Halloween + Grown-Ups

Halloween season is one of the few times– at least, in American culture– in which grown-ups and kids play on somewhat equal terms. Commercially, costumes for adults are about as prevalent as costumes for kids; in October, it’s socially acceptable for an adult to put on a bunny costume, go to a party, and sip a gin and tonic through prosthetic rabbit teeth.

But Halloween night , especially when it falls on a weekday, belongs to the kids. Oddly, for such a kid-focused event, it’s also one of the few times neighbors open the doors of their homes to (often) strangers. Think about it: in a time of cell phones, when was the last time you opened your door and felt some uncertainty as to who was standing at your threshold? And we somehow open our doors on a night when Freddy Krueger might stand on the stoop just as easily as Sailor Moon? Really– in a risk-averse society, we still let kids do this?

I’m grateful that we do, and I’ve been thinking a bit about the role for adults in the trick-or-treating tradition. Adults, even if they’re in costume, are often a trick-or-treating child’s accessory, as necessary as a mask but not (usually) as fun. What do adults get out of Halloween, once the cuteness of their kids’ Spiderman or kangaroo costumes starts to dim? How can we involve adults more in the spirit of the experience: the playful opening of doors?

This Halloween, my neighbors and I got a little grant from the Grove Hall Trust to try out an experiment that pairs the potential playfulness of Halloween with the “open door” aspects of trick or treating. We’re proclaiming our street a “safe street” for Halloween. We’ll create a little map that indicates “open houses” that have special activities, games, candy, etc. There will be some sort of incentive for adult caregivers who walk kids door to door– perhaps a scavenger hunt with a super-fancy candy bar as a prize?

First step: I gotta put the word out on the street; gather folks; and build. Stay tuned to see what happens.

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