Why I Love Halloween (Except When I Hate It)

Halloween. It’s my favorite love/hate holiday of the year.

Halloween is a time to be creative, have fun, and take part in a huge neighborhood celebration. Heck, despite my preference for naked dogs, I’ve even been known to chuckle at the occasional clever dog costume (I especially love the guy who dressed as a hot dog while his dachshund dressed as mustard).

Halloween Honey the Golden Retriever

It’s also an over-the-top consumption fest of cheap goods made by exploited people in other countries. And a perfect storm of ways to freak out sensitive pets.

See how ambivalent I am?

Halloween As A Minor Holiday

When I lived in the city, I yearned for trick-or-treaters to come to my door.

Unfortunately, most parents didn’t think it was safe for their kids to walk around the neighborhood after dark. So most trick-or-treaters were already home by the time I got back from work.

When I moved to upstate NY, I saw how fun Halloween could be. Especially when I saw it through the eyes of my apartment neighbors from Thailand.

The kids were lucky to find two Halloween costumes at a local yard sale. And they were thrilled to get dressed up and ring doorbells around the apartment complex for free candy.

Honey at the Halloween Store at the Shops at Ithaca Mall

I’m at your door. Where’s my treat?

My dogs at the time, Agatha and Christie, barked like fiends at the doorbell. So I just stood near the door to greet the kids to avoid the bark-inducing bell.

Halloween was a fun, simple, and minor holiday. Just the way I like it.

Halloween – Candy Death Race 2000

Then I moved to a popular, family oriented neighborhood in downtown Ithaca.

Since I knew my neighbors and they knew me, maybe I could make brownies for the trick-or-treaters. Could I afford to buy fairly traded chocolate for the kids? I guess we’d see after our first Halloween in our new house.

I was stunned.

We ran out of candy by 6:30 p.m. And the kids kept coming.

We turned off the lights and hid upstairs with Agatha and Christie as they paced back and forth in reaction to all the noise on the street.

I had unknowingly bought a house on the street that served as Ithaca’s Halloween headquarters. A neighbor up the street decorated his house for the holiday in a way that would put Clark Griswold’s holiday light display to shame.

A spooky Halloween house.

Trick-or-treaters are drawn to this house like moths to a flame. It’s 3 doors away from mine.

And the local dentist decorated his office as a haunted house.

Our street drew kids from all over town and the surrounding rural areas.

Let me try to describe to you what my block looks like for Halloween:

All my neighbors sit outside on their porches. The kids come in such masses, we don’t have time to go inside and wait for the doorbell to ring.

Halloween house has a throne.

The owner of the Halloween house presides over the holiday from his throne.

I’ve counted up to ten kids standing on my porch with four or five coming up the stairs while another four or five are going back down the other side. There’s a mob of kids waiting at the foot of the stairs. And the streets and sidewalks clog with parents and kids.

The kids come too quickly for us to comment on their costumes. Or even to count.

But one year, after calculating how much candy we gave out, I estimated we had seen over 600 kids on our front porch.

Making Halloween Fun Again

Hiding in the house isn’t fun. It’s noisy outside. Some kids ring the bell despite us having the lights off. And it’s too crowded outside for us to walk Honey around to enjoy the sights.

My best solution has been to hold a party.

I make a lasagna or a big pot of veggie chili. I invite my friends who live in rural neighborhoods and ask them to bring a big bag of candy.

You see, even if my friends have a few kids in their neighborhoods, the parents drive their kids to my neighborhood to do their trick-or-treating. So this is their chance to join the fun.

Honey the golden retriever sees a Halloween ghoul.

We should invite him to a party. He’s looking kinda thin.

Halloween Should Be Fun, Not Work

I still find the massiveness of the celebration overwhelming.

And I’m an extrovert! It would probably kill some of my introverted friends.

Halloween has gotten so big, it feels like work.

My neighbor who decorates his house has shared that he finds it exhausting. But that people complain when he talks about stopping his big display.

Mike and I will be going out tonight. But I still have to walk and feed Honey early. Once the minivans start dropping off the kids, it’s not a safe or comfortable place to walk a dog. Not even one as sociable as Honey.

Honey the golden retriever puppies poses on Halloween.

Don’t know why you keep making me visit all these scary things. I’m still a puppy, you know.

Knowing how stressful Agatha and Christie found it, I can’t imagine how some of my neighbors with fearful dogs cope. Maybe they visit friends who live in the country.

And worst of all, I feel guilty about not being able to enjoy what used to be one of my favorite holidays.

I don’t blame kids for wanting to trick or treat in a neighborhood where they can get more candy than they could at home. I don’t blame parents for feeling better about their kids walking on well-lit sidewalks in a neighborhood with lots of other people around instead of sending them out to traipse along the dark shoulder of a road with a 55 mph speed limit.

And the kids and their parents who visit are generally very nice. We get an occasional kid who wants to root through our candy pot for just the right thing. Or someone who says, “Ew, I don’t like these” right in front of you.

But that’s rare out of hundreds of kids.

They spend a lot of time on their costumes. They say thank you. And they’re just out having fun.

I just wish Halloween hadn’t become so big.

Halloween candy trash.

Just a little bit of the trash we pick up in front of the house after Halloween.

The Simple Life

Do you ever think about how the best things in life are often the most simple?

The feeling of your dog’s head on your leg while you’re reading on the couch. The smell of dinner cooking. Spotting a colorful bird outside your window.

Grand things have their thrills too. But the highs are tempered with stress.

Laughing with your family sitting around the Thanksgiving table is fun. But it’s surrounded by long lines in the grocery store and piles of dishes after dinner.

That amazing vacation in Panama started with a mad dash to the airport and ended with a crash of exhaustion.

I feel out of synch with a society telling me I always have to do more. That we have to spend because our economy can’t stop growing. And that it’s perfectly reasonable to fill our lives with stuff we don’t need made by people on starvation wages.

Golden Retriever looks at Scarecrow

Want to go for a walk?

It’s not a problem I’ll solve today.

Maybe it’s time to enjoy a simple pleasure. Sounds like it’s time to go for a walk.

C’mon, Honey. Let’s go find your leash.

Your Turn: Halloween: best holiday ever? Or meh.




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  1. We enjoy it in our neighborhood. We’ve got a guy who throws a party in the end of our cul-de-sac, which we don’t attend, but we get our fair share of visitors. Aaron and I park a couple of chairs at the end of the drive, sit with the dogs and have a beer or two while we hand out candy to the kids on the way to the party. We keep an eye out on what kind of kids are coming or if they have a dog with them. If they do, or if the kids are loud and obnoxious, I take the dogs behind our truck to not stress them out and Aaron deals with the kids. When we run out of candy we just head back in and turn out the lights. Since the party is at the end of the street the kids don’t mind having one less house to go to. It works out wonderful for us.

    Monty and Harlow

  2. I, too, have a love/hate relationship with Halloween! Here in Trumansburg, living on a corner, we get a BUSLOAD of kids; parents from rural areas drive their offspring in so they have equal chance of getting big loads of sugar in their treat bags. Normally we have around 250 callers – I actually tally them as they arrive and compare notes with neighbors! Some of the costumes are terrific – including high school-age children who can be wonderfully imaginative. My favorite, however, was the attending father of elementary kids who arrived on our front porch in a black raincoat, fedora and… bare legs. I casually asked him if he was a flasher, whereupon he whipped open the raincoat to display a blinking battery-operated sign that went ‘FLASH….FLASH….FLASH….’ accompanied by his lecherous laughter. It took me a while to recover from my fit of appreciative hysterics, and I’ve always wondered how he explained this to his elementary-age children. My husband couldn’t care less about Halloween, and he stays upstairs in the ‘den’ with our two dogs, who would otherwise be barking frantically for the 2-3 hours the parade wends its way along our street. When I drove bus for the Trumansburg district, some of the drivers would dress up on Halloween for the home run, and I did love that.

  3. Margaret T says:

    What we do depends somewhat on the weather. We don’t have that many kids in the immediate neighborhood, and they tend to come earlier than the kids coming from farther away. I have taken Annie, my golden, out to the front to sit in pleasant weather, and kids who are willing to give her a dog treat (I provide it) get two treats, while the others get one treat. Now I also have Annie’s daughter Tess, and she is a little too young and grabby to trust that way, so maybe I’ll take her out and give two treats to kids who will pet her, and I will treat Tess. If it’s too much for her, I’ll take her back in, but she loves kids. I think it helps that trick or treat starts before dark in my area, and kids and parents are told to approach only houses that have lights on.

  4. I love giving out candy on Halloween, but I have never experienced the volume of trick-or-treaters you get (even when I lived at 110 Court Street for two years… must be they were all on your street!).

    Last year was our first with a reactive and fearful dog, and I think the experience of getting even the 20 or so trick-or-treaters we did in Amherst stressed him out for the better part of a week after Halloween.

    This year we are living in a family oriented apartment complex at seminary, and we are not sure yet what our plan will be, but we are leaning toward sitting outside our door with candy and leaving the pups inside with some music playing to drown out the noise. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  5. I have never been a huge fan of halloween. I suppose when I was a kid a liked the candy, but as an adult I would rather leave it, than take it.

  6. We like everything leading up to Halloween, but actual Halloween we don’t like. Mom gets sick and tired of the kids ringing the bell, having to say they are cute, etc. We will turn off the lights at 8pm and that will be it. She always stays home with us as she doesn’t want to leave any of us alone with all the kids out there, especially on a weekend night when older kids tend to cause trouble. Now we are focusing on a nice turkey dinner in a few weeks.

  7. When we first moved to our house, the neighborhood was full of young kids. Everyone really got in the Halloween spirit. Many of the houses were as decorated as you would see for Christmas, just orange and black vs red and green :-) It was lots of fun. John even set up a horror garage the kids had to walk into to get their candy. We did this for several years until it started to feel more like work and less like fun. As the kids started to age out of the trick or treat phase, it all started to tone down. Now we barely need one bag of candy to cover the night. Tonight we are going to a parade in a local town, and opting out of the house duties altogether!

    I hear you on the societal pressures….You don’t even want to know what I think of Christmas! I’m such a Grinch! Ba-humbug!

  8. So, that house is pretty incredible, and your party idea is brilliant. But I’ve become the Halloween Grinch. Today, for instance, is cold, dark, with a slight chance of snow. I’m praying for that snow. It’s SO stressful for the dogs. We gate them upstairs, so there’s no risk of bolting, but the people… the noise… the doorbell… It’s just too much for Lucas and Cooper to deal with. We actually thought about boarding them this year, and now that the day’s here, I wish we had. Come on, snow! Let’s see some ice!

  9. It gets a big meh from me. Being the introvert I am you can understand why. Thank god we live in a place where there are NO trick or treaters…and actually we’ve never had many even when we lived in LA. I’m sure there are streets like yours that are the hubs for the trick or treating – seems a little unfair that you have that burden…600 kids is a LOT. a LOT. Tonight will be like any other night for us and that’s the way I like it.

  10. We haven’t had trick-or-treaters in at least 15 years. It’s just not safe for the kids to go house to house on our road. The speed limit is 35mph at our end; but the way most people drive around here, you’d think it was the Autobahn!!

  11. I really enjoy the simple things as well – cuddling up late at night with Laika on the couch and a good book is my idea of a great evening. I enjoy seeing people excitedly get dressed up and kids having fun on Halloween but I myself don’t get too worked up over it. I really don’t mind a holiday dedicated to the spookier things in life but I just don’t ever feel the need to put a ton of effort into it. Last night I was a bit sad to see all the kids walking around in 30 degree weather with 45 mph winds here in Michigan. We even had our first snow last night.

  12. I’m afraid I am very much meh. Basically you are saying give me something nice or I will do something horrible to you… not the best message in the world, and also don’t talk to strangers or take candy from them, apart from this one night where it’s ok to knock on a strangers door and take and consume whatever is given…

    I know I probably sound a little like the grouch, but I’m not a big fan!!

  13. Halloween has a different meaning in our house. It’s J’s birthday and he shares his big day with 2 puppies – we had 3 birthdays. We also live in a rural area with no sidewalks or street lights; no kids come by our house.

    It’s a pretty peaceful day for us and this year the weather was absolutely crap so there was no incentive for us to leave (J’s birthday dinner was Saturday night).

  14. As I get older, Halloween is becoming more troublesome for me. Here’s why – Doodle Dad loves it, he buys all the candy, puts it in a huge bowl, turns all the lights on, but when the third trick or treater comes to the door, he retreats to the basement and watches television. There I am running back and forth for hours, can’t seem to get anything accomplished, Harley is hyper all evening. And here in Northern Va the weather is usually cold and damp so sitting outside with a hot cup of Jo is out of the question. I know I sound awful, but I’m being honest.