I love Halloween, and I want to reflect as I pick through Eddie’s holiday spoils. Now that the Son of the Restless Urbanist is old enough to understand that if you put a pumpkin basket in front of an adult you will get candy, the holiday takes on a new meaning. I am already a big fan of the costumes, the candy, the frights, are all great, but this is not why I love this holiday. Halloween is an opportunity to meet your neighbors, and walk your streets.
I know I mention this every year, but this ghoulish ritual cannot be under estimated. It is even more adventurous with a 20 month old that can run is dressed as a monkey. Trick or Treat is a great opportunity for all of us knock on our neighbors’ doors and to take a moment talk to talk to your neighbors.
This year we dressed Eddie up, pulled out the red wagon and went on our way. As we left that house, I am reminded how unfortunate that communication with your neighbor becomes a holiday novelty such as peeps at Easter, or lights at Christmas. This is just one of the results of the great suburban experiment.
Our neighborhood is composed of seasonal retirees. On Halloween, the majority of non-retired are working, and the seasonal have yet to arrive. We also do not have very many children on the community, so we needed to seek an alternative. This is how we were introduced to: Trunk or Treat.
For those of you that do not have kids or live in a walkable neighborhood, let me explain this suburban celebration.
A Trunk or Treat is where people gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks, and pass out candy from their trunks. Many times, people will decorate their cars, or dress up themselves, i believe to conceal the asphalt jungle. Trunk or Treat is promoted as an event that provides a safe family environment for trick or treaters.
Trunk Or Treat is very troubling and on the verge of offensive to me. This new Halloween tradition is used as an alternative to going door to door in your neighborhood trick or treating. Have we really given up on our own neighborhoods, and conceded that it is unsafe to gather with your neighbors?
This year we took Eddie to our first Trunk or Treat. I first want to say that this was a wonderful event hosted by one of the churches in my community. It was safe, full of kids, and packed full of activities. It was also the only activity in walking distance to our house where we could communally celebrate Halloween.
I had to step back and think about this event. As the Restless Urbanist, I am really uncomfortable with this event. Are we really supposed to feel safe in the asphalt playground that we all have to drive to? Are the trunks of our cars more inviting then the front door of our house? Outside of Trunk or Treat, we go to great lengths to keep our kids away from stranger’s vans?
I want us to start asking some really tough questions. Why are our neighborhoods so unsafe, that our children cannot walk the street or talk to their neighbors? If two hours of community celebration is dangerous, what about the 365 days of time a year you spend in your neighborhood?
I grew up in the suburbs, and Trick or Treating was a special time in my community. All of our neighbors would lock their cars up for two hours in their garages and give the streets over to the children of the neighborhood. Even the police would pull over their cars, and walk with the kids. For over two hours, our neighborhood streets filled with people.
Halloween in my suburban neighborhood was like an Open Streets Project before Open Streets was cool. There are no excuses why we cannot take back out streets and enjoy our communities on Halloween.
My sister has recently moved back into my childhood neighborhood with my niece and nephew. These traditions are occurring still to this day in the neighborhood, and now the Fire Department has joined in. She shared some great pictures showing her children playing on a Fire Truck, and the fire fighters passing out candy.
I share all of this with you because Trick or Treating is not place based. It is people based. My community is the one with the better Walkscore, but the worse Trick or Treating. This celebration takes the whole community to make it successful. It is one of the many layers and markers of a great community.
I trust that all of you had a safe and fun Halloween. Share your stories from the Trick or Treat that took place in your community.