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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.