Some folks my age think Halloween is radically different now than when we were kids, but it really isn’t. Kids still love and anticipate dressing up, getting a ton of free candy, and a sanctioned roam of the streets after nightfall. For me and my friends, it’s one of those childhood activities that keep evolving over time, with more elaborate parties to attend and more decadent costumes to fuss over as adults.

As a child, I actually don’t recall my parents ever dressing up, maybe it was a generational thing, or the fact they were Christians from the South, but every Halloween, I got dressed up as one thing or another. My earliest memories include donning my mom’s frosted wig that magically transformed me into a witch, then being led by my big sister’s hand from door to door. Later, in the early 80’s, Star Wars characters dominated the scene, and me and my girlfriends were Princess Leah at least once.

Rue circa 1980

My childhood neighborhood on Halloween had knots of roving children, with nearly every home participating in the candy giving. But in recent years, especially in certain areas, the joi de verve of Halloween has long gone as kids have grown up and moved away from those 80’s neighborhoods. The adults who remain, hurry home from work and dim the lights – the universal signal of “don’t even think about knocking at my door” and others, like the Johnson family who just moved into a lovely East Oakland home in an older neighborhood, are disappointed that costumed children don’t come knocking, in spite of overflowing bowls of candy near the door. Reminiscing on last year, Lisa Johnson said, “We were pretty surprised that not even one child stopped by.”

So this Halloween, Outdoor Afro challenges you to create a Halloween or Harvest Festival friendly block! Yes, in some areas safety issues are real. But while you might not be able to change your entire city for one day, you can influence your neighbors. Start by making sure that every child and grandchild on your block knows in advance your home is open for candy business with simple decorations, or by turning your house lights ON. If you have kids or grand kids, take them to each home on your block. Alternately, partner with a favorite neighbor to make a spooky/kooky yard, or an impromptu party for both kids and adults.

If your neighborhood is not Halloween ready this year, then check out what some of the local churches, parks, and community centers are doing. The YMCA , zoo, or local congregation will certainly have a program to engage your whole family. The bottom line: don’t allow adult jadedness or fear to rob the joy of Halloween from kids. And who knows, you might even end up having some fun with the little goblins too!

What does your neighborhood do during Halloween? Leave a comment below!

Trick or treat!

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Comment by Juliet Robertson on October 31, 2009 at 7:41am
Hi Rue

Great blog! A few years ago when I lived in a very rural part of Highland Scotland we arranged for a drama specialist to work with the village children on "guising" performances. Guising is the Scottish tradition of visiting houses and performing a song, joke, dance or other activity in return for sweets, apples, nuts, etc.

We sent a booking form to every house in the village stating that we could be booked for performances in their house. Then myself and the children gave "in-house" shows to these people. Afterwards the children performed for the rest of the village at the community hall where a Community Halloween Party took place. We managed to surprise the children though. Before they got to the hall they discovered that they needed a key to enter. They had to solve Halloween clues to collect pieces of the broken key from different parts of the village. At the garage they met a vampire. In the railway station, their was a mummy. In the bus stop there were three witches, etc.

All-in-all it was a memorable night for the whole village who played their part to raise each child!


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