Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday.

To start with, any celebration that involves chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate is automatically Grade A in my book. Then you add in costumes and parties and what’s not to love? Plus, although I realize there are some out there who choose not to celebrate (and that’s totally fine, may the day be wonderful for you in other ways), everyone is invited. I like that.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at heather@heatherdmartin.com.

I could make the case that the holiday is culturally relevant for me. After all, it began as a Celtic celebration of the season’s change and the blurring of the line between death and life (oh, those wild Celts!) and my ancestral roots are solidly there. If you want to draw that comparison out, Google an image of Welsh women in traditional garb and you’ll see where the stereotypical “witch” costume comes from.

But if I’m honest, though my family was certainly aware of the holiday’s origins, mostly it was about the neighborhood kids having a great time.

The church where my dad was the minister hosted parties in the basement, decked out with fake cobwebs and black and orange streamers, where we were all plied with hot cider and competed to eat donuts from strings with our hands behind our backs. After this revelry, we’d set out in large clumps to raid the neighbors for goodies.

Despite the palpable sense of “wild abandon” I felt as a child, there were rules: stay with your group, take only one, be sure to say thank you. If you are of my generation, there was also the ritual of letting grown-ups inspect your candy.


My mom had some additional rules. My costume had to be homemade and it had to be scary. Not for me the store-bought Wonder Woman with the shiny plastic mask that caused so many of my classmates to stumble blindly down the sidewalk, no matter how desperately I wanted it.

My mom did make some amazing costumes, though. Among my favorites of her creations were the crocodile with the tail that dragged out long behind me, the cat with the scary claws and the bat with wings of silk into which my mom folded and stitched intricate veins.

Last year, in lockdown, I felt the loss. This year I am cautiously optimistic that ghouls and goblins will once again haunt the neighborhood streets, and I put forward this one reminder: Regardless of whether you go store-bought or homemade, elaborate or simple, scary or not, keep in mind as you make your choice that other people’s cultures are not costumes, nor are global tragedies. Native American headdress, Chinese cheongsams, Japanese kimonos, costumes with blackface and – dear Lord – the Holocaust costumes I saw in an article about offensive Halloween costumes recently are all example of things to definitely not do. There are others, but I feel like a complete list belabors the point.

If the costume belongs to a tragedy or a culture not your own, simply don’t.

But I can’t imagine you would.

And so, I am stocking up on goodies (trying to hide them from myself so I don’t sample the wares) and eagerly awaiting the “parade of horribles.” Happy Halloween to one and all, may your chocolate be plentiful, and may all your adventures be treats, not tricks.

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