By Annie Nguyen
Fall? In California? Nonexistent.
The lack of leaves that change color and long, chilly sweater days makes it quite a challenge for Southern Californians to celebrate this transitioning season.
So we create our own meaning of fall. Personally, the first memories I have celebrating fall, would be Halloween.
When I was young, Halloween was connoted with the widely celebrated tradition of trick-or-treating. It was the single night that gorging myself in sweets was perfectly acceptable.
But now, as I observe the holiday of costumes, the idea of Halloween has transitioned to encompass a wider variety of celebrations out, ranging from visiting haunted houses to partying with friends.
I was astonished. What had happened to the innocence of the holiday?
I discovered an answer to my question, in my freshman year of high school.
That year, instead of trick-or-treating with my friends like in previous years, I agreed to babysit my four little cousins on their trick-or-treating mission. Of course, they would have to come to me in my neighborhood since I refused to chaperone them surrounded by unfamiliar houses. Plus, maybe I would see some of my friends around the neighborhood as well. So babysitter Annie was my costume for that night.
The foursome started slowly, and I helped them canvas the neighborhood. We vigilantly searched for luminescent houses where fog machines and horrified screams could be found. But more often than not, we only encountered the dark silhouettes of houses. None were immaculately decorated with strings of pumpkin lights or cotton spider webs stuck with giant plastic black spiders or taped-on pictures of ghosts and ghouls.
Where were the crowds of children, all costumed as the latest heroine or the coolest Power Ranger? Where were the groups of parents casually socializing as they patiently waited for their adrenalized children to run back with handfuls of candy? Where were the homemade haunted houses, complete with all the quintessential scaring factors?
Where had the spirit of Halloween gone?
With each house that chose to turn off its lights, there was a child or two that chose not to be out loose on the streets, trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.
I recognized Jessica’s house, even in the complete darkness. And her best friend Angela’s house didn’t don any lit-up decorations either. Down the street, Ryan and Lindsey had no bowl out for candy. Neither did Garrett’s house, nor Mason’s.
All of these faces that I grew up with, trick-or-treating with, scootering around after school with, doing homework with — were now also teenagers. As we, the children of our neighborhood came to grow up, so did the atmosphere of our homes. Since we gradually came to reject the idea of staying around home to enjoy ourselves, the neighborhood gradually lost its vibrant Halloween nights.
As I discovered the loss of youth in my neighborhood, I was okay with that. Because it didn’t necessarily mean that we lost each other. The same next-door friends would later head to parties together, go to haunted houses together, create new memories together — without the childish tradition of trick-or-treating.
Throughout the rest of my high school career, I continued to find new meaning in Halloween. One year it was matching costumes with all of my friends at a party. Another, it was having a huge sleepover with all my girls. And another was visiting a haunted house together. Change happens collectively as we, generationally, grow up to change ourselves.
But now, another transition has occurred. As childhood friends slowly begin moving away for college, we all came to the need to redefine holidays, without each other.
For me? I still haven’t opted out of the celebration of Halloween inside the confinements of my neighborhood. Perhaps there’s something about the ability that “a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it” is scary enough for me. (Thank you for so eloquently describing a girl’s perspective on Halloween, Tina Fey).
I know many people who now correlate Halloween with all night ragers filled with costumed girls and dancing boys. Others define this holiday as a perfect opportunity to find a quaint pumpkin patch and pumpkin-carving contest. Yet others find pleasure in attending the scariest film screenings or amusement park mazes.
Instead, my definition for Halloween consists of a pajama party movie marathon of horror films with my friends, Ben and Jerry.
Many of our choices differ from each other, and that is the beauty of growing up. We come to find different meanings in the way we choose.
Personally, I found that the best celebrations come from those you spend it with, rather than competing how much candy I could collect. So, an intimate sleepover-esque type Halloween is my new definition of this holiday, for this year at least.
But I still do wonder what the fate of my small suburban neighborhood will be. I’d like to think that perhaps our leaving made room for another young generation to start building their own Halloween traditions in our neighborhood.