Andrea's Blog

A Hallowed Welcome

“This is what they do in Canada!” As a young Dutch immigrant my mom was thrilled with trick or treating. Treats were few in their home and a meal often consisted of bacon fat poured over potatoes. Halloween was not celebrated in Holland and the trick or treating custom was fully embraced by my mom and her siblings. And they were good, Christian kids.

So, as children, we too took on the tradition of going door to door asking for treats. Our one neighbour even had us sit on her front bench each year, and took our picture. As Little Red Riding Hood, I recall being so sure I saw a witch fly past the moon on her broomstick. It was magical. If a house had scary decorations or lights were out, we skipped them. I was always proud to carry the UNICEF box, strung around my neck, and bring it in to school the next day, hopefully full of change.

Times changed. Maybe it was the reports of people finding apples tampered with or razor blades in homemade cookies which changed things. Perhaps incidents, like the time my cousins got beat up for their candy, or approached by strangers caused fear in parents and avoiding the whole thing was thought best. Or is it the obvious disregard for human life. I honestly don’t understand decorating one’s home with death and gore. I believe society has fallen prey to marketers once again. If they put it on the shelf, someone will buy it. Grim Reapers, body parts and tombstones for the front lawn. Cheap.

Don’t get me wrong. I love fall in Ontario. The colours are incredible and the cooler days refresh. I decorate my front porch with mums, gourds and pumpkins. But gravestones, blood and zombies? No thanks. I realize the supernatural is real. Satan is real. There is a spiritual battle going on, for your soul and for mine. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s real. But Jesus Christ resides in me. I’m safe. I understand the saints who want to avoid opening up that can of worms to their children. I don’t want to either. But Harry Potter is another story…

I have friends and family who have said “no” to Halloween altogether. Most are Christians and their reasons vary. I’m not here to critique their choice. After all, they know what’s best for their family. I’m here to give the reason for my choice.

I believe in Harvest parties and I also believe in trick or treating.
How can I have both? I can, because not every year is the same. It’s because predictability is not always reality, and flexibility is a character trait which I am thankful, has been forced upon me.

I remember for a few years, Kirk was on night shifts on Halloween. Lily and Russell were little and the twins were babies and then toddlers. I hired a babysitter or asked my mom to come over. I took the two older kids to the harvest party. They loved it and always wanted to go. I wished we could all go together, as a family but we couldn’t.

I did my best at making things normal for them and always worked hard at finding costumes. I invested heavily in dress-up clothes, as it was one of Lily’s favourite pastimes. Maybe it’s the ECE in me. I value and understand the importance of dramatic play and always encouraged it in my kids. I could only dream of Annie and Audrey wanting to dress up. I dressed them up anyway on Halloween, for school, knowing their classmates would enjoy it.

Lily and Russ soon asked if they could trick or treat instead of going to the Harvest Party. I agreed but told them if it was raining, we’d go to the church. Some years we visited a few neighbours we knew well and then took off for the Harvest party. I liked the warmth, the games, the fellowship with my friends and sister, and yes, the treats. The Harvest Party suited me just fine and the twins and Kirk even came a couple times when he wasn’t working.

Trick or Treating
I’d like to tell you God told me to “open my door”, to “be a light in the darkness”, but He didn’t. I came to realize, that it was dark out by 7pm. We could trick or treat on our street, be home by 8, and have the kids in bed before 9! The added bonus was, Audrey wanted to walk with us. In recent years, Kirk usually stays home and shells out candy with Annie.

The other bonus – we get to meet our neighbours.

One year, as we were a few houses away from being back to our home, a neighbour invited me in. Her husband was very ill in hospital and she wanted to visit. I sent the kids home and sat down with her. Another neighbour, showed up at the door with a glass of wine and bruschetta for my saddened neighbour. She returned with another glass of wine and bruschetta for me, once she realized I was there. I live on a nice street. I ended up praying for my neighbour and felt we had established a friendship, despite the 45 year age gap. I’d like to tell you that I still see her but I don’t. I attended her husbands funeral and did my best to go over for tea. But she is now a shut-in and is a private person. She hasn’t let me in again but my prayers still hold her up.

On Halloween I make a point to I introduce myself to my neighbours. I write their names down when I get home and even had a list on my fridge at one point, which helped me learn them. Off the top of my head I can name well over 30 names, and would feel comfortable engaging in conversation with nearly all of them on the street. Some only see my kids on Halloween night and they are always thrilled when we come to their door.

Camping on Labour Day at a particular campground was also a time for trick or treating for us. It was a fun tradition there and something we got to share with good friends from far away. The memories are lovely.

Halloween 2011

Once again I dressed Annie and Audrey up in the easy wear-over-anything-pumpkin costume, as I had for years. Audrey realized she was dressed as a pumpkin and patted herself saying “pumpkin, pumpkin”. I caught it on film and for the next year she would watch it on the iPod and would often request, in her little non-verbal way, to wear her pumpkin! What a gift. This year, my brother gave Audrey and Annie turkey hats for Thanksgiving and to my surprise they played with them and wanted them onthemselves, or on us! Dramatic play 101, here we go!

My kids are 13, 12, 10 & 10 now. This might be Annie’s first year to walk with us for trick or treating and the older kids last. Annie’s been less aggressive and much happier than ever these past months. Without sounding too much like Eeyore, I am not holding my breath but I am hopeful we can walk the neighbourhood on October 31. This was the first fall we were able to take family walks together after dinner. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal to most. You see, Annie and Audrey could become agitated and just stop, or have a meltdown, so we often opted for just playing outside or not even bothering.

The reality for our family is that we will likely not rent a popcorn machine or have carnival games on our front lawn. Maybe we will give out great chocolate or maybe licorice. Or maybe my jr. leader – 12 and 13 year olds will help run games at the church Harvest Party. Flexibility and being open to where we should go -that’s what we will do.

Whatever this year’s treats turns out to be, whether they come from the Harvest Party or from neighbours, my response is what matters. Halloween isn’t the only day of the year my door should be open. I want my neighbours, as well as my Church family to know my door is always open. Whether things are tidied and in order or there are puzzle pieces thrown down the stairs, and the curtain rod is pulled out from the wall. My lights are on, we invite, and welcome is something more than just a phrase on a plaque or a mat at my door. It’s something I am, (at least I want to be) – every day of the year.

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Andrea

Andrea

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