The header image is of my high school friends during our senior year trick-or-treat – we wanted to go out with a bang before we were banished from trick-or-treating forever.
By Collin Hall
Alec, one of my best friends and a former Herald editor, wasn’t allowed to participate in Halloween as a kid. He grew up in an evangelical household intensely skeptical of the spooky holiday. At my Christian high school, our teachers didn’t even speak its name. October 31st was Reformation Day, or the day that commemorates Martin Luther’s reformation of the Catholic church. For me, it was the day that my drab school uniform was reformed into a Halloween costume.
Alec had a few secular buddies who rattled their bones come October 31, but he and his brothers were only allowed to participate in their homeschool group’s “instead of” party that deftly avoided name dropping the other thing happening that night.
Alec set the scene: dozens of middle schoolers, brimming with candy, shut all the curtains in the house and switched off every light so as not to see or attract heathenous trick-or-treaters, who wore the skin of the dead and roamed the streets for blood.
Ben Abbett, another dear friend who was schooled by a teacher & mother combo, went to parties creatively named “unHalloween parties.” His little brother won a DS Lite as an unHalloween raffle prize one year, a mind-melting prize for a pre-teen. But his parents confiscated the system sold it to buy an educational Leapster handheld “gaming” device that couldn’t play New Super Mario Bros., or Metroid Prime Hunters, or Tetris DS.
At least Ben looked good in his Antonio Vivaldi costume!
Caroline, another friend of mine, went to “trunk or treat” church events before they were cool. This really flustered her high school boyfriend’s family. “Halloween was demonic, and this was Halloween adjacent,” she explained to me.
In Cape May County, Halloween is the busiest event season of the year except for the winter holidays. Even in the dead of summer, you won’t find more events dedicated to a single holiday than Halloween. Most of these events are inextricably social in nature; the very act of trick or treating brings people together.
As a kid, I remember many of the adults around me freaking out about razor blades in Halloween candy, random abductions, and murdered costumed kiddies. Much of this fear is unfounded; there’s a whole Wikipedia page, “Poisoned candy myths,” that details the long history of Halloween misinformation. Despite the slightly violent visual motifs, Halloween is a safe, communal night of celebration. Every town in Cape May County is statistically a safe place – get out there and meet some people! And if something uncouth does happen, know that it will be so out of the ordinary that the Herald will surely report on it.
Halloween events promote social good cheer more than any other time in the calendar year – its central tradition requires you to literally knock door-to-door in a time of deep social malaise. And hey, spookiness is a part of life! Making light of that is cathartic and refreshing, and as a kid, the holiday made me feel in control of life’s scariest moments.
This year, go to a Halloween event even if you don’t have kids! Happy Halloween forever!
Have thoughts on Halloween? Email the author at email@example.com or give him a call at 609-886-8600 ext. 156