I have a confession to make. Actually two. At 57 years old, I still love Halloween. Boom. Second, I had every intention of writing a more serious topic post this week, but I really just wanted to write about Halloween. Boom. As a compromise, and to add gravitas to my topic, I used the English spelling title.
One of my friends half-jokingly said, this Halloween, that she and her husband were the “Scrooges of all saints eve” and were planning to turn off the lights and block their porch with their SUV, partly to protect trick-or-treaters and other vulnerable human beings from eating all that “sugar crap”. Other friends vehemently object to celebrating a holiday of dark pagan origins.
To the naysayers, I reply, “Fine! I don’t care!” I love Halloween. I’ve always loved Halloween. And for me, it has nothing to do with candy or reverence for otherworldly spirits. For goodness sake, I grew up in a sensible Presbyterian family with a Navy dentist father who inspected our Halloween candy and tossed the items most likely to cause dental problems.
No, for me, Halloween is magical, and communal. I have nothing but wonderful Halloween memories. As a little girl, dressed in my favorite little fairy princess costume, waiting eagerly for darkness to fall, grabbing my father’s hand as I skipped through our neighborhood, transformed (in my eyes) to an enchanted pixie world. As a teenager in San Diego, braving the annual Young Life haunted house in Mission Valley with my friends (and getting the holy $#%&$ scared out of me) while knowing nothing truly horrible would happen. The Halloween party my first year of law school, when I somewhat nervously wore my hand-made costume (I went as a bag of groceries) and where my classmates and I first really relaxed with each other, the beginning point of great lifelong friendships.
Although I have a Halloween-neutral spouse, I was blessed with a son who loves Halloween just as much, if not more, than I do. He could barely contain himself each year as the season approached. I was a total enabler, putting on elaborate Halloween kids’ parties each year for him and his little friends, usually planning it months in advance and taking an entire day off work to decorate. One year, I assembled a complicated string maze game in which every kid would have his or her own string to unravel to a prize waiting at the end. It took hours to set up, and about 10 minutes to finish, resulting in a room full of kids wound up like cocoons. The parents would also come to these parties, and we would all play games, eat pizza and then go trick-or-treating together. And for my son, like me, it was not about the candy, but the pursuit. Every year, his pillowcase full of candy would be largely untouched, and finally disposed of before Christmas. We just didn’t eat many sweets in our house and he never acquired the taste.
As my son got older, we collaborated on his costumes. My all-time favorite was the Baked Potato. He wore black sweats, I swaddled him in Reynolds Wrap, and he sported a yellow beanie (butter, get it?) on his head. By the time he flew around the first corner that Halloween night, the foil was already unwrapping and soaring behind him like a gleaming jet airplane. Another year, we shopped the crazy vintage shops on Sunset Blvd. and assembled a killer Jimi Hendrix costume and wig.
After my son left for college, the first couple Halloweens weren’t nearly as much fun. I enjoyed greeting the trick-or-treaters, but it just wasn’t the same. The past two years, we visited our son in Annapolis and attended the phenomenal and magical annual Halloween Concert in the USNA Chapel.
But now our son has graduated and he’s truly on his own. (BTW, he texted me a photo of him and his girlfriend at a Halloween Party in spot-on costumes as Forrest Gump and Jenny. Bravo!!). My Halloween-disinterested hubby’s big plans this year were to watch the World Series on TV and let me answer the door.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and reclaim the former Halloween magic! I pulled all the old Halloween decorations out of the garage and created a haunted mansion theme on our house front. I carved our pumpkin. I placed my new Bose wireless speaker in the open front window and set up my iPhone to play the Halloween stations on Pandora. I pulled an old witches outfit and wig out of the closet (always good to have a spare costume on hand for these emergency situations) and prepared for the arrival of children.
We had a rather large volume of trick-or-treaters. Over the course of the evening, I worked on enhancing their experience at our house. I experimented with the volume and type of music (family friendly Halloween classics, spooky sound effects, sweeping but slightly creepy movie scores), adjusted the lighting, and played around with how I presented myself. When they rang the doorbell, I would creep to the door, quietly listen to their conversation (“Oh, look at the great pumpkin!” “I love the music!”) And then when the timing was right, I would jerk the door open and, in my best Morticia Addams voice, exclaim “Hello, children!” I adjusted the fright level to make it age-appropriate, but I loved watching the kids’ eyes open wide and detecting a slight flinch when they saw me. I particularly enjoyed yanking the door open and startling the teenage boys.
I had a ball and I think the kids who came to our house did, too. A few of the parents even thanked me for my efforts. Dressing up allowed me to join in the magic with the kids. But more than that, I enjoyed sharing the evening with my neighborhood. Our next-door-neighbor came by with her two young kids (the most adorable Minnie Mouse and Captain America), Our former neighbors (who moved to a different street) brought their daughter and we briefly caught up. Our friend came by with her two grandkids. Plenty of kids I didn’t know came by, and some stopped to chat.
As a Christian woman, I certainly understand some of the criticisms with Halloween – the sugar, the commercialism, the dark Druid origins. But, to me, Halloween will always evoke the feelings and memories of magic, creativity, family and community.