11/02/2012 05:57 EDT | Updated 01/01/2013 05:12 EST

Dispatches from Down East: Why My Halloween Spirit Lives On


Rumour has it, areas hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy will be celebrating Halloween this up-coming weekend. With that in mind, this post is for all those expectant trick-or-treaters, along with anyone else out there that enjoys Halloween as much as I do.

With Halloween come and gone here in P.E.I., so too has vanished with it another one-day, whirlwind opportunity to meet and greet the neighbours. Halloween is the only holiday with the enabling power to open wide neighbourhood doors and halt the stop watches that call us to move faster and more efficiently.

It is the rare opportunity afforded many busy people to take the night off and be with family, friends and acquaintances without the worry of planning a huge, festive meal with all the trappings to justify the hoopla. While I will admit, Halloween is expensive, it is for most still not as demanding on the pocket book as Christmas. And it does not require a live or fake tree be dragged inside the house through a door frame seemingly the size of a postage stamp.

Halloween is just easier. And when it is done right, less stressful.

Of course, Halloween has traditionally been a time for tricks of varying degrees of severity to be played on the unfortunate few. Our area has not escaped the damaging after-shocks of Halloween havoc. Arson being the tool of choice. But, for the Average Joe who has tried to keep his nose clean (and off the Halloween equivalent of Santa's naughty list gone haywire), Halloween is a time for adorable trick-or-treaters, not damaging pranksters.

What I find unfortunate about celebrating Halloween is the fact that we make visiting rounds that will only be done this one time each year. Not until next October 31st will we make the time to drop in on so many neighbors and friends all in one night. Each home greeting us with cheerful hellos and happy faces. Not to mention, loads of free candy. What's not to love? Makes me wonder why only this holiday has the power to bring out such extremes in behaviors: that is, the absolutely best and positively worst side of human beings.

The former has thankfully been my over-all experience.

This past Halloween, we heard through the grapevine of an elderly widower in our neighborhood who had bought a pile of treats for Halloween 2011, and to his great disappointment, not one child showed up. He had been talking to another neighbor friend at the grocery store and mentioned to her that he would give it one more go this year. If no one came to his house again, he would throw in the towel and turn the lights out on Halloween for good. When news of this predicament came to my ears, I determined on the spot that the nine children traveling in our entourage of Halloween revellers would be heading his way. And not only for the treats, mind you.

When we arrived, it took a few minutes for him to hear the ringer before coming to greet us. We waited outside in the lamplight shining over his side entryway. Then, he hesitantly pushed open the door. And once he got over the shock of our group's size and number, not to mention the loud exuberance of the children, he started dishing out treats. As he did so, he asked questions about what each child would like and whether or not they had received a treat yet.

Candy was flying. Kids were laughing and chatting. By the time he got to Child Number Nine, I guess he figured he was done in. He took the box containing the remaining candy, shoved it at the group, and gruffly told the kids to take it all. Shocked, I pleaded that he might want to keep some for any other costumed trick-or-treaters who might come knocking, but he smiled, and said that this was it for him. The shop was closed. And with that, he waved a good-bye and shut the door.

The kids were obviously overjoyed with their haul, but I felt a different kind of joy. I knew that in paying this man a visit, we had brought a little fun and excitement to his life, while he had given us the feelings that goodwill and solidarity afford neighbors and friends. And although I will not see this man again until next year, as he is moving out of province for the winter and will not return until the New Year, I can guarantee that when Halloween rolls around again next year, he will be top of our list.

Halloween may well be a time of ghost, goblins, witches and spirits. But when I celebrate Halloween, my focus is on loftier ideals. That is, on the drawing together of neighborhoods and communities in a unified desire to slow down and re-focus on all things fun and pleasurable. And on the power of community. Besides, we all need a little more fun in our lives, and maybe it takes celebrating the true spirit of Halloween more than once a year to make it happen.