Halloween Lessons on How to Be a Good Neighbour
As an adult, Halloween is still something I look forward to each year. Rather than roaming door-to-door collecting candy, I have now settled comfortably into the role of candy giver. Because I live in an apartment building, I usually head to a friends place for the evening where we take turns greeting our creatively dressed neighbors. While children fill their bags with sugar, we too are filled with laughs and smiles as our takeaway in this exchange. After all, Halloween is a holiday that “survives on social capital” as urban planner Brendan Hurley pointed out in his 2015 Spacing article.
The basic premise is right in the phrase joyfully screamed at each doorway: “Trick-or-Treat!” It is a social contract that demands participation from both sides (I give more candy to those with more effort and heart in their costumes) but it also inherently connects that participation to the larger community. The act of decorating yards with jack-o-lanterns is to be explicit about participation as a “neighbour”. The young, going from door to door, are shown their connection to their community and their place with each glowing pumpkin or “scary” display, expressing connection and distinctiveness of each “home”.
Halloween is an event that asks people to reflect on their connection to place and participate in neighborhood “worldbuilding” wherein which residents enter a new (and possibly less spooky) realm by opening their doors and exchanging with their costumed neighbors. At a time when fearful rhetoric percolates in news streams around the clock, the practice of opening our doors to strangers carries with it a new-found importance. Halloween accustoms us to a norm where exchanging with strangers is commonplace and our actions are motivated simply by the joy of others. The Halloween spirit is that of community, one in which we celebrate roaming freely on the streets while feeling safe and welcome. So while it’s not every day that puppies and pirates come knocking at our door, let today be the entry to a world where we open our doors to all who come knocking.