Every year, I see a swirling mix on facebook and among people I know and media I follow about Halloween: “Harvest festivals” and apologetics about why Halloween is naughty or good or foolish or fun or whatever the argument may be. Add the candy/diet concerns in and the conversation broadens and becomes even louder.
In my opinion, Halloween (regardless of the folklore/history/etc. around it), is a unique, wonderful opportunity for community connection; it’s too good to pass up!
I’ve been in my neighbourhood for nearly 11 years and in the early years – before school-aged kids – I felt like this was the only time I could get a sense of who lived around us. Then, once we did start to have kids, it was the only time I ever walked up to most of the houses around me, with a natural excuse to say hello and maybe have an introduction or a conversation.
You may be more friendly and outgoing than I am, but I know that I’m certainly not the only one with this experience! Especially living in a more suburban environment where there are fences and hedges that separate homes, and especially living in a cold weather environment where all winter, people drive into their garage and neighbours never have a chance to naturally interact.
So, while the zombie baby riding a tricycle down the street creeps me out BIG TIME... nonetheless, I LOVE HALLOWEEN!
How to Neighbour “Good” this Halloween?
Here are some thoughts & ideas I’ve come across on the subject; maybe one will fit with your community or family.
Don’t wait for the doorbell to ring. We have friends who open up their garage and serve hot chocolate to parents (and any kids who want to pause long enough for a sip). A great way to slow things down long enough to chat with others in the community. [Bonus for parents if you have Kahlua or Bailey’s on tap…]
Go trick-or-treating in your neighbourhood! Even if there aren’t many kids. Even if the houses who actually give out candy are few & far between. Start young with the expectation that it is a community event more than it is about the candy haul.
Create a photo booth in your front yard! There are many variations on this idea, with different degrees of involvement, but all of them sound fun to me! In this day of sketchy digital freedom, I would imagine that most people wouldn’t want you taking photos of them on your camera (even with a genuinely kind offer to email it to them later). But, if you are a skilled or pro photographer, perhaps there is a great opportunity here to serve & connect with your neighbours! Or, you could create a backdrop and offer to snap phone images (on their own devices) as visitors pass through. This could be the kind of project that builds momentum over time, with trick-or-treaters and parents coming to anticipate it year after year.
Fires in the front yard? I read this in a number of places. Is this a thing that people do? Please comment below if you have experienced this, because it is a totally foreign concept to me!
Trick-or-treat with other people! This seems like a no-brainer, but wandering around alone as a chaperone gets old quick, and kids love to have a big crew. Joint efforts also allow for one parent to run home with kids who are done or need a pee break.
Make a meal of it! Jenny & Andy from Dinner: A Love Story put on a pot of chili for friends & neighbours for sort of an open house deal. Some stop in before trick or treating, others while they’re out trick or treating. Yum! Here’s the recipe, all written from DALS [personally, I cut way back on chili powder]:
Second Place Chili
Serves 12 to 15
Again, this recipe is super versatile — you can make it with ground turkey, diced sirloin, shredded chicken. If you want to — and I want to – you can even add 1/2 piece of really smoky bacon. Ideally, you’d want to saute the onions and garlic first to build the flavor, but since we were dealing with so much meat and such limited pot space, we browned it in batches, removed the meat, then added the onions and garlic.
2 pounds ground beef (I used 90% lean)
4 links chorizo sausage, cooked
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
1/2 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
8 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (secret ingredient!)
2 dried chili peppers (for medium spicy; add another if you want hotter)
3 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
salt and pepper as you go
Brown the ground beef, in two batches, in a large stockpot in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as it cooks. Remove to a bowl with slotted spoon. Brown chorizo links for about two minutes a side, and remove to a cutting board. Chop up or slice.
Add onion and garlic to the pan with salt and pepper. Cook about 8-10 minutes, in all that beef and chorizo juice, until golden. Add wine, all tomato products and spices, chili peppers, and ground beef and chorizo back. Stir until well blended.
Cover at a lazy simmer for 30 minutes to 2 hours, stirring occaionally. Add beans and serve 15 minutes later.
Have a fun weekend!