Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. When I was a child, my elementary school went all out every year. The general anticipation started to build in early October as the PTA began turning the storage room into that year’s haunted attraction. On the morning of Halloween we had classes more-or-less as normal except that each class was called in turn to go through the haunted house– a top notch hybrid of festivity and fright. Then we had lunch, and the excitement almost became overwhelming as we waited for the true Halloween celebration to start. Right after lunch we all piled into the restrooms to change into our Halloween costumes, each of us ooing and awing over our classmates’ transformations. Then each class met outside for the Halloween parade around the local neighborhood, each child marching proudly behind his or her class sign and waving to the stay-at-home moms and elderly people who waved back at us from their front yards. And we returned to our classrooms to the class party!!! The class party part of Halloween is the haziest part for me—perhaps I was too high on sugar by that point to make many lasting memories—but I do remember being surrounded by laughing children and lots and lots of chocolate.
After school I congregated with my neighborhood friends and we pretty much killed time waiting for dinner and the day’s culmination—Trick or Treat. Oh, I so clearly remember the sweet, torturous, anticipatory bliss of those Halloween dinners as I tried desperately to keep myself together until my parents’ said it was time to go around. Often times we’d get a knock at the door while we were still eating from some lucky kids who were already out, and my sister and I would rush to get our costumes back together and our pillow cases ready as my mom answered the door and my dad prepared to take us out. And then it would begin—Trick or Treat at last. My favorite thing about Trick or Treating wasn’t getting all of the free candy, although I certainly enjoyed that too. My favorite thing about Trick or Treating was being in that atmosphere—the night lit up with Jack-O-Lanterns, adults exclaiming over how great we looked and trying to guess our costumes, hearing my friends’ breathless laughter as we crunched together through the leaves. Halloween night was Magic; some of the most intoxicating Magic I have ever felt in my life.
But wait—there’s still more. At a designated time all of us neighborhood kids and accompanying adults tromped up the hill to the local fire station. We filed through the garage past the shining engines and accepted treat bags from the smiling firemen. On the way back my sister and I always ate the popcorn ball that was included in our bag every year and tried to convince our dad to take us around some more (sometimes we were successful, sometimes not). Regardless the night ended with my sister and I dumping out our bags and surveying all of our loot with our parents snatching all of the Mounds, Almond Joy, and Baby Ruths.
As I wrote this I began to realize that much of the the joy of any holiday comes from its anticipation. My childhood Halloween celebrations were a whole day filled with repeating anticipations and fulfillments, unlike Christmas where we woke up in the morning, opened our presents in one blaze of holiday glee, and nothing further that day could compare. For me, experiences mean more than objects, so a holiday that emphasizes many exciting experiences over one go of present-opening will always win out.