Since my daughter was born, I made the decision to never book myself on Halloween night so I could be home to decorate the house, hand out candy, and take my daughter trick-or-treating. Sophie is getting older now, and this may be her last year to go house-to-house for candy. And of course she’s going with friends, so my job is to stay back, or hang out with another dad at a house in the neighborhood while she and her friends go out for candy. While I recognize this is the natural progression of things, I can’t help but pine for the days when I held her hand, took her right up to a neighbor’s door, and beamed when her tiny voice cried out, “Trick or treat!” She’d delight as her plastic pumpkin grew heavy with candy (much of it with treats she can’t eat anyway due to her food allergies), but she didn’t care. People smiled and gave her candy, and she was out late doing “spooky things.”
I adore this holiday and everything about it. I love its roots, dating back to the Celtic new year of Samhain, when our ancestors left out food offerings for the dead because the veil between our world and the world of the departed is at its thinnest on this sacred day. I love that on All Hallows Eve we dress up as the very monsters and goblins we fear for this one night in an effort to diminish our own trepidation of the unknown.
Like all holidays, we get to re-define it each year. We make it work for our times and our world. This year is no different. My world involves a teenager who is going to age out of trick-or-treating and move on to face a grown-up life filled with monsters and goblins that hold more terror than any of the cute little ghosties and beasties who trot down my street in search of candy on October 31st. My sincere hope is that the scary movies we’ve watched, and the way we’ve decorated our yard with skeletons, fog machines, strobe lights, cobwebs, and spooky lights designed to make our home frightful, have helped prepare her just a little for the terrors that come in her later teenage years and adulthood.
I hope and pray that she understands sometimes we have to put on a mask and move stealthily through the world in order to make it home to a safe place where we take the mask off, examine our bounty for signs of trouble, and relax with a cup of hot apple cider as we replay the memories of the night’s adventure.
I also hope that the Halloween Grinches out there who keep the lights off and hide from the trick-or-treaters can at least find it in their heart to set out a jack-o-lantern with a bright light inside to light the way through the long, dark night. You never know when the knock at your door could be one of your ancestors coming to make sure certain traditions are kept alive.