I posted this photo (below) of my latest (ie, second-ever) effort at pumpkin-carving on Facebook last night, and my wonderful niece Lisa, who's been raising her family with her husband Ken in Calgary, Canada these last two and a half decades, made the comment that even though she's been living all that time in Canada, where they celebrate Halloween with gusto, she's still not into it. Calls herself the Halloween Grinch. If you knew what a sweet person Lisa is, the last word to ever describe her would be 'Grinch'. The only "G" word she answers to now is "granny", because she is one, but Grinch she ain't.
After Pammy and I spent all of October 2011 in the USA, we changed our minds about Halloween. We loved the way people everywhere we went treated it as a whole month-long harvest festival. Houses were decorated weeks in advance of the 31st, either with the traditional 'harvest' themes of haybales, pumpkins and corn cobs; or the 'spooky' themes of ghosts, skeletons, witches etc. And I guess the fact that we celebrated our first real Halloween in Times Square, New York was the perfect way to wrap our change in attitude to Halloween with fond memories that are still happy and vivid to this day.
However, apart from getting to know and appreciate Halloween for what it really is, I have another reason to carve pumpkins and buy Chupachups to give away to the kids who come knocking at our door tonight.
It's simply that I feel sorry for our kids, in general, in how 'un-free' they are these days. My childhood might have lacked Halloween but I had so much freedom to wander, to explore the local bushland and to live out my childhood fantasies of cowboys and indians and anything else that seemed like dangerous fun that was on TV back then. By comparison, kids are on a tight leash because the consensus is that this is a more dangerous world these days. Sad but true, but I do think urban kids in particular are missing out on the freedoms I knew, and that's why I sometimes feel sorry for the little ones.
So I see Halloween as a rare chance for kids to wander around their neighbourhood with their parents (if they're little) in the evening, or at night by themselves (if they're a bit older). In many cases it's the closest thing to a community event for kids that happens in ordinary suburban streets. It gives the littlies a chance to do something very different for one night a year. And just because this new 'tradition' wasn't part of my childhood isn't reason enough for me to say "bah humbug go away". I'd rather say "welcome, Happy Halloween kids, have a great night."