Updated: Jan 22
I kept hearing there would be no Halloween in 2020. Honestly, I found it hard to believe. I suppose I was in denial; the only things to be seen on the evening of October 31 were the dismayed houses and daunting streets.
Growing up in Brazil, I didn't celebrate Halloween. Just as for most Brazilian children I knew, trick or treating was something only seen in American movies.
Meanwhile, I thought the idea of knocking on neighbor's doors and filling up a bucket with all sorts of candy while dressed up in a costume was amusing. Other than that, I have never really been a big fan of the holiday itself. I do, however, enjoy wearing costumes, but Carnival gave me the opportunity to do so during one of the most cheerful celebrations in the country. Likewise, I'm definitely more of a glitter, sequins, and sparkles kind of person.
When I moved to the United States, the first thing I learned about trick or treating was leaving the front porch lights on as a clue to let kids know were welcome to stop by. Even before my daughter was born, I was thrilled every single time I heard the doorbell ring. Opening the front door with a large bowl of candy and watching the swarms of kids from all ages dressed up in costumes made my heart melt a bit.
Furthermore, there was something peculiar about Halloween in Kentucky; the weather was usually cold by this time of the year, and the fact that the trick or treaters were wearing the thin fabric costumes on top of warmer, long clothes under it made them look even more adorable. But the thing that most captivated me was their grit to—no matter how cold it was outside—go out and collect candy.
As a foreigner who had never experienced such tradition, the most fun part was to get a good glimpse at each one of those little faces expectantly looking up as they held their baskets up as high as their arms could reach.
Trick-or-treat!" The words flew from their mouths even before I was able to pull the door open.
Often, it was hard not to laugh in front of them. They were just too cute. Instead, while I smiled wide at them, I referred to them as the characters they were dressed as. A few of them took the time to kindly let me know it was just as costume. I often offered them an extra piece of candy just for their honesty. Anyhow, soon enough, they were on their way to resume their quest for more candy.
During the breaks in between trick-or-treaters, I enjoyed watching them hurry from house to house. At times, I could see their disappointment when no one would answer the door even though the lights were left on. Nevertheless, they got over it once the door opened at the next house.
When my daughter was born, I couldn't wait for her to understand the concept of Halloween. By that time, we had moved to Miami where the weather tends to be more costume-friendly.
After a couple of years, we created a tradition: she picked the themes for our costumes. Ever since, we’ve all dressed up for Halloween and gone trick-or-treating as a family. Once we adopted our dogs, they became part of the tradition as well.
Although we had a pandemic this year, I kept thinking I had to come up with something so my daughter could, at least, celebrate it. Understandably, trick-or-treating is one of her favorite things to do, so I had to find a way to make it work.
Even though she is attending school online, with many children going back to campus, I assumed there could be alternatives and safe ways to do so. Given that, I assumed we wouldn't be the only ones out. Well, I was wrong.
Not that it really mattered to our trick-or-treating, but seeing the streets filled with joyful kids cheered me up a bit, given the difficult year we endured with kids distanced from their friends and not even allowed to go to playgrounds.
Knowing that we wouldn't be having a traditional Halloween this year, I came up with a couple of ideas, starting with a Friday night pre-Halloween party at our place for the five of us (including our two dogs).
We all dressed up in costumes from previous years. The only rule was not to wear the 2020 Halloween costume. We ate, turned on some disco lights, and danced. After we were filled up and tired, we settled down to watch a kid-friendly Halloween movie.
The next day, Halloween, we dressed up in our costumes right before sunset. This year, my daughter suggested that I would be dressed up as a cow along with our black and white spotted dog, while the rest of them dressed as American favorites: pizza & beer, a taco, and a hot dog.
Our trick-or-treating plan basically consisted of me riding my daughter's scooter ahead of them, placing a homemade trick-or-treat sign anywhere I was able to find a spot to hide, and waiting for them to reach me. Luckily, the area has plenty of large trees which helped.
I was unsure of what my daughter would think of the experience, but she had a blast. I was pleased with the results. Every time she looked ahead and saw the sign somewhere I could hear her giggling and saying, “Look. There's trick-or-treating there!” There wasn't a time she approached me without a big smile on her face. Needless to say, seeing her happy little face every time she approached me to say "trick-or-treat" was priceless!
Even though we were having a great time, I started to realize we would be the only ones out for the rest of the evening. The one person we saw was a neighbor and close friend of mine who purposely went out to meet us down her street. She gave my daughter a treat, and shortly after, rain started pouring.
As we headed back, my daughter took over the scooter and both of us went ahead of my husband and the dogs, who now were the ones trick-or-treating. Besides, we all were having a great time under the raindrops. In fact, some of the candy ended up getting wet, but still we had plenty to eat!
While it was a lot of fun for us, it broke my heart to realize the undeniable sense of isolation; it was nearly impossible to not think of how sad this year had been. That night, Halloween only proved it with its dark and empty streets. It was hard to believe my eyes.
Thankfully, as we got back to our house, soaked, we saw a car stop right in front of our house. Two little girls dressed as nurser popped out. I was so excited to see them! Knowing no one else would most likely be coming, I told them to grab as many pieces of candy as they liked.
They seemed a bit unsure, but their eyes twinkled just the same time. As they grabbed more, they thanked us and soon walked excitedly toward their parent’s car. I also thanked them because they made my Halloween a bit more cheerful, and my daughter’s as well. She watched our front door camera for a while, trying to peek on other trick-or-treaters, but unfortunately, no one else came.
Once we changed out of our soaking wet costumes, we dressed warmly and tried to watch a kid-friendly Halloween-themed movie as we gobbled as many pieces of candy we could. It was indeed a dark Halloween, but for all of us, still a sweet and joyous one.
When the weekend was over, I heard my daughter's teacher during virtual school asking what the students had done for Halloween. Some shared they went to family parties, other's hunted for candy as they do during Easter; the vast majority didn't go trick or treating at all.
All I can hope is that things will get better soon so all the kids can have an amazing Halloween next year. I guess we will see what happens. Meanwhile, let's compromise and find new ways to get things done and continuously reinvent ourselves during these adverse times. We can slow down, but never stop moving.
I hope you had a Happy Halloween!