Ahh, Halloween. My favourite time of year. There’s neighbours, costumes, candy and a lot more fun than most holidays, even if ya don’t get it off work (saw some awesome costumes at work yesterday, btw).

What I love so much about Halloween, though, is often what so many other people hate.
Halloween, unlike Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, is about communities rather than close friends and families. And in today’s alienated cityscapes, that scares a lot of people more than ghosts and goblins ever could. People are terrified for their trick-or-treating children – could neighbours secretly be child molesters? Hiding razor-blades in candy bars or hoping to abduct them? Statistically, this kind of thing is beyond rare – but thanks to both the bloodthirsty quest for news about horrific crimes, and the number of times they’re recreated in fiction (CSI, NCIS, SVU, etc), the media does a lot to feed into our fears. It goes beyond that, though, both out of twisted economic motivations (never trust home-cooked treats from neighbours) and a broader need for atomization and disassociation of citizens. Halloween displays blatantly how, even in some of the largest and most concentrated populations in history, we still barely trust our neighbours. The question isn’t whether Halloween encourages kids to take candy from strangers – it’s why that’s so scary. What does that say about us?

The second common objection to Halloween is that it invokes Satantic imagery – demons, witches and ghosts. For most of us that aren’t fundamentalist Christians, this seems a little silly, but it still says a lot that these complaints come out all the time. Unlike arguments about Christmas or Easter, though, where the complaint is too much Christian imagery being thrown at us (often at our own expense), this is a little more serious. Does a religion – even a popular one – have the right to forbid everybody from displaying mythical figures it doesn’t like? And should those of us who go as Batman or Mr Spock* be punished because others dress up like Lucifer)?

So for at least one night a year, go out and meet your neighbours, if only for a few moments. Turn the houses on your block into more than brick façades, and maybe even collect a little change for a charity. Find a party, a show, or something that encourages actual human contact. Other people really aren’t all that scary.

* As an interesting correlation, after the original pilot of Star Trek, Mr Spock was nearly cut from the crew because Network executives worried that he looked too much like Satan. He was saved, though, by slicing the female first officer, “number one” (something else that was even less appropriate than the multi-racial cast) and instead casting her as “Nurse Chapel”. One more sad example of how conservative power-brokers shape popular culture.