Thoughts on God and People from last Halloween
My family and I had recently moved to New Zealand, and we were experiencing our first Halloween in Auckland. (I’ve written about my love of Halloween previously here) I knew that Halloween would be frowned upon by many, but nonetheless, I still hung up Halloween decorations, and wore my black and orange striped stockings to church every Sunday—well, unless I swapped them for the purple and black pantyhose or my spiderweb stockings with matching earrings.
They, uninvited, said: “We don’t do Halloween.”
I said: (bite my tongue silence) or “Oh! That’s too bad. It’s a lot of fun—one of my favourite holidays.”
They, uninvited, said: “Halloween is an American thing.”
I said: “It’s actually Celtic. Like Guy Fawkes. Do you skip that holiday, too?” (They don’t. And then I make a mental note to buy fireworks from the local grocery store for Guy Fawkes Night)
They said: “We don’t trick or treat.”
I said: (silent scream) “Oh, I’m disappointed, my children will be, too. Does the ward here or the stake do trunk or treat?”
They said: “I can’t see why not.” And after they were rejected by the bishop, they tell me with sneer of snobbery, “We don’t do trunk or treats.”
Feeling down, and a bit angry, I prayed. And decided to do a cookie drop! I’ve never lived in an area that did the “Boo’d “ cookie drop—where you leave the note that invites others to reciprocate until the whole neighbourhood had been cookie-dropped. So I tweaked the concept to the ward, and for most of the plates, I included an invitation to keep the chain going. Our whole family got involved—baking pumpkin brownies, white chocolate and cranberry bars, classic chocolate chip cookies, oat and dark chocolate slices and classic sugar cookies. We doubled and tripled recipes, then sliced, decorated and placed them on plates with the note inviting them to reciprocate to a neighbour, fellow ward member or friend. We did a dozen in all, and delivered them to the church members on our street and in the neighbourhood, as well as the family who lived the furthest distance away.
At drop off, everyone smiled, some laughed and all thanked us, especially the family who lived the furthest distance away- because it was so uncommon for people to “remember” them. But at church the following Sunday, no one said “boo.”
Sure, the purpose was to serve and do something fun. Yep, I’m a bit of a loner and kind of quiet. Plus I am a foreigner. But I could not help myself from hoping that something might be reciprocated- if not at church– later. Some said they would continue the chain, and share with others. We liked that, and hoped that they would.
But by the time Halloween came, no one crossed our path. Plus, no one in the neighbourhood had decorated their house, leaving us feeling distinctly un-Halloween-ish. We decided that the school Halloween dance from the week before, and the silly Halloween themed lunches I sent with my children to school would have to do for our family. So we took down our decorations on the 30th, but still carved jack-o-lanterns (out of smaller, locally available pumpkins) as a part of Family Home Evening that night – because that is how we roll.
On Halloween night, we had a handful of knocks at our door—mostly boys, some had no costume at all, but most were dress in gory costumes. It didn’t feel nearly as fun as seeing Dorothy and the Scarecrow, Anna and Elsa, or a Power-ranger. I sighed. Maybe Halloween is too North American the way I like …. I thought.
My daughters sunk sadly into their beds, disappointed that there would be no trick-or-treating. But I did not want them to drive around the neighborhood for hours facing rejection. And I felt sad, realising as Holloween night became later and later– no one would “boo’d” us back. It was disappointing, but we still had some Halloween thrill the weeks before, so I decided it would do.
The house was quiet. Our our front lights, and most of the lights in the house were out. But yet there was a knock at the door. It was late and dark. I was the only one still up, because of the never-ending pile of dishes that called to me, refusing to let me sleep. “Who is it?” I called out in a somewhat cranky voice at the closed front door. “It’s too late for trick or treating.”
They responded with their names. I was surprised! It was the family from church who lived closest to us. They were migrants like us, but they were from India. They spoke with thick accents (like me! But different!), and like most everyone else in the ward, I had not gotten to know them yet. When we delivered our plate of treats to them, I did not leave the instructions for keeping the chain going—I knew the father did shift work, and I thought that inviting them to reciprocate would be too hard for them.
“Let me get the key!” I called, then rushed to open the door that only unlocked with a specific key.
“This is a trick-or-treat for you,” they said, handing me a heart-shaped container overflowing a variety of candy and lollies. It was the kind of confectionery mix that one would find in a trick or treat bag at the end of a successful Halloween night. It was perfectly Halloween, every whit.
I thanked them profusely, offering hugs and explaining that my children were in bed, but would be thrilled. When I finally closed the door, I wept. Because I needed to feel like something I put out was reciprocated even a little bit. It was then that I realised I had been partly homesick, but mostly, I did not want my children to be left out. And now they weren’t. So when I went to bed, I offered prayed and thanks well into the night.
When morning came, my children were thrilled! “This is the first time trick or treating came to US! We didn’t even have to go out and knock on anyone’s door!! They knocked on our door to give us candy!” Their choruses of happiness healed any sense of trick-or-treating loss from the night before, and I relented my typically stern-breakfasting self, by allowing them candy after some wholegrain toast.
In this, I was reminded, that even on Halloween with all of it’s politics of gore, misunderstanding and judgement, that God still reaches out Their hands. And for me, the hands of God grasped us through neighbours who delivered a plate of pre-packed candy; a plate that on that night was worth more than gold, and brought perfectly-timed joy to my home .