When we were small, in the fifties in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., Halloween was a magical affair. My mother did not allow us to buy costumes. We concocted our own, some she had to sew, which she did with a perfectionist's precision. We were fairies and princesses, hobos and cowboys and I was especially jealous the year that my older siblings were a team of doctors complete with scrubs, IV bags and stethoscopes compliments of my father. On what is commonly called Mischief Night, we called Trick or Treat and we went trick or treating. That night before Halloween we would go wander around the neighborhood and do our best to fill a paper grocery bag with candy. We had to cover a lot of ground to fill the bags so we were never inclined to go into the houses that offered spooky interiors with hot cider. I don’t recall my parents going with us. I think we were turned loose, perhaps with our older siblings, to fend for ourselves. The adventure without parents made the night that much more exciting and powerful. The following night was the community party in a church basement. This was a huge event. Everyone went. It was brightly lit - not scary. I think there was food and games – bobbing for apples. But the highlight was the parade from which the best costumes were chosen for prizes. I won best costume one year. My prize was a bronze horse bank. It was my treasure of a reward for being a fairy in a short frothy pink outfit. My sister’s was similar but with a longer skirt and I think she was in blue. Maybe it was the other way around but the point is that we were in nearly identical costumes and I won and she didn’t and I think she still carries a grudge.

When my kids were small, we moved to Battery Park City, across the street from the World Trade Center in New York City. I was worried that my kids would not be able to enjoy the thrills of Halloween as I had. But Halloween here was wonderful. We moved in just before Halloween when my daughter had just turned 2. There was a big community party with prizes and spooky music and yummy food. There was also a parade led by Mickey Mouse. The parade wandered all through the streets of Battery Park City – past the World Financial Center, the local restaurants and down to the Esplanade and along the Hudson River and views of the Statue of Liberty. After the parade the kids would invade the apartment buildings usually starting at the top floor (35th) and working their way to each apartment on each floor. Many apartments were decorated for the event and some floors would collaborate to decorate the hallways. We would cover the hallways with black plastic and turn out the overhead lighting. We developed a reputation for putting on a great show. One year we created a hell mouth out of black and white (for the teeth) plastic bags, on our apartment door. We hung paper bats and plastic gooey glow in the dark eyeballs and skeletons, and we played scary music. The older kids could go off by themselves to collect their loot. And all the kids, even the little ones easily matched our Virginia suburban candy collection.

After 9/11 we moved to Connecticut. I expected great things from Halloween in New England. Our first Halloween we prepared for a lot of trick or treaters, as I always had in NY. We have spent 5 years in Connecticut but have yet to have anyone knock on our door for candy. Maybe it is just our little corner of Connecticut, which is beautiful, but as far as we can tell has a lot to learn about Halloween.

Jean McGavin
Halloween, 2009, Connecticut

Add your story to this page!

Comment on this Story

Add a New Comment

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License