Are you old enough to remember the good old nights of trick or treating on Halloween, before parents worried about the neighbor’s poisoning their little darlings? The happy traditions of Halloween have apparently given way to fear.

Lenore Skenazy, who has a witty piece on the end of Halloween in today’s Wall Street Journal, must be younger that I am: her parents worried about strychnine-laced Smarties. Skenazy reports that, fears aside, she survived trick or treating:

[Y]ou’d think that word would get out: poisoned candy not happening. But instead, most Halloween articles to this day tell parents to feed children a big meal before they go trick-or-treating, so they won’t be tempted to eat any candy before bringing it home for inspection. As if being full has ever stopped any kid from eating free candy!

So stranger danger is still going strong, and it’s even spread beyond Halloween to the rest of the year. Now parents consider their neighbors potential killers all year round. That’s why they don’t let their kids play on the lawn, or wait alone for the school bus: “You never know!” The psycho-next-door fear went viral.

Then along came new fears. Parents are warned annually not to let their children wear costumes that are too tight-those could seriously restrict breathing! But not too loose either-kids could trip! Fall! Die!

Treating parents like idiots who couldn’t possibly notice that their kid is turning blue or falling on his face might seem like a losing proposition, but it caught on too.

It’s a hilarious article, and I think it points to a larger phenomenon: in our society, we try to guard against all sorts of things that will never happen and we act as if certain happenings have the power to destroy us. We are now even at the point of the government concerning itself with what we eat! Skenazy writes:

We can kill off Halloween, or we can accept that it isn’t dangerous and give it back to the kids. Then maybe we can start giving them back the rest of their childhoods, too.