It’s time you knew: I don’t like Halloween.
I know, I know, Halloween is the time of frivolity, when kids can dress up as the monsters who scare them sleepless the rest of the year, or as the beautiful fairy princess/dynamic super hero their parents claim them to be. It’s a time to express your imagination to co-workers, to bring out your inner mad scientist or rock star, to simply walk around the neighborhood getting reacquainted with your neighbors.
I actually liked Halloween as a kid, even once I was too old to go begging for candy myself. I delighted in handing treats to the little ones who came to the door, to hear their jokes and songs, to see their cute little faces light up greedily when I invited them to take another Snicker bar.
But when I became a parent, my perspective changed dramatically. Suddenly the idea of walking through the streets at dusk or later took on ever more ominous sensations. The kid next door wasn’t merely too tall for his age, he loomed overhead like Frankenstein himself. And in my mind, little ones, especially my little ones, were simply too impressionable to endure Halloween without irreparable damage to their innocence.
So one year I took matters into my own hands. When my children ranged in age from 5-8 years old, I invented Harvest Day. My family was underwhelmed.
“You mean we’re not going to celebrate Halloween like everybody else,” our daughter squawked.
“Nobody else knows about Harvest Day yet,” I said cheerily, “It’s brand new, just for us.”
“So what do we get to do?” our middle son inquired with big, expectant eyes.
“Oh, we’ll have a wonderful time,” I stalled, my mind reeling with possible holidayadventures and treats. “You can come home early from school, and we’ll go to the zoo and have the whole place to ourselves—won’t that be fun?”
“Yeah,” middle child said dreamily.
“Hurray,” said the youngest who was barely even in school
But our daughter frowned skeptically, and said, “What else?”
“Okay, so Dad takes the day off, and you come home early, and we all spend the day at the zoo, then we come home…we come home and eat…all your favorite vegetables…you know sweet potatoes, and corn and I’ll make that green bean glop you like so much…”
“Yummy!” squealed the youngest.
“…and we can make ice cream sundaes for dessert…”
“Oh boy!” the middle child was in.
But my daughter was no fool. She knew what she would be missing. More than that, however, she could sense how important Harvest Day was to me at that moment. She also probably guessed that it’s nearly impossible to overturn an American tradition like Halloween.
“Okay,” she said at last, “Let’s try Harvest Day.”
So we did. The kids came home from school just about the time the festivities were starting—the costume parade and candy swap—and we really did have the entire St. Louis zoo to ourselves. The weather was crisp and autumnal, and it was kind of a treat to walk among the animals without dodging runaway toddlers.
Once home, we feasted on roasted veggies, potatos, and that awful green bean glop, with ice cream for dessert. And it was a special day after all, the first and only Harvest Day our family would ever celebrate.
So enjoy your candy and costumes, but as you tuck your little goblins into bed for the night, don’t forget to hug them close, to whisper into their ears how special they are, to wish them sweet dreems and love forever.