mind’s eye, I could see all my adult neighbors as they lit up in uproarious laughter that was not at all forced before handing me a full sized Twix bar (the only candy with a cookie crunch) and looking down at me with a face full of pride.
By doing so they participated in what is a distinctly St. Louis tradition. In college I observed first hand that in most cities trick or treaters just show up on someone’s doorstep, where they are instantly given candy and sent on their way. I was appalled. And bored AF. Way to take all the fun out of trick or treating, rest of the planet. Way to use Halloween to teach your children nothing. This year, on this very night, it’s time for you to change your ways. This year, on this very night, it’s time for every non-St. Louis city on this Earth to be better. This year, on this very night, it’s time to ask your trick or treaters to tell you a goddamn joke. Here’s why...
Why Trick Or Treaters Should Tell You A Joke On Halloween
1) It feels good to earn things-St. Louis is the kind of town where you have to earn each and every $0.75 Natty Light tallboy you buy at the local gas station with 3 quarters you recently stole from your father’s Volvo. We don’t give out participation trophies here; we give out participation ribbons, like the kind I got at both my 5th and 6th grade Science Fairs. We also don’t just give candy to children because they were able to walk up the 2.4 steps from the sidewalk to the front stoop in a Incredible Hulk costume without dying. We demand more. And later that night, when every kid in town is on some form of delirious sugar high, they are gonna remember what kind of effort it took to reach such a level of satisfaction. That candy is gonna taste just a little sweeter, because it wasn’t given to them out of pity. When the kids in St. Louis eat a butterfinger, they will always know that they earned it. Therefore it's safe to say that eating a butterfinger will always make a kid from St. Louis feel good.
2) Every holiday should require some effort-On Christmas we require our children to earn their presents by being “nice” as opposed to “naughty” during the previous year. On Thanksgiving, we ask our youth to express what they are grateful for before allowing them to chug gravy straight from the boat. On Easter (or any holiday in any religion) we usually make youngsters sit through some sort of church service without soiling their khakis just so they can go home and start shoving peeps down their gullets earlier than they would have if they had stayed at mass till the end (no, I never tried this...). And yet, on Halloween, we just toss candy to kids because, what? Their parents can afford a Youth XXL Pirate costume at Halloween Express? Not on my watch. I care about the kids of this nation, meaning that I also want October 31st to be more than an evening of hallow (pun intended) fun. I want it to be a teachable moment. I want it to become an event that helps our kids learn. I want Halloween to mean something outside St. Louis. Hopefully you want the same.
3) It makes me laugh-Last year I attend a Halloween get together at a friend’s parents’ house, where I was plied with pizza and chili and mini 100 grand bars (my 3rd, 9th and 17th favorite food). At one point during the evening, it was my turn to man the candy bowl and welcome the trick or treaters to my friend’s parent’s front porch as if it were my own. A few minutes into my shift a Hispanic kid approached the house, and before I even had time to ask him for a joke, inquired firmly “why do I hate Trump?” “I don’t know,” I answered, a reasonable response given that I had no knowledge of this child’s political ideology or level of trust in the lamestream media. “Because,” he said staring at me as if I were a gigantic idiot. “I’m Mexican.” I then erupted in giggles before collapsing to the ground and urinating myself profusely while dumping the entire bowl of candy into this kid’s bag. Dry, astute and quite timely. That’s my kind of joke.
4) I had to do it when I was a child-I sort of referenced this above with my joke about participation trophies, but it’s my opinion that the world was a better place back when I was a youth, before our nation’s children were coddled by society and given things like pieces of metal meant to improve their self-esteem and cell phones capable of texting other cell phones without relying on T9 technology. And while this tell a joke on Halloween thing we do in St. Louis seems to be more of a geographical phenomenon than a generational one, the central point of this paragraph remains the same: if it’s something I did as a child, then it’s something everyone else should do too. I turned out so well, I became a 31-year-old grown man with credit good enough to potentially secure a home loan (from a bank!). I am not saying this happened because I had to tell a joke to get my Halloween candy. On the other hand, I’m not not saying that either.
5) Every other city should try to emulate St. Louis-There’s a reason that I, and every educated person that exists on this planet, refers to St. Louis as the “New Rome.” It’s because everything we do here is better than everything everyone else does in every other city. We have better food. We have better rappers. We are the home to the (North American) headquarters of both the largest brewery and the largest dog food company in the world. We have a few problems here, sure, but who doesn’t? All in all I think it's fair to say that my city is considered the “gold standard” of modern civilization for a reason. We do things the right way. When other cities study us they realize that they have a lot to learn.
They have a lot to learn about a lot of things, including pizza, but perhaps most of all Halloween. If you care about your city, then you will do everything in your power to make it the “New St. Louis.” Ipso facto, if you care about your city’s children, you will start to ask them for jokes while they trick or treat. The good folks here in St. Louis are already showing you how to make the world a better place. All you have to do rest of the world, is listen and follow along. All you have to do rest of the world, is make one major change to the way you celebrate Halloween.