Witches, goblins and ghosties are coming. Or are they? Every year, fewer children trick-or-treat at our door. This year, in maybe an excess of Halloween good will, we bought two strings of candy-corn electric lights, which now adorn our front porch, and three bags of little individually wrapped candy bars.
Will they come? There seem to be more children in our neighborhood these days. On warm days we see them racing through the streets on bikes and scooters, telling us the human race is still alive and well.
But last year I recall only two small groups of children at our door on Halloween. So I’m wondering if any will come this year.
The old-style neighborhood trick-or-treating seems to be in serious decline. Halloween is now a safety issue, from years of people putting razor blades and other noxious things in Halloween treats. The Internet abounds with safety tips about dealing with dangers faced by trick-or-treaters. They warn against crossing dark streets in dark costumes, entering a stranger’s home alone, eating candy before an adult has checked it out.
But as a girl I remember loving my sense that at any moment a real ghost might pop out of a shadow as I walked by. The point was to trick-or-treat after full dark, to experience those delightful frissons of horror down my spine — in the safety of having Mom or a bunch of friends nearby.
Later, I came to love Halloween parties too. When Lowell was in ministry in Colorado, his churches threw annual Halloween parties that were for the neighborhood as well as the church. We served pizza, apples, cookies and punch, and played games. Lowell liked to put the candy in piñatas, but usually couldn’t find ones he liked, so he made very sturdy ones out of papier mache.
At piñata time, we moved by age from youngest to eldest. The little kids couldn’t swing very hard, but usually even the big kids couldn’t break those piñatas with one swing. We usually went through the age order again, until a frustrated older child or parent gave the piñata several mighty whacks. Candy would fly, and the children shrieked, stuffing their mouths and sacks.
These parties were homely affairs, homely in the British sense of simple, cozy and unsophisticated. I loved all the laughter. I’m tempted to think I had the most fun, but the truth is, Lowell always went home glowing with joy. Give that man a room full of big and small children playing musical chairs, watching how the big ones fought their own desires to win, finally holding back enough so the little ones sometimes could, and he, a pretty happy guy, is about as happy as I’ve seen him.
For me, Halloween is about love, like our whole wonderful God-given world. So every night our candy-corn lights shine bright, and our treats await lots of children to carry them off. I think I hear Jesus whispering, “Blessings.” And I say, “Everybody, please have fun.”
Joan Uda is a retired United Methodist minister living in Lewis and Clark County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1065, E. Helena, MT 59635. Her books are available at certain area bookstores.