News

Halloween: The Community Holiday

By CHRISTINA CLARKChristina Clark JPEG
Columnist

All the orange and black decorations are about to go on clearance in a last effort to make sure they get sold.

Mini versions of candy are pushed towards the front of the stores, making sure that those on a last minute trip make sure they pick up a bag (or five).

Adult women sprint into stores last minute to buy pointy eared- or devil horned-head bands. Men of all ages straighten out their favorite sports jersey and throw on sweatbands.

Christmas decorations are slowly creeping into view. There must be one explanation: Halloween is right around the corner.

Halloween is such an odd holiday. On the surface, it is a day to switch your identity into something that you would never be (or would rather be) throughout the year, and engage in a party full of either alcohol or copious amounts of mini candies (when else do Bottle Caps and Dots ever really appear?).

For those who live in neighborhoods or have children of their own, a closer tradition to that norm is dressing their children up as something adorable (or ironic) and taking them trick-or-treating through their neighborhood or one nearby, or being the “home base” and handing out candy at the door.

I’ve always adored this tradition. In most of my experience, the children are taught the traditional threat of “trick-or-treat!” But it’s usually followed up by a shy “Thank you!” after a certain handful of decent candy has been bestowed into their treat buckets.

While the original “threat” of the trick (or prank, or threat to property) portion of the tradition has (mostly) died, the reward for following the tradition has remained.

Halloween is a holiday oddly centered around community. For those who don’t like to celebrate Halloween for religious reasons, there are fall gatherings that celebrate the same sense of community togetherness that Halloween inspires.

When else can children walk around a neighborhood until (almost) sunset and knock on their neighbors doors and simply receive a treat because they followed a “norm?” When else do people make time for their neighbors?

Growing up in a small neighborhood close to some higher income developments, it was an exciting time to explore some neighborhoods that placed a higher production level into their Halloween decorations, and some of the home owners even opened the door in costume and in character.

Of course, there was always the obligatory dentist passing out tooth brushes and floss (as an adult, I would both appreciate the free tooth brush and floss way more and find joy in the fact that the dentist knows he has to take a stand against cavities and be the downer).

On the way back, my brother and I (and some friends) would finish up in our own smaller neighborhood as it neared the end of the set trick-or-treating times.

I always noticed that at the end of the night in my neighborhood, some neighbors joined each other in their driveways to catch up with each other and to collectively dump their candy a little faster into trick-or-treater’s bags.

One house in particular had a lit sign out front of the house from a fast food restaurant (it was always unclear how they came into having the sign), but they always had a radio on in the garage, a big bowl of candy for the kids, and hot cider and beer for the adults who were taking their evening to take their smaller children around.

It always struck me as a very nice gesture, as Halloween is a colder holiday in northern Indiana than in other places in the country.

This Halloween, please remember that community participation is important to making a safer environment for everyone, adults and children alike. In this busy world, not a lot forces us to interact with our neighbors anymore. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and many other holidays stress the importance of family.

The most important thing I’ve always enjoyed about Halloween is that it stresses the importance of community to children and adults alike. Without coming together for one night to create the atmosphere, the “magic” couldn’t happen.

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2 replies »

  1. If you check the etymology of the word ‘community’ it began around the time of Christ, 2,000 years ago. Back then, people focused on their tribes, family, country, race, etc., but with the life of Jesus Christ and the origins of Christianity, people began to reach outside of their immediate families and welcome strangers and enemies especially around the time of the major plagues. Most people think the root of community is ‘uni’ meaning ‘one.’ But the root is actually ‘muni.’ And the root word ‘muni’ means ‘gift.’ Thus, the essence of community is to give yourself as a gift to others, as Christ has done for us.

    • I appreciate your feedback, Tom. I wasn’t trying to deconstruct the idea of community, however, just emphasizing the fact that Halloween and similar fall festivities are more community oriented than other holidays. The community is what shapes the Halloween trick-or-treat experience for the children participating. Again, thank you for reading and thank you for the feedback.

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