When I was small, growing up in England, Halloween was so close to Bonfire Night, I could hardly tell them apart. First came black paper witches riding broomsticks crafted from twigs. We made them in school and took them home to decorate our bedroom windows. Gazing out past mine, I'd wonder if any bonfires might reflect in the clouds, and would witches dance. I'm not even sure we burned the guy in our neighborhood, but if we did I probably thought he was a witch on a broomstick too.
When my kids were small, this strange new American custom had begun to invade. Churches railed against it. Neighbors ran parties in the garage and we would debate if our kids should join in. Then we moved to the States. And Halloween was huge.
Kids parading around the school in their masks and candy for all. Kids parading the neighborhood. Knocks on the door. The churches still railed, but how could we refuse to let our kids join in. Being foreign, not understanding the culture, speaking with strange accents--belonging was already hard enough. And now?
Now I'm officially old and gray-haired with a bag full of candy. Parents stand at the end of the drive and proudly watch brave offspring knock on my door. The street resounds to laughter and joy. And sharing out that candy just might be the spirit of Halloween.
Meanwhile back in England, it's grown to American style. They're having a party in the place where my mum lives; she says people need cheering up, but she's not a fan of the season. So this one's for you Mum.
Are you afraid of Halloween? Don't be: It's a celebration of
H - Hope, because where there's life there's hope, and you have to be alive to celebrate.
A - Attention, because all those parents are attentively watching their children go door to door.
L - Laughter, because Little Tommy just fell over the hem of his ghost gown again and didn't cry.
L - Love, as big sister reminds Little Tommy to say please and thank you.
O - Ordinary bravery, shown by small children practising talking to strangers because they'll have to learn, for all our warnings.
W - Wisdom as parents remind them they can't take treats from strangers when nobody's watching.
E - Excitement, resounding along the street
E - Entertainment, exercising those young imaginations with dreams of who they'd like to be (and no, Little Tommy, you can't be Darth Vader when you grow up).
N - Newness, because every costume is new, every doorway is a new experience, ever treat is newly delightful, and tomorrow, whether we enjoy it here or away (in a place of Hope, not ghosts), will, for sure, be a new day.
So enjoy it!