Every year when Halloween rolls around again, I’m convinced that I don’t like the holiday. I have a vague recollection that I might have liked it the previous year, but it makes no sense how that could be true.
What is there to like about Halloween? Nothing.
There are quite a few things that I dislike about Halloween. I have no problem listing them off as the holiday approaches.
Halloween is stressful. No one seems to understand my need to clean the front entryway and stairs on Halloween. You know people will be judging me as they peer through my front door, right? There’s not enough time to explain that I am a Mom of three and every single person in this family drops all their worldly possessions at the door the minute they enter the house. Also, I have no idea how to get my closet door back on the track so it will close. Yes, my life is a mess, thank you very much. Where’s the sign that says my children are making memories?
Even the few parts of Halloween that I do look forward to are stressful. Last year we didn’t even carve pumpkins. I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, working full time, and likely sick. Pumpkin carving was carved right off my to-do list. Even this year, we put off carving the three pumpkins until a few hours before trick-or-treating because it was the only time in the last few weeks when my husband was able to participate with us.
Before having kids, I thought I would enjoy going door to door with my children. But I don’t. They required so much help: Help going up and down stairs, help knocking, help with their nervousness, help saying “trick or treat”, help with saying “thank you”. Sometimes they’ve even needed help walking (oh goody, we’re at this stage again). And I admit that each new knock on that door brings out my anxiety. There’s something about approaching a house that freaks me right out. What door is the right one to approach? Should I knock? Ring the doorbell? Open the screen-door first? This is social anxiety at its finest.
I much prefer to stay home and hand out candy. My mom used to be the parent who stayed home, and I always felt bad for her because she was missing out on all the Halloween fun, but maybe I’m wondering if she liked it better that way. There is a sense of control as you stand in your own doorway, guarding the threshold to your home. When I am standing there, I get to determine how much candy goes out to each kid and I can meticulously count the children for my nightly tally. Since Dan primarily handed out candy this year, I can’t help but say “we got 101 kids, but bear in mind that Dan counted this year,” as if my husband is incompetent because I had nothing to do with it.
The primary thing that I dislike about Halloween though is the creepiness. I think part of this was ingrained in me. I wasn’t allowed to dress up as anything evil when I was growing up. As Christians, my parents allowed us to participate in the fun parts of Halloween but wanted to keep us far from the spirituality of any of it. Now as an adult, I find myself disliking anything scary about the evening. It isn’t because I get scared. I don’t. But, simple scary silliness isn’t always so innocent when a three year old in concerned. The other day I had to explain to Gavin that a bloody arm hanging out of the trunk of someone’s car in our community centre’s parking lot wasn’t real. Seeing something like that can definitely become traumatic for a little one.
As Halloween creeps up I remind myself that it is about the kids, and that’s why I probably end up loving it. The kids get excited and have fun. And that’s what matters.
Except, that’s not it at all, really. That isn’t what consistently leaves me feeling so happy at the end of every Halloween night. And every year when I feel it, I realize that I have felt it before.
Halloween is fun for the kids, but they get tired pretty quickly. There are a lot of steps in our neighbourhood and the kids definitely burn off any of the calories they will later consume running up and down the street and up and down the front stoops carrying rather full bags the whole way. My kids were troopers while they trick-or-treated with me going up and down our street during the first part of the night, even with a few wipeouts. Dan took them out for the second part of the night hitting the neighbouring street but he told me they were pretty tired by then. Still, they loved their costumes, they had a blast with their friends, and how often do you get a chance to swim in a couch-full of candy? Because that part is pretty epic. Halloween is definitely for them.
But that isn’t what I love about Halloween, I realized.
We had been living in this house for about three months by the time we had our first Halloween in this neighbourhood. We had previously lived in an apartment in a non-residential area of downtown and had to travel to a subdivision to trick-or-treat. It was rather impersonal. But finally, we were in a house with lots of neighbours who had lots of kids on a relatively quiet street. It was Halloweening heaven. And despite having met only about two of our neighbours, I was looking forward for the neighbourhood to open its doors.
I sat out on my front stoop with a bowl of candy, ready for them to come.
Sitting here eating, I mean handing out candy. Trick or treat! A photo posted by Laura O’Rourke (@lauralorourke) on
That first year, I met the neighbours on our right for the first time.
The second year, Dan met the new neighbours on the right for the first time, themselves only three months new to the area.
This year, I walked the entire length of our street with two other moms while our kids ran door to door, not even needing me to walk up with them. This year my husband did the second half of trick-or-treating with that same neighbour-to-our-right whom he had just met a year earlier. When they came home, I went out for a walk with my new-best-friend (the wife portion of neighbours-to-the-right) to check out the super creepy set up that some neighbour-friends had created a few houses down. I introduced everybody. Here we were, kids already in bed, still enjoying the night as adults.
There are very few reasons for everyone to come together as a neighbourhood anymore. Halloween and snowstorms are essentially it. And without a doubt, Halloween is better than shovelling.
This is why year after year I actually end up loving Halloween. Halloween pulls neighbours out of our houses and makes us a community and that’s the best part.
This year, my kids participated in the #NetflixHalloween costume party by dressing up like some of their favourite characters from their favourite shows. Cameron was Charizard from Pokémon and Gavin was Elmo from Sesame Street. Logan just wore whatever I could find in our basement.