The folks in our neighborhood go all out for Halloween, decorating their yards with spider webs, tombstones, and all manner of ghouls, witches, and goblins. It’s funny to see how even a few fake body parts or scattered skulls and skeletons can transform an otherwise normal yard in an otherwise quiet neighborhood into Something Spooky, or at least something eye-catching.
J and I have decided that decorating for Halloween is particularly popular in our neighborhood because Halloween is all-American in its inclusivity. Although originally a Christian feast day, All Hallows’ Eve has been both secularized and stripped of Christian overtones—or, more accurately, it has been papered over with pagan connotations—so there’s no outcry among conservatives about a presumed War on Halloween. We all have skeletons in our bodies if not our closets, and we all are going to die, eventually: this is universal. Decorating for Halloween advertises nothing about your religious affiliation or lack thereof; it simply adds a bit of weirdness and whimsy to a season we all know ends bleakly.
Yesterday, J suggested another reason for a recent upsurge in neighborhood Halloween decorations. Besides an unspoken desire to keep up with the Joneses—even J and I have succumbed, perching a trio of pumpkins on our porch and investing in a few Styrofoam tombstones for our yard—there seem to be more young kids in our neighborhood than there were when J first moved here, a wave of families with teens and young adults being gradually replaced by families with younger kids. So far tonight, more of our trick-or-treaters have been little ones shepherded by parents than tweens and teens wandering the streets alone. Maybe trick-or-treating isn’t as cool as it used to be, no longer as popular with kids more interested in Facebook and video games: maybe kids today simply grow up more quickly than they used to.
We’ve had nearly thirty children come to our door this trick-or-treat night, and we’ve told them they each can choose four small candy bars from an assorted bowl. The handful of tweens who rang the doorbell quickly grabbed random fistfuls of candy, said their thank-yous, and left, but the little folks are much more deliberate, carefully choosing candies while their parental chaperones help them count.
One little cowboy carefully selected one candy bar, dropped it in his bag, then turned to go. “He can choose three more,” I explained to his dad, who simply smiled and said, “He’s already happy enough.”