I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, Halloween was a community event. It started off by going trick-or-treating right after school at the local businesses in the small—okay, extremely tiny— "downtown" of Wiggins, Mississippi. We’d all dress up and go down Pine Hill collecting candy and toys from each store, and then we’d stop by the banks for a sucker or two.
Once we got home, we lit our Jack-o-Lanterns, filled our biggest bowl with a ton of candy, and turned on our porch light. We always tried to work it out so that at least one person would be home while the rest of us went trick-or-treating at our neighbors’ homes.
Dr. Cooley, one of the dentists in town, always gave out huge candy bars, trying to drum up business, no doubt. The neighbors on the corner had the "scary house"—smoke rising from a large, black kettle, spooky music playing, the sound of a witch cackling. They even had a wooden coffin outside one year, complete with someone inside, who’d occasionally "rise from the dead" and scare the daylights out of us. And then there were the neighbors across the street who never passed out candy. Their porch light, which was on every other night of the year, was intentionally turned off every Halloween.
I have to say that I’ve been a bit disappointed since we’ve begun taking our children trick-or-treating here in North Minneapolis. We hear from long-time residents that back in the day the streets were crawling with children. People would have to make quick runs to the store to restock their candy bowls. And now? Instead of running into all of the neighbor kids and comparing costumes, the children are few and far between. I’m not really surprised, though. Most of our neighbors’ porch lights are out, in essence saying, "Please don’t even bother knocking."
I know that some people don’t celebrate Halloween, and I’m not interested in engaging in a theological discussion of the origins of the holiday. My husband actually has issues with the way that the church, in particular, has taken the neighborhood out of Halloween. Church-sponsored "fall carnivals" abound, inviting children to leave their neighborhoods to celebrate in "safety." The fact remains, though, that this is the sole holiday where we are actually invited to visit our neighbors. It has the potential to be one of the most community-building holidays we can observe.
Why not treat October 31st as our children do—as a chance to dress up, eat candy, and enjoy the company of your friends and neighbors? Maybe if we knocked on a few more of our neighbors’ doors and got to know the people living on either side of us, we’d help facilitate the safety of our communities.
Come on, Northsiders. In solidarity this Halloween, let’s not only turn our porch lights on, but let’s also light candles and put them out to create a warm glow for our neighbors. Let’s use candles to celebrate the life in our community, rather than solely using them at vigils in our neighborhoods.
Join with us this year. Make the North Side the place to be on Halloween. Turn your lights on. Light your candles. Welcome the children to your front door. Stay in your neighborhood instead of shipping out to your church or a friends’ community where, supposedly, the candy is better.
Be here. Be a presence in your community, and keep it LOCL—Lights On, Candles Lit.