Halloween is just around the corner, and while I risk being labeled some sort of heretic pagan by some of my more conservative friends every time I say this, Halloween has always been among my favorite holidays of the year.
Yes, as a kid I enjoyed the cheap plastic costumes, but even as a young adult I always enjoyed the day. I can’t say why exactly, but it’s always been maybe the only holiday that’s just purely fun — no deeper meaning, no long drawn-out ceremonies, just fun.
In college my roommates and I always put on a Halloween party for our friends — and yes, occasionally a few would show up in costume, and one year about a half-dozen costumed individuals showed up, hung out for a couple of hours, helped themselves to food and fun and only after they left did we all realize not a single one of us had a clue who they were.
Once my wife and I were married, we often had a Halloween get-together for friends, or maybe our Sunday school class, complete with costume contest, county-wide scavenger hunt, bonfire, and all the things a good autumn get-together needs.
Of course, when our kids came along it was great fun — our yard and home generally looked more like one of those haunted houses you tour with gravestones in the yard and skeletons, ghosts and vampires and all sorts of ghouls hanging around. On Halloween night we always ate little “ghosts” made of mashed potatoes and roasted pumpkin seeds, and had a giant carved jack-o-lantern for each of us glowing outside (and with five kids, that was a lot of jack-o-lanterns). One year we even made a jack-o-lantern out of a watermelon, which proved so popular we did it again each of the next few years.
Even now, as my kids have grown and moved out of the trick-or-treating years and, with several of them, even into adulthood I still enjoy this time of year — though it does carry some risk, given that one of my colleagues here at The Mount Airy News has threatened to come to work the day before Halloween dressed as Peter Pan. That seems to hold some sort of morbid fascination for the rest of us, kind of like driving up on a car wreck — you know, as you pass by that you’re going to steal some glances at the wreckage, even though you’re mortified at what you might see.
Here again, I think Halloween holds a fascination for so many because it’s simply a fun, harmless day, and maybe most of all it’s a day about memories.
Most adults think of Halloween through two filters — memories of their own childhood Halloweens with their family and friends, and then memories of what they’ve done with their own kids at this time of year. Some of the customs have changed — a lot of the churches put on “trunk-or-treating” events and call it a “fall festival” rather than Halloween (even though everyone knows it’s still a Halloween celebration); more of the costumes are based on pop culture figures; and fewer and fewer homes seem to participate in the giving out of candy and keep their front porch lights dark; but the spirit is still the same — Halloween is a lot of fun, and a great chance to make some life-long memories.
So this year, I hope all of you will find a way to do something with your kids or grandkids for Halloween, or at the very least pass out some goodies from your front door. While handing out candy might not seem like a big deal, even doing that is helping someone else build some life-time memories.
John Peters is editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.