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

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. I mean, what’s not to love? It has whimsical costumes, scary stories, a normal bedtime (looking at you, New Year’s) and chocolate. What could be better? Plus, it takes place at this magical time of year where everything is windy and dark, shifting and in flux.

Best of all, though, it is a holiday where everyone is welcome.

That’s what actually puts it up at the top for me. Despite being rooted in ancient Celtic culture (shoutout to my ancestors), it is not a proprietary holiday and the “door to door for candy” bit is a totally American invention, so as long as everyone remembers the rule that someone else’s culture should never be your costume, it’s all good.

Unsurprisingly, my love of the holiday goes back to my childhood. My mom was a really busy mom, but she put on the brakes and cleared her calendar for Halloween. Costumes had to be scary and they had to be homemade. No vinyl superhero face masks or store-bought Strawberry Shortcakes for me.

There is an extra ingredient to the Halloweens of my youth, though. Mixed in with the costumes and the candy was the undeniable frisson of walking where the wild things roam.

For that night, that one night, the normal rules of polite society were upended. You could walk the streets at night, knock on the doors of complete strangers and demand candy – and you’d get it. Crazy stuff. At no other time would any of that be acceptable.


Halloween was a time when kids ran the show.

Now, not to sound too “back in my day” about it all, but that part of the experience seems to have been lost. More and more, this holiday is becoming scheduled, programmed, and the purview of the ever-watchful, ever-orchestrating adults. We have turned on all the lights and banished all the shadows, and I worry that in our noble attempt to keep children safe, we have accidentally over-sanitized the experience.

My mom used to say that every kid “needs to eat a peck of dirt” to stay healthy – a more colorful way of phrasing what science knows to be true, that kids need to be exposed to some germs in order for their bodies to learn how to fight them and to build a healthy immune system. We don’t want to take a kid into a pandemic, but a completely sterile environment is bad for them, too.

In much the same way, kids need to have some shadows in their life in order to develop a healthy response to fear. That is what fairy tales are all about. A small dose of the dark to develop an immunity – well, no. Not immunity. To develop a sense of competence and mastery over the fears. To experience the self as brave and resilient so that when the genuine scary stuff shows up, they will not be overwhelmed by it.

Which is not to say we allow crazy danger. Obviously. And massive props out to the adults creating safe spaces. In our rural communities, door-to-door isn’t even viable, let alone optimal, so legion hall parties and trunk-or-treat makes logistical sense, and those are things the adults need to organize.

All I am saying is, let’s not “Disney-ify” every fairy tale out there. Let’s leave a few shadows for the kids to conquer and vanquish on their own. Learning to listen to and conquer fear is what has helped to keep the human race moving forward.

Comments are not available on this story.