My dad used to tease us when we were growing up, “Halloween has been cancelled this year!” For our children, when they discovered there were no celebrations in Italy, Halloween was in fact, cancelled. It is hard to admit how excited I was about this, so I kept it to myself.
For me, Halloween was always the first hurdle in the holiday marathon. Ready, set, go . . . To Party City, spend a fortune on costumes and candy, unpack and decorate the house, pick our pumpkins, carve said pumpkins, bake for school functions and parties, go back to Party City when everyone changes their mind about costumes, trick or treat, eat way too much sugar and attempt to put everyone to bed before the overwhelming tantrums set in. Whew!
It is not that I did not love Halloween or each of the events independently. It is that all of the events in succession were grueling. There were always magical moments dappled in the chaos, but I was often not there for them, as I was busy orchestrating from behind the scenes and forever preparing the next popcorn ball.
After we explained All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead to the kids, they still had that “Is Halloween really cancelled?” look on their faces, so we made a deal. We told them they could use anything in the flat for their costumes and on Halloween they could trick or treat at each door inside our flat.
The most amazing thing happened. The kids self-organized. They helped each other brainstorm. They assigned each child a door that was theirs to decorate. They made trick or treat bags and they worked for a week straight on their costumes. We were thinking they may make a mask or a hat or put their clothes on backwards but they outdid themselves. Using pizza box scraps and other recycled treasures, they transformed themselves into Egyptian Falcon Gods with witchy sidekicks. There were no decorations from Target, no five-pound bags of candy, and no excess.
When the kids were all dressed, they paraded around the apartment and then they waited in the kitchen while Ron and I hid behind different doors to prepare for the trick or treaters. We had five pieces of candy for each of them from the little chocolate shop in town. We took on different personas, from the old man who hands out carrots, to the lady who always gives out a handful of pennies.
We laughed so hard we cried and when it was all said and done, we all agreed it was the best Halloween ever. Why? Because in its simplicity was an inherent presence that none of us had ever felt. It was small and joyful and effortless. Halloween was not cancelled. It was transformed and we were forever changed. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the holiday season has in store for us …