October is a magical time of year. There is a chill in the air, the leaves have begun their own slow display of fireworks, brightening the sky with vibrant oranges, reds and yellows, and all the Halloween decorations begin to appear. Jack-o-lanterns grin eerily out from the doorsteps, scarecrows stand ominously among bundles of high cornstalks within yards all along the street and as the sun begins to set the shadows come out to play, carrying with them a creepy sense of mischief that inspires laughter and fun.
The Halloween season offers a special kind of joy that is simply not present in other holiday celebrations. While the emphasis may seem to be on scaring the bejeebers out of your friends and neighbors, the real gift of this season comes from the sense of freedom and creativity it entails. Halloween is the only holiday that is based on an open concept rather than a particular event. There are no boundaries, no limits, and no expectations to fulfill. You are free to be as playful and original as you wish.
This aspect of Halloween is one that should be cherished because it affords us the space to be as silly as we want while also nurturing our inventive sides. Parents can encourage their children to choose any character or costume that they would like to be for Halloween, and then spend time helping their child to make the costume they want to wear. Families can also take advantage of the season to bond as a unit by voting on one theme for the entire family, such as the Addams Family or The Incredibles. There is nothing quite like the feeling of belonging to a cohesive group that is easily recognizable in public. It really establishes a fun sense of being part of a team.
Larger projects, such as haunted houses or mazes can also be an excellent event for the whole family to join together in building. Many people use their yards or garages to set up a simple haunted maze that the trick-or-treaters can walk through if they dare. These sometimes take a lot of work, and getting the family and friends involved stimulates a great feeling of comradery among those who worked so hard on it. And the satisfaction derived from the screams and nervous giggles of the people going through the maze is unparalleled.
Some people go to quite elaborate lengths to create an environment that is fun and scary for their neighbors to experience during the season. They spend months designing and building facades or effects that they display in front of or inside their homes just to entertain people with a fun scare. This is a gesture of hospitality like no other, presenting parents and kids alike with an experience that they are unlikely to ever forget. For those who do this, it is an offering of themselves to the guests who will come to their door, a whimsical engagement in the fun and frivolity of the season that represents a genuine interest in joining in the fun and enhancing every person’s Halloween eve. In return, they are gifted with the opportunity to briefly take part in the lives of their neighbors if only for the evening.
There are many neighborhoods in America that actually gather together and decide themes for their entire street during Halloween. Each neighbor then builds a façade or decorates their house in accordance with that theme. These can be extraordinary sites to behold. For instance, one street created an old western theme in which each home had built a different set in front of or surrounding their home, so the whole street looked like something you’d find in an old western movie. Another neighborhood made a pirate themed experience, with a nine foot tall pirate ship that spanned several house lengths. These kinds of things can definitely bring a community together.
Neighborhoods that don’t want to go to such extremes can still benefit from this time of silliness and fun. Parents often work together, within their own neighborhoods as well as the surrounding streets, to create a fun and safe environment in which the children can enjoy trick-or-treating. The adults take turns with street duties, keeping the passing drivers aware of the presence of all the kids in costumes and helping the children to cross the street safely. They accompany the kids as they go door to door so that they can meet or chat with the people on their street with whom they have limited contact otherwise. This is a convenient and non-intrusive way to introduce oneself to the neighbors living on the street, or get to know them better. Communities who know each other tend to be safer in general than those who aren’t acquainted with the people living around them.
There is no denying that Halloween is a wonderful holiday, one that brings people together in unique ways. The freedom of style and expression it offers makes it the one holiday when we can truly share our own individuality with all of those around us while celebrating theirs as well.