by Michelle Chouinard
Halloween night is one of the most beautiful nights of the year. I’m not talking about the weather. Even here in California, that’s always a gamble. And I’m not talking about the decorations, although there is arguably a type of beauty in a fiercely spooky haunt.
I’m talking about the social contract that says on this one night of the year, children may knock on strangers’ doors and expect to be given a warm welcome and a piece of candy. This will happen in countless streets in countless neighborhoods in all fifty states, and in many other countries beyond. It’s a true miracle of human spirit and community togetherness otherwise unmatched throughout the year.
Adults stock up on candy, without knowing who will come or even how many will come; many know they’ll get visitors from different neighborhoods. Some of us spend time and money to decorate our houses with flickering lights or scary scenes, to create a special evening filled with fun and harmless thrills for children we’ve never met. Not just parents, mind you, but people of all demographics: single, married, with children, without. Young and old. Wealthy and poor.
And when that doorbell rings, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. They don’t have to practice the same religion we do. They don’t have to be the same race. They don’t have to belong to the same political party, or support the causes we support. We will open our door and give a piece of candy to any child who asks for it.
This Halloween, take a moment to look down your street. Watch the lights as the children dash back and forth across, running from house to house, squealing at scary decorations and yelling “trick or treat!” Walk down to the corner and look down the next street, and notice the same thing happening there. And on the next. And on the one past that, too.
Because on Halloween night, the streets and the neighborhoods, they belong to the children. Not to drug dealers, thieves, or other criminals. Watchful parents and neighbors come together to create a playground for the children to experience and enjoy, filled with enchantment and candy and fun.
I can’t decide if it’s ironic or fitting that the night we set aside to pay tribute to the things that scare us the most–death, phobias, insects, vampires, ghosts, the dark, things that go bump in the night–is also the time we come together to celebrate and support innocence. Maybe this makes sense, to prioritize the young when remembering that our time on this earth is finite, and that the cycle of life is inevitable. I don’t know.
What I do know is this: Millions of children will fall asleep Halloween night, their heads overflowing with fun memories and dreams of candy loot. And millions of adults will fall asleep with their hearts touched by adorable costumes and happy smiles. All because we decided we would make it so, together. And that, my friend, is a beautiful, precious, miraculous thing.
Unconditional acceptance of our fellows. Communities working together to create magic. Kindness and generosity. Isn’t this how we always want it to be? This is Halloween; may we carry a piece of that Halloween spirit with us throughout the rest of the year.
Michelle Chouinard has her Halloween costume finalized each year by October 1st, and always forgets to hide some of the candy for herself. She has most recently been published in Rewriting Mary Sue, Elephant Journal, and Every Writer’s Resource. This piece has been previously published in a modified form on her blog, The Michelle/Mishka Project. You can find her on Twitter @mishka824, Facebook, and her website.