Tradition, or What’s the point of October 31?

If you are living in the U.S. you know that today is Halloween.

New York City takes Halloween pretty seriously; in the Village the annual parade  spills over from 5th Avenue into just about every side street within a 20 block radius.   Block parties abound all over the city, including one in our neighborhood where brownstone owners go all out with their decorations and celebrations.

Everyone has a slightly different Halloween tradition, depending on where you live.   Growing up in rural Indiana, my parents would drive us from house to house, doing their best to hide our car so as not to give away our identities.  Part of the fun where we lived was that everyone tried to guess who you were before handing out the candy.  (Quick aside:  The last time my brother and I went trick or treating together, I was maybe 11 and he was around 17.   He threw a sheet over his head and then when we would get to the house door he would  squat down so that we looked like we were the same height.  NO ONE could guess who we were.  Until he reached out his hand to take candy and they all went, “Wait a minute!  That is not the hand of a little kid…”   It was great.)

Here in the city, we live in a large apartment building and the kids get to trick or treat in the building, usually stopping at around 40 apartments (!).   They love it because they’ve been able to go on their own since they were fairly young, and the adults hang out at our place handing out candy and eating…and, ok, drinking.

Other families we know spend their evening going from store to store – many stores in the city hand out candy – attending the parade or going to block parties.

Suburban kids walk around their neighborhoods.

Everyone has a different version of the holiday – their own tradition.

Sometimes things don’t, of course, work out quite as planned.   A couple of times growing up it was too cold to go out in costume so we had to wear our coats.   One year when Maya was little it was 75 degrees and her costume was furry, so in our building she got too hot and bailed on the whole thing after a few minutes.

Then last year we were two days past Hurricane Sandy and most of Lower Manhattan was without power.  The streets were a little too spooky, and not exactly safe, so unless the kids and their families headed north of 34th St., no Halloween for them.

However, my hometown in Indiana has apparently decided that due to a forecast of rain and gusty wind, they will simply postpone Halloween this year.


I find this more upsetting than perhaps I should.  As my Mom said, “What’s next?  Too much snow on Christmas so we’ll just move it a few days?”    The last time I checked, the date of All Hallows Eve wasn’t negotiable.   Tomorrow is November 1st, All Saints Day followed by All Souls Day = The Day of the Dead on November 2nd.   The night of October 31st belongs to the ghouls, the following days to the Saints & Souls.

So what’s the message of “oh it’s too rainy today so we’ll just move Halloween”?

First, it sends the message that parents are too dumb to wait an hour or so rather than send their kids out in the midst of a violent thunderstorm or heavy downpour or gusty winds.   And if the bad weather is too intense and continues?  Well as they say, “Them’s the breaks.”   Maybe you don’t get to trick or treat one year.   Is that so bad?  I think not.

But no.  First they tell everyone that it is just too rainy for the kids to be out.  And there might be wind.    So Halloween is, not cancelled, but postponed to a day that isn’t Halloween.  Because god forbid the kids don’t get to trick or treat!  Never mind that the whole point is the date and the tradition; apparently it’s more important they don’t miss out on costumes and candy.

You know what?  If the weather sucks and you can’t go out, how about dressing up at home and telling spooky stories?  Invite some friends over and make it a party!  There are ways to maintain the fun and tradition without walking around door to door.

At least there used to be.   I guess now we all just sit around and wait for the powers that be to tell us how, when and where to celebrate.

Tradition be damned.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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3 Responses to Tradition, or What’s the point of October 31?

  1. I completely agree! Moving a “holiday” or, in the US, a celebration about something which many miss the true reason it’s listed as a “holiday”. As a family that chooses not to celebrate Halloween, if it were postponed due to the weather, I just might truly have a conniption-fit because then it’s just more days of costumes and discussion about dressing up and “trick or treating”.

    As I kid, I totally remember wearing coats/jackets at times…not to mention my parent(s) walking with us as we went door-to-door with flashlights or lighty-things in the dark! I remember that being fun, I can’t imagine doing this activity with my child while it’s basically still light out :(

  2. Marianne says:

    Went out with our kids for 2 1/2 hours in the pouring rain and really loved it. Feet soaked and wet through and through…we did have a double umbrella…but what an adventure. No postponing in Vermont!

  3. Mary says:

    Both of my kids were sick this Halloween, and neither of them felt up to hauling their boxes of Kleenex around with them to go trick-or-treating. I baked them some cookies, we made popcorn, and they watched all of their favorite Tim Burton movies on DVD and ate our giveaway candy (we had only two trick-or-treaters the whole night; maybe all the kids here were sick this year?)

    They both said it was a great Halloween. Like everything else in our unschooling life right now, it is what they make it to be.