The first one came just a little after 5pm. It was
one of those Frozen characters, a tiny Elsa or Anna.
I get them confused.
She was barely old enough to walk. This Elsaís
cheeks were round and red from the chilly October
air. Mom held her hand while dad stood on the
sidewalk grinning and taking pictures with his cell
phone. It was obvious by the parentsí enthusiasm and
the blank stare on Elsaís face that this was her
first time trick or treating.
While Iím almost certain she didnít have the
necessary chomping strength to chew up the starburst
and tootsie rolls I placed in her bag, it didnít
stop me from giving her a handful of them. She was
cute. Her parents were excited. The joy of a new
tradition had started for this young family.
ďOh wow, look how pretty you are!Ē I said to the
young princess. ďWho are you dressed up as?Ē I
proceeded to ask this tiny tot.
With a glazed look in her eyes and dried snot under
her nose, she responded by simply raising her bag.
No rhyming words or clever catch phrases. Just an
innocent gesture that indicated her knowledge of
this classic cultural custom we call Halloween.
She would be the first of many.
All sorts of unusual but also predictable characters
came to my door. Vampires and witches; more Elsaís
and Annaís, as well as Jasmine and Cinderella;
zombies and sport stars; something that appeared to
be Bigfoot, and Sherlock Holmes. Some of the
costumes were quite clever. Others were less
thoughtful. But all were endearing.
I enjoy Halloween. For some it may be a difficult
day depending on our religious or cultural
perspectives. Some of us might have a sour taste
because of those 16 year olds who come to the door
and want the same candy little Elsa wanted on what
was her first Halloween outing. Many might find it
hard to justify spending money on candy, the very
items dentist and health teachers preach against
eating. Dog owners may despise the night knowing
that every time the doorbell rings, our faithful
four legged friends will spaz out, barking and
putting on their best Cujo impersonation.
But my appreciation for the traditions of Halloween
For one night a year we give our communities
permission to get outside and visit their neighbors.
Families are with their kids, who we complain spend
too much time inside. Here, they are reclaiming the
ancient practice of walking.
For one night a year we get to gift strangers and
neighbors, ghosts and little goblins, treats for
For one night a year we get to imitate the grace of
God to the children in our communities. We donít
know you. We donít know how hard you worked, or
didnít work, on your costume. You didnít have to
come to our house or this neighborhood. But you did.
And we are glad you did, because grace means
something like: Here is your life. You might never
have been, but you are because the party wouldn't
have been complete without you.
For one night a year our children get to dress up as
their heroes and imitate their dreams!
For one night a year the city streets are a buzz
with different people of different generations from different parts
While I celebrate the way Halloween pulls a community together, I
also lament the very practice that draws us out into these streets,
because I long for the day when we donít have to dress up as
something else to visit our neighbors. I long for the day when the
wisest in the community and the youngest are brought together
without the needed premise of trick or treating. I long for the day
when we no longer have to wear masks in order to go door to door to
gain but a glimpse of the lives of those we call neighbors.
Every year I find myself gushing with joy as I hand outlandish
amounts of candy to all people who come to my door. No matter how
old or how young; no matter how detailed their costumes are, because
at the end of the day, when the candy bowl is bare, I hope that the
communityís hospitality, the kindness that comes from handing out 2
Kit-Kat bars instead of 1, the brief interaction with strangers on
our porch steps, and the vulnerability of a child to trust their
tricks will result in a treat.
My greatest hope is that these gestures brought on by a holy day of
story telling and community making will lead to a season of
authentic relationships. Halloween reminds us that we may be our
true selves or false selves. God leaves us free to be whatever we
But we cannot make these choices with impunity.
If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that
truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion
I can either be Olaf.
Or I can be Adam.
[Adam Quine of First Presbyterian Church in