A Community Hallowe’en

I’m entering this in another blog blast! The Parent Bloggers Network is hosting a photo contest for Blurb books – a neat idea where you can turn your blog into a book! Which pictures to enter? Which category? Steeling himself for first trick or treat (first pic), Flying Solo (second pic) and Mommy, Fireworks! (last picture) for best pics, please!

Christmas, Easter, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day – almost any holiday routinely celebrated (my apologies as I am really only familiar with the Christian based ones) here is family or couple based. Or perhaps church-community based. Alright, the cities put on quite a show for Canada Day (and I’m assuming Independence Day). But Hallowe’en is really a community based holiday. Sure, the city or local schools can put on parties and such, but the real thing, the trick-or-treating, that depends on the community.

Cameron and I are very lucky in many ways; one of those ways is that we live in a fantastic community. Year-round there are community-driven – meaning conceived, planned, and put on by the people who actually live here – events. Block parties, giant garage sales, music gatherings on verandas (hrm, I didn’t see any of those this summer though), even caroling around Christmas time. Hallowe’en, however, is when this community shines.

In most communities I have lived in, trick or treating consists of the families with young kids, some grandparents, and a few other generous folk put out jack o’lanterns and hand out candy to the twenty or thirty kids who come around if it’s a busy year. Teens go to parties. Others just ignore the knocks and doorbell rings.

Here it’s a rare house that doesn’t take part. Sure, there are a LOT of little wee kids in the area, but that’s only in the last three years on my street at least. It’s not even that the residents hand out treats. Most houses get decorated. In fact, to say that they’re decorated just doesn’t suffice.

Two houses a block away cover their lawn with tombstones, skeletons, ghouls, spider webs. Another house around the corner transforms into a massive spider nest. Across the street someone’s door was deep in the throat of a smoking dragon – you had to walk into its tooth-filled mouth! I don’t know if they did it this year, but for the last few years a house around a block away projects old silent vampire and other monster movies onto a giant screen draped across their house. A circle of zombies and ghouls sits before another house, perfectly still except one ghastly clown giving out candy. And except for the cloaked figure next to him, who jumps and screeches unsuspecting candy-seekers to scare the living daylights out of them! There’s usually a crowd gathered to watch, and yes, they’re much more gentle with the wee ones. Every other year except this one a guy around a corner, who works in the film industry, puts on a haunted house. There are lineups to get in there. I wonder what happened this year?

Crowd, you say? One year I counted. I gave out one candy per trick-or-treater, and I started off with something like 130 pieces. I ran out well before the trick-or-treaters did! (I’m not normally stingy, but I saw early on just how many people there were)Word has gotten out about this place. Before dark, the streets are lined with parked cars, and there’s a steady stream going through of minivans loaded with kids. People literally come from afar. The sidewalks are filled for blocks and blocks.

It’s not even just the houses that are the attractions. There was a giant spider creeping down the street, and a tall willowy … I don’t know what to call her. Elf? That’s right folks, people on stilts in costume. They had crowds too, people trying to get pictures of their kids with the spider especially, though that must have been hard to do. Multiple shots? Here’s Fred and the spider’s feet … and midway up … and there’s the spider! Cars get decorated with gruesome (but thankfully obviously fake) body parts, or spiders, or mummified. Adults wandered the streets with some amazing costumes. And get this … so did teens. Yeah, of course, some got a little out of hand. But mostly everyone was downright nice and polite.

The evening was punctuated not just by soundtrack and live shrieks and laughter, but also by fireworks. This is something I didn’t grow up with, and took a bit of adjusting to. Every now and then, on every street corner in the neighbourhood, squeakers get lit and buzzzz brightly around the traffic circles. The sky gets lit up with bright flashers, glows pink and green, and every now and then sizzles and sparkles. A local father put on a big show at the corner closest to us – fireworks and squeakers and firecrackers just kept coming and coming.

I wasn’t sure how Cameron would take all of this. Last year he had a b-l-a-s-t. But this year he’s a bit more aware of what is going on around him, and is more and more worried and upset when he cannot place a name to a sound or something he sees. He’s more apt to be a little (or a lot) scared. Once he’s used to something and has had a chance to adapt he’s good to go, but overstimulation can push him a bit over the edge. And this was overstimulating to me!

But he did great. He said, “Can I have a trick or treat please?” at every door, and mostly remembered to say, “Thanks!” At one of the less done-up places, with a long set of steps reaching up to the door, I asked him if he wanted me to come with him (see the pic above!). I’d done this before, and the answer had always been Cameron’s little hand grabbing mine. But this time he shook his head and set off on his own. I just about danced with pride as my little monkey went up those long steps alone, past jack o’lanterns and ghosts. The laughter at the top of the stairs indicated he had asked politely! And down he came, refusing the help of one of the older kids, to show me his treat. He lasted most of the way around the block, then said in a very small voice, “I have lots of treats. Can we go home now?” We did visit a couple more houses, but only if he said he wanted to. One was a mistake – they had a toy ‘hand’ that crawled across the veranda at you. That freaked him out, but he recovered quickly.

Lastly, after our neighbour’s wonderful potlock gathering, we went to the street corner to watch that fireworks show put on by the local father. Cameron was entranced. I’d been building up Hallowe’en and its fireworks to him for months, ever since the fireworks shows on English Bay in the summer, so he had been looking forward to them. I don’t think he was disappointed. We wandered down to the other end of the block after thanking the neighbour for the show, where another group was setting off some fireworks too. But these were mostly teens, watched by but not really monitored closely by parents. I backed off several houses’ distance when they accidentally sent a set streaming across the street instead of up into the sky.

Then home. There are still fireworks and firecrackers around the neighbourhood, but Cameron easily fell asleep in my arms after one story. He’s sound asleep, sprawled out in his bed, after many kisses and snuggles.

It’s over for another year.

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2 responses to “A Community Hallowe’en

  1. Pingback: Blurb Halloween Photo Contest: Your Entries | The Parent Bloggers Network·

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