They sat on porches, with fires leaping in pits beside their houses. They smiled when the children approached the door, wished them a happy Halloween, asked what their costumes were.
The people who live in my neighborhood were welcoming, friendly and generous on Halloween this year, as they are every year.
My neighborhood is a friendly one on most days. But on Halloween, they come out in force, greeting strangers with glee and gratitude, and giving just because they come.
That’s the thing about Halloween. Put aside the blood, guts, and gore, and what you see at the core is human kindness, generosity, and a spirit of giving.
I know, it’s not the characteristic we typically associate with this holiday. But if my neighborhood is any indication, Halloween is absolutely a holiday of giving to others and welcoming your neighbor.
My ex and his religious brethren oppose this holiday, saying it’s pagan or Christian or both. That may be its roots, but the truth is that Halloween has evolved into a cultural phenomenon that connects us to our communities.
Who cares where it comes from! The truth of a day when people step out of their homes and go door to door, saying hello, saying thank you, giving and receiving, is that it’s a good day indeed.
A great day, filled with creativity and imagination.
This Halloween, my youngest determined to be the solar system. And so my husband stayed up every night last week, sewing a big yellow felt sun, with three foam-filled rays on each side.
Shaya, Eliana and I painted little styrofoam balls into the planets. Shaya insisted we include Pluto. And then we affixed sparkly pipe cleaners for those that had rings.
On the eve of returning home from a business trip that had him completely worn out, my husband stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, sewing those rays onto the sun itself and finding a way to permanently attach the planets to the front of the sun.
Shaya proudly wore that costume in his holiday parade at school and then traipsed through the neighborhood with people we didn’t know asking what he was, then exclaiming at how smart the costume was, how it was their favorite, how creative. They gave him extra candy for thinking outside the box.
My daughter was a police officer and gallivanted around the neighborhood with a gaggle of girlfriends. My step-daughter was a baseball player, my eldest son Guy Fawkes from V for Vendetta.
Each of them represented their personalities and tastes in their costume choosing, and gathered with the people they love to gather candy, count it out on the living room floor after, and stay up late having fun with friends.
What could be wrong about such a day?
We live in a world filled with opposition. If we spend even a minute focusing on what we believe vs. what someone else does not believe, we have wasted our lives.
If we even consider the roots of our observances, all of us might come away with a lingering ache of distaste. For goodness sake – every ancient religion has in its bylaws sacrifices and killings, judgment and casting-out.
Is that the world we choose to live in now?
I don’t honestly care what the roots of a holiday might be. I want to know what it can teach me today.
And as far as I can see, Halloween in the 21st century is a time when people are united in creativity, in a spirit of giving, in the excitement of exploration and discovery and exchange with others, and I can’t see anything offensive in that.