The first time I ever heard about Halloween was in 1987. I was eight, and I watched E.T. in a Spanish theater, in some summer re-release on a stormy afternoon. To me those kids dressed up in costumes, walking in groups to ask for candy at neighbor’s houses were as alien as E.T. himself. It wouldn’t be until I lived in England fifteen years later that I would hear about Halloween again. But England’s Halloween for a college student had nothing to do with what I saw in the movie.
When I moved to the US I immediately fell in love with the American version of Halloween. Since Fall is my favorite season, the colors, the joy and the eagerness to be outside using up the last few warm days totally won me over. Back then I did all the dressing up, and attended graduate student Halloween parties. Since we lived in a high rise, trick or treating was limited to the kids who lived in the building. That didn’t impact my excitement about it.
But it wasn’t until I had kids that I fully and truly learned and experienced what a real Halloween is, with all the excitement, the anticipation and the bustling of that afternoon, and the pure happiness of my kids at the prospect of getting candy for free, no strings attached. From the first year that my oldest was able to walk and went door by door saying “Treat, pliiiiiiisss!”, to this year, when I will trot around with three little munchkins (or, better yet, a soccer player, a ninja turtle, and a little pumpkin), I have enjoyed every single one of them.
These are my only two frustrations: the first is that I haven’t convinced them yet to do a family costume (two of my kids are the perfect shapes for Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or C3PO and R2D2, two of the finest fiction pairings); the second is that we don’t get enough trick or treaters.
When we purchased our house, the first one firmly standing on the ground and not on top of another couple dozens of stories, I was very excited about Halloween. I bought massive amounts of candy, just to wait outside, all sad and lonely. I soon learned that I had the mixed luck of living mere feet away of one of the most coveted trick or treating blocks in the city, Burling Street between Fullerton and Diversey. The neighbors there mean business, decorate their houses beautifully and profusely, yet elegantly, dress up themselves and even block the street for the afternoon of Halloween. I am not American enough to be an expert on Halloween candy, but I am told by the little Americans in my house that the offering is good.
We have decorated the house, left the gate open, and I even once wrote a sign with arrows and all so the kids would see that there was candy if they just went through the gate (I realized quickly how creepy that was), and one year I stood in the sidewalk with my then six year old under the freezing rain just so his face could light up while giving candy away.
This year, as it has become a family tradition, we will head out to Burling St to trick or treat ourselves, with one adventurous kid, one that lately gets scared by his own shadow, and a funny walking toddler. And, like every year, I will buy a massive amount of candy, in the hopes that little kids in costumes come our way, as they did in the movie. At least this year the forecast predicts mild weather.
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