Halloween and Sardines?


This is a wonderful time of year. Maples and soaring oaks dappled orange, red and gold. A new season of "The Amazing Race." Football galore. Crisp autumn evenings.

And, of course, Halloween.

I love Halloween. For nearly a decade, we placed a witch in our front yard, a witch that didn't quite see a tree in her path. Splat! This year we added a nine-foot tall Frankenstein monster.

A glowing Jack O' Lantern sits in our windowsill, and small bags of assorted candy rest on our dining room table. We are almost ready for the big night.

I'm not really sure why I enjoy this holiday so much. There are those, after all, who despise this annual ritual.

Citing pagan origins, they turn off their porch lights on Oct. 31 or forbid their children from going trick-or-treating. They genuinely fear that this is a celebration of the occult, an opportunity for the powers of darkness to entice and lure the world to take another step toward evil.

But I disagree. Yes, evil exists. But if we want to address the reality of demonic forces in the world, let's not debate whether or not Johnny should walk next door and get a Snickers bar.

Instead, let's question the dissipation of civility in our society. Let's address the horror of domestic violence. Let's focus on how our own behavior sometimes tightens the shackles of addiction around the spirit of a loved one. Let's help feed the hungry at times other than Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Halloween might be spooky, but it's not evil.

When I was 11 years old, my brother and I donned our costumes, joined up with a friend and walked around our block yelling that plaintive wail, "trick or treat." It was a very muggy and misty evening.

Twenty minutes later, we headed home, thrilled with the candy in our orange and black bags.

Unfortunately, the bags were made out of paper, and we didn't realize that we had been dragging them on the wet ground.

With toothy grins, we raced into the kitchen to show our parents our treasures. When we opened our bags, however, we saw nothing but a couple of holes. All the candy had fallen out.

We felt dejected. Defeated. Disappointed. Our hearts sank to the floor.

Halloween only comes once a year, and we had ruined it.

I don't remember how she heard about it, but 15 minutes later my grandmother drove her stick-shift up to our door. We crawled in, and she took us to her neighborhood. From house to house she led us, chatting with neighbors all along the way. Half an hour later, our carefully cradled containers were crammed.

I have never seen so much candy; more importantly, I'll never forget the time and love and care that our grandmother placed in our bags that night.

Our cups overflowed.

So, I love Halloween.

I enjoy the pumpkins and costumes and swarms of children descending upon our home like locusts. I enjoy decorating with my family. I enjoy the sheer fun of it all.

As a matter of fact, my son and I began a new tradition about ten years ago. We wanted to give something away in addition to candy. Not to everyone, but to about 20 or 30 lucky youngsters.

The doorbell rang, they dutifully followed the script, we handed them their candy, and then I paused and added, "Wait just a minute. I have a special gift for someone tonight. How about you? Do you want something special this evening?"


"Great. Do you know what you get? You get a can of tuna fish."

Throughout the evening, I saw children's faces quickly morph from delight to surprise to complete confusion.

And then, some -- not all, but some -- beamed and yelled, "This is the best yet!"

Later, as I was walking with my son around the block, a neighbor asked, "Hey, did you hear that some fellow is handing out tuna?"

The next year many of the same children returned, and much to my astonishment, they asked, "Are you giving away tuna this year?"

"No," I replied. They sighed with disappointment.

Then I proclaimed, "It's sardines!"

"Yaaay!" they shouted.

Last year, we gave out Vienna sausages, and this year... well, I'm not sure yet.

Iran Man and Darth Vader, pirates and ghosts will no doubt visit us very, very soon.

At least I hope they do.

When life leaves us lamenting with Charlie Brown, "I got a rock," Halloween reminds us that we are all children at heart, that family and friends surprise us from time to time with love, and it reminds us that in a world that is sometimes very dark, it's OK to have some fun.