Trunk-or-Treat: An Alternative American Halloween Celebration

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Long Beach, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 11th, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Background Info: JB is a man in his early 20s and a close childhood friend of mine who grew up in Long Beach, California. His parents are from St. Louis, Missouri and Brooklyn, New York. He has attended a large (hundreds of members) Baptist church in South Central LA for his entire life.

Context: We were chatting over the phone about ghost stories, and JB remarked that he never participated in games like Bloody Mary because he believed in them. He then segued into talking about his church and how a lot of that fear of the supernatural originated from attending church.

Main Piece:

(In the interview the informant is identified as JB and the interviewer is ES.)

ES: Do you have any specific stuff your church did? Like what denomination were you guys?

JB: Ooh, so we were Baptist which means we liked money [laughs]. I remember for Halloween we’d always have a Harvest Festival at the church so the kids wouldn’t be out in the world doing Halloween. You would just be in the church—and they would still tell you about your salvation and eternal damnation, and like, it was kinda scary, and then you’d just get candy after your lecture. And I’m like “Uh, okay thanks, thanks Pastor.”

ES: Okay

JB: But yeah, so yeah we’d have like Harvest Festivals and Trunk-or-Treat—

ES: [gasp] Trunk-or-Treat! Yes, please explain Trunk-or-Treat to me because I did it at a [Local Church/Daycare Service] once.

JB: Mhm, so yeah, well yeah, it’s never Halloween cuz it’s church so it’s always “Harvest Time” or whatever. They would usually use the parking lot of the building and everybody of the church, like the members and the deacons, they would park their cars and have their trunks sticking out and open their trunks and you would, like, get to design the little back of your car. You could put spiderwebs or hay and you’d have candy in your trunk and then kids would just kinda walk in a circle around the parking lot and go to each thing and just go home.

ES: Yeah, and were you dressed up and everything?

JB: Yeah they would let little-little kids dress up.

ES: Okay—

JB: And, like, probably the first time I trick-or-treated was like late middle school.

ES: Oh really?

JB: Yeah, the first time my parents actually let me.

JB noted later that it was really only young children and elderly members of the church who participated in Trunk-or-Treat and that “people our age” (teens through early 20s) were probably out actually celebrating Halloween, since that’s what he does now.

Thoughts: It’s worth noting that I also participated in Trunk-or-Treat once, though it was slightly different from JB’s description. Trunk-or-Treat is clearly a spin-off celebration of Halloween, since the name is a pun of the phrase “Trick-or-Treat.” Instead of going door to door and asking for candy by saying “Trick-or-Treat,” children instead go car to car and say “Trunk-or-Treat.” Both A and I experienced “Trunk-or-Treat” in a church context, probably because organizations like churches have both the resources and community pull to hold an event as large as this. JB’s Trunk-or-Treat, however, actually occurred on Halloween itself instead of serving as an additional celebration. It seems like it was designed to keep kids in a controlled environment as opposed to celebrating Halloween, which is considered dangerous by some. JB’s offhand mention of scary Halloween-related sermons and his parents’ reluctance to let him Trick-or-Treat until he was thirteen support this.