Like so many holidays and community celebrations, Halloween becomes another opportunity for commerce. I see a lot of parents struggling to find the best way to instill in their children deeper meanings for holidays.
Four inches of snow have definitively killed my pumpkin vines. These hearty pumpkins are my last harvest of the season. As we reluctantly let go of summer and face the coming winter, Halloween is a time of gathering within our communities and celebrating endings.
When NatureMom’s oldest turned four years old last year, she didn’t want Halloween to be all about candy. Her daughter was still young enough that going to a few houses was enough for her, so it was easy to make Halloween about community. She told her daughter that Halloween was a time to visit all of their neighbors, find out how their summer went if they hadn’t talked in a while, and ask about whether they are ready for winter. Sharing and talking with neighbors make the evening much less about candy and more about community.
My children know Halloween as a time when their friends and our big circle of families gather together for a celebration. We start in a local park with a farewell to the season, then we share a meal that includes foods from all of our gardens. After dinner, we let one lucky adult take the children out for trick or treating. The rest of the adults stay home laughing and talking until we all just give in and head home. For us, community is built into the holiday.
Among the endings we celebrate as a family are the lives of our loved ones who have died. The scary, ghoulish themes still so prevalent are our sometimes quite awkward way of acknowledging the dead. We like playing with those themes, too. We dress up and have fun. We also slow down for a bit and take the opportunity to tell one another where we’ve been.
A time of endings is also a time of beginnings. Marking the end of one year’s harvest also marks the beginning of the cycle of rest then revival. When my family members have gone around our circle talking about where we’ve been in the year, we then look forward, considering where will are going.
Holidays give us a chance to stop, acknowledge, and celebrate, encouraging our children to become aware of themselves and their own presence within a community.
Happy Halloween. I hope you get a chance to check in with your neighbors and share the end of your harvest.