I turned 36 earlier this year, but I’ve only celebrated Halloween six times and tonight was only the third time I’ve ever gone trick or treating.
Growing up, Halloween was always seen as being very taboo and avoided at all costs. In fact, most of my memories are of my parents locking down the house as soon as my dad got home from work at 5PM, turning EVERY. SINGLE. LIGHT off, including unplugging the night lights from the walls and then retreating to the far back room of the basement where we ate dinner and played board games by candle light until bed time. Every time the door bell rang, indicating that somehow trick-or-treaters had navigated the pitch-black side walk and stairs up to our door, we all held our breath and stared at each other in silent fear as if they would somehow discover we were hiding Anne Frank in our floor boards.
I’m not exaggerating in the least. For the 17 years I lived at home, I lived in fear every time October 31st rolled around. I was brainwashed and made to believe it was everything from Satan’s birthday to a fast track to hell if celebrated or even acknowledged. Costumes were seen as symbolic and for some reason my parents thought that everyone dressed up as either witches, goblins, demons, or zombies – none of which were even remotely appropriate.
For most of my twenties, I gladly worked the evening shift on Halloween, because it meant I didn’t have to dress up or answer the door and deal with trick-or-treaters. I remember one year I got off work early, and as I drove home I saw how many people were still out going door to door, so when I got home I didn’t turn a single light on and I went straight to the basement. A few years later, I was 24 years old and single. The prime of my life. I was invited to an Industry Night Halloween Costume Party in downtown Calgary. Bartenders, Waitresses, Hostesses, Chefs, Cooks from all the hottest restaurants in the city… you get the picture. I turned it down. I said no, because I didn’t want to go to hell.
When I was 27, and married for almost a year, my wife and I decided to use Halloween as our big moving day, and we drove 800 kilometers to arrive at our first home here in Kelowna, BC at the exact same time as a group of trick-or-treaters were leaving the front door. We’ve celebrated October 31st as our Kelowna anniversary ever since.
It wasn’t until I was 31 that I acknowledged the day existed. I had owned KeyNote Productions, my event planning business for three years by then and I was approached by a local venue manager asking if I could conceive and produce an annual Halloween event, as historically this venue was ALWAYS vacant and available on October 31st. He would give me the venue for free (no rental) if I could produce a cool event and fill it with people. Well how could I say no to that? Just one problem… I didn’t know the first thing about Halloween.
Ironically, I went on to create and produce Kelowna’s largest comedy festival called the “Haunted Howler Comedy Fest”. We did it all. We had candy, we had costumes, we had tons of decorations, we had the scary music, we even built a 1,500 square foot Haunted House in the back of this venue. I was forced to dress up in a costume for the first time in my life. It was a big ordeal. I pushed back and kicked my heels into the ground something fierce the entire month of October, only relenting at the very last minute. It turned out to be the costume of the night, and no one even recognized me when I walked in.
Now a few years later with three kids, I’ve gone out trick-or-treating with them every year since birth. Needless to say, it’s been a steep learning curve for me. I’m learning about and experiencing Halloween at the same time and in the same ways as my kids are. Our adventure is perfectly in sync with each other. We’re all learning as we go, and I honestly don’t have any advice for them, which makes Halloween even scarier for me.
This year was the best year by far! Everyone was so excited to dress up. No one had a meltdown or threw a temper tantrum. The weather was beautiful for the first time EVER. We found everyone’s costume in time, and they all fit perfectly and looed SO cute. We went around to a record number (20) homes this year, just due to the kids being a year older and having a bit more stamina. Ethan got the shit scared out of him when he rang a special decorative door bell and a witch started laughing at him – proving he’s not invincible like we’ve assumed he was. And Liam came home with 11.2 pounds of candy to which has stated to us after scrutinizing his loot, “why so much candy? This will make my tummy hurt. I only eat HALF of this tonight!”
These past six years have provided nothing but great experiences for me. Off the charts fun, enormous excitement, a few cavities, and memories I’ll cherish for the rest of my life!
Watching my kids light up like they did tonight, makes me wish every night was Halloween. It makes me sad to think of all the years my parents missed out on seeing ME light up like this. Makes me sad to think of all the potential experiences and memories they missed out on and could be recalling tonight had they not been so afraid.
Now I am in no way a perfect parent, and I might even make some colossal mistakes that leave my kids scarred for the rest of their life too… but I know this one thing for sure: Today will go down as one of the best days of the year for us. My kids are all in bed right now, but there were two things we couldn’t wipe off their face before they passed out: 5.6 pounds of chocolate and the smile that stretched from ear to ear.
I’m calling this one a win.