Make Halloween Sweeter Than Candy

In the looming shadow of the big sentimental holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s easy for Halloween to appear rather one dimensional: wear a costume and get candy. But as I’m prepping for the day with my kids this year, it has crossed my mind several times that it is a holiday that carries loads of value, especially for children.

There’s nothing quite like Halloween. It’s amazing actually, that it’s the only holiday that costumes are involved. (How can this be? They are so fun!) It’s one day, and yet, the process of picking out a costume becomes a year-long conversation. Planning what they will be all year is one of the earliest and most tangible practices in brainstorming for many kids. It involves not only projection and anticipation, but also loads of imagination.

Kids spend a lot of their time being told what to do and how to do it, and dressing up gives them a sense of autonomy that is pretty fun to witness. As parents, having a conversation about what they want to dress up as is a way for us to learn something new about them. And for kids, the simple act of pretending they are someone (or something) else has big implications for how they are encouraged to think. I’m a firm believer that imaginative kids turn into creative thinking adults.

I’ll admit making costumes can be overwhelming, but it’s an ideal opportunity to model resourcefulness and creativity. And if you’re not up for it (personally, my son has spent the last two years in premade costumes from Goodwill), you still get the opportunity to teach them to think creatively. Like, “What sound does a green dragon make?” and “How do you think a green dragon likes to walk down the road?”

But on to the real meat of why I think Halloween is a exceptional holiday: it’s all about community. Thanksgiving and Christmas are focused on gathering with our family, cozying in at home, and being thankful for the people that are closest to us. But at Halloween, the emphasis isn’t on staying home, it’s on getting out of your home.

It’s a time to remind ourselves that there is a neighborhood out there that we can rely on – rely on them to have gone shopping the week before, to be home, to answer the door, and to play along. I’ve always thought it was pretty miraculous: what other day of the year is it socially appropriate to knock on doors and ask for candy and have everyone say yes?

Trick-or-treating is an activity that harkens back to the notion of asking our neighbors for a cup of sugar. If I’m to be honest, I can’t really imagine doing that now. I would just go to the store and get it myself. We live in a neighborhood where the houses are so close together, we can actually hear each other sneeze, and yet, there are people across the street that I’ve never met. Visiting their houses each October gives us the chance to introduce ourselves, to show off our kids, to say thank you, and to simply not be strangers.

It’s easy to get isolated in the needs and schedules of our own family throughout the year. But on Halloween, there’s something happening that is bigger than us. With very few exceptions, it involves every kid in school, every kid in the neighborhood, every house in town, and we get to be a part of it. It’s a wonderful reminder that we are part of a community and we’re in this together. For no other reason than IT’S FUN.