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Halloween actually is all about community, not just getting candy for the kids

by Denise Dykstra

It’s been quite the journey, me and Halloween.

When I was young, I did not give one thought to Halloween.  My parents always hosted a very large hayride and my best friends were always there.  We would go on long hayrides down old paths and giggle and throw straw and have the best time.

We would always have a huge campfire waiting for us when we got back from the hayride.  My mom and some other ladies would call all the kids around and stand on the back porch to hand each one of us children a brown sack lunch bag full of candy.

When all the adults and families would pack up to leave, my best friend’s family always stayed.  We kids would dump our candy out in the living room and sort out and trade for the best candy.  It always seemed like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was on TV, though if that was really true or just how my memory serves me, I don’t recall.  I do know that I hated those flying monkeys and as soon as they had come on, there was no getting me to go out in the dark for a long after — every single year I was scared to death of those monkeys.

The hayride days at my parents came to an end and my parents decided one year to have us go trick or treating.  I was nearly to the age when one does not trick or treat any more, that awkward not quite a child but not quite fully a teenager years.  My parents drove us around to visit all the older members of our community.  We were given apples, raisins, popcorn balls (my grandma made the best popcorn balls!) and yes, candy.

I did not like the awkward feeling of going up to the door to ask strangers for treats, but I also remember how thrilled they were to see us.

Following that part of my Halloween experience, I just tried to ignore Halloween.  I do not care to be scared.  I don’t dress up. I want no part of scary movies.  Even now, all grown up, I will still cover my eyes when scary commercials come on and I have been known to command everyone else to look away from what was on the screen.

When my boys were young, I avoided any large grocery store as much as I could to keep the boys from seeing scary things.  I pulled them out of school for the day before the Halloween parties.  We would visit a church’s Fall Festival where our boys would still be able to get the trick or treating idea and load up on candy.

At some point, our boys asked why they couldn’t partake in all the Halloween fun that all their friends were having.  Friends of ours were asking us to trick or treat with them through our little village.  As a mom of young kids, I was straight up tired and couldn’t think of any reason stronger than “I don’t like Halloween.”  I went to the school parties with the boys, we drove to our little village and we trick or treated with their friends.

We had the best time.

Walking up and down the streets with their classmates and parents, everywhere we went there was someone we knew and someone we were chatting with.  It was fun to see all the kids having fun being dressed up.  Our local fire barn fed us all a warm dinner of hot dogs and followed it with ice cream.  The church down the street was open and served us hot cocoa and doughnut holes.  For a little over two hours, we had so much community fun and was sad when it was over.

My husband tried taking our boys to other neighborhoods to trick or treat and load up on candy, but they fell flat.  Sure, you could get more candy.  But we realized we would rather just stay in our little village with the people we knew. It turned out it wasn’t so much about the candy, it was more about the community.

When we moved into the village, our oldest two sons weren’t so into trick or treating any more, but our youngest boys couldn’t believe their good fortune of living in a town of candy.  When we first moved into our home, our part of the road was known as the “not worth trick or treating” stretch. As the years have passed, our part of the village is hopping all of Halloween night.

This weekend, Halloween arrived in our little village.  Now that my boys don’t trick or treat any more, they have new favorite traditions.  Our youngest sets up on the front porch usually with hot cocoa and blankets and lots of Christmas music playing.  My siblings come over and take all their kids trick or treating, using our home as the home base.

This year it seemed we passed out candy in shifts.  Sometimes it was our youngest and his friends.  Sometimes it was my husband.  Sometimes it was my dad and siblings or brother in law.  My mom was sad not to see all the kids dressed up but there was no more room on the porch for us, so we sat where we could see out the windows to watch.

I kept seeing people I knew and would have to run outside to say hello.  Kids who know our home well would show up and not be interested in the candy as much as the chocolate chip cookies they knew were in the cookie jar.  The house was overflowing with people and laughter.

And while I still don’t like scary, I do like community.

At the end of the night, when we had shut off the porch lights because we were out of candy and the house was empty except for just us who live here, my heart was full.

What a great time Halloween has become for us.

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