I realized today why I do not love Halloween in the same way that I love some of the other holidays. The problem is, for me, that it is so difficult to make Halloween less commercial and more familial and neighbourly.
With Christmas, for example, our family has stopped giving gifts except to children. Instead, we put our money together and give it to charity, and we make homemade things for each other’s stockings, and we bake, and we cook, and we eat. By replacing the commercial aspects of the holiday with family traditions, our time together is less stressful and more celebratory. It becomes something we can truly anticipate as a family.
It is more difficult to avoid the commercial elements of Halloween, however, because they are driven by a question of safety. It is no longer possible to pass out homemade candy apples or popcorn balls rather than mass produced candy, and this is largely because we no longer know our neighbours well enough to trust them not to hurt us. The evening becomes reduced to strangers buying huge amounts of poor quality commercial candy to hand out to the children of other strangers who are handing the same candy out to your own children. It is a candy exchange program, where nobody wins except the candy manufacturers and the dentists.
So, I have decided to make Halloween a little more neighbourly and a little more homemade. I will, for the first time in decades, have candied apples for the children who know me, for the children who make up my neighbourhood. I will also have mulled cider for their parents. Of course, I will still need to have a bucket of candies for the kids who do not know me, but I will make our porch a reminder of what Halloween might actually be like if we took the time to know each other as a community.
Perhaps you can do so too.