President Biden will not be continuing the White House tradition of welcoming trick or treaters to the South Lawn this Halloween. The president and first lady will instead be in Rome for the G20 Summit and a meeting with Pope Francis. The Halloween traditions at the White House date back to 1958, when the Eisenhowers first set out decorations and hosted festivities to mark the occasion.
Biden busy with G20 Summit
The cancellation of the trick or treating tradition is an understandable necessity given the G20 Summit but it is not clear that Biden would be hosting the event even if he could be present for Halloween.
The statement from the White House which reported that it would not be taking place showed little enthusiasm for the presidential tradition.
The pandemic forced President Trump to modify the event last year but it was still held and attended by both the president and the first lady.
It isn’t the sort of thing that White House staffers would look forward to seeing President Biden take part in, even without the risk of infection.
Staff generally like to keep Biden on a short leash so that he has minimal opportunities to say stupid or incoherent things.
An event which involves the president interacting with young children for an extended period of time might not turn out to be his finest hour.
20th century White House tradition
While the future of the trick or treating tradition at the White House is unclear, the history of it dates back to the middle of the 20th century.
Every president since Kennedy has hosted some sort of event at the White House for Halloween. Richard Nixon made the annual Halloween party a major event.
Presidents have invited children from local schools, hospitals, and military families, as well as families of White House staff, to show up in costume for trick or treating.
Emergencies and other duties have forced cancellations at times, but the holiday has otherwise been celebrated by every administration since Eisenhower.
Halloween itself has a very old presence in North America, being brought over by settlers from the British Isles in particular.
Controversy has surrounded the holiday at times due to its conjectured descent from Samhain, an ancient Celtic harvest festival celebrated on the same day and believed to have pagan origins.