How many conversations have you had this month about how to approach Halloween this year?

It’s like the early days of the pandemic when we analyzed the risk/reward of all the details related to going to the grocery store.

“Are you doing trick or treating?”

“Are you passing candy out?”

“Maybe we should have trick or treating with just our block…”

“What about the school parties?”

How many times did the answer to these questions start with:

“I don’t know.”

“It makes me nervous.”

“I need to think about it some more.”

“I wish they would just cancel it.” Or

“I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

My kids keep asking me if we are going Trick or Treating and I still don’t know.

Now, I LOVE dressing up for Halloween. The past few years we have done themed family costumes: Trolls. The Incredibles. Harry Potter. We usually start talking about what we want to be for Halloween sometime after the 4th of July and discuss new ideas as a family.

This year, not so much. We don’t know what to do or expect, so we did no planning. I took down 2 bins of Halloween costumes from the attic and told the kids to come up with a new costume from old parts. They had a ball. Our neighbor joined in on the fun. They did an impromptu Halloween parade down the street. Knocking on doors of people they knew: Would they answer? Would they get a treat? It was thrilling. They wanted to do it again the next day.

When I was a kid, I loved dressing up for the Halloween parade at school, but I did NOT like trick or treating. I think it was because my stepfather, whom I lived with a majority of the time, always had a plentiful stock of candy in the house. So why would I go knocking on strangers doors to get something I already had? I much preferred handing candy out.

To this day, my job is sitting on the stoop, my husband’s job is taking the girls around. It’s funny though, because the girls enjoy giving as much as they like getting. So in years past, they have spent the first half stooping with me and the second half running amuck and collecting.

Flash forward to 2020 and I am measuring the success of this quarter’s tutoring sessions by tallying the number of times a child asks me (unprompted) “What does it mean?”

So I am asking you when you are feeling stuck or sad about Halloween, or when your kids are feeling bummed out about Halloween feeling different this year, ask:

“What does Halloween even mean?”

“What does the word itself mean?”

“What does Halloween mean historically?”

“What does it mean to our present day culture?”

“What does it mean to you, personally?”

“How does it fit or not fit with my own spiritual or religious beliefs?”

“What do you like about the old secular traditions?”

“What does your child like about their prior experiences with Halloween?”

“What does your child NOT like about Halloween?”

Is there a way to get to the heart of what is lovable about Halloween? The dressing up? The huge pile of novel and varied candy? The socializing with friends? The thrill of interacting with strangers? Carving pumpkins? Decorating the house?

Can we leave out what we don’t like? Insane amounts of sugar that wrecks havoc on our brains and bodies, perhaps?

We can be sad that we can’t do things the way we have always done them.

We can also see it as an opportunity to take a little of what we like, leave out what we don’t like, and have a little fun in a new way that gets to the heart of celebrating the proverbial death of that which is threatening, scary, and unknown and welcoming in the birth of a new year. A new season. Full of new hopes. New traditions. New ways. New perspectives. A chance to create new meaning.

If we chose to take it that deep, maybe this year it means more to us than it has in our recent past.

Nowadays on the surface, Halloween is about having fun and co-creating a happy memory of a beloved secular holiday that is really, in modern America, all for the kids.

If you are curious about the original meaning and etymology of the word “Halloween” I summarized my study of the word below.

Happy Halloween and have fun this week!

Love,

Dr. Bennett