Where Y’Eat: On Halloween, Community Building Never Tasted So Sweet

Oct 25, 2018

I’ll never forget my first Halloween in New Orleans, because it was filled with shame.

I spent the night hiding at the back of my apartment, with the front lights off, dreading the little voices calling “trick or treat.”

I was new to town, I was much younger and I was blown away by how much fun Halloween was in New Orleans, which for a whole long weekend felt like one gigantic adult costume party.

And then Monday came around, and it was Oct. 31, actually Halloween, and only that night, after work, did I remember trick-or-treaters would be afoot. I had done nothing to prepare.

I vowed it would never happen again and have been going a bit overboard in the years since (yes, I'm the guy on the block with the stash of full-sized candy bars).

Now I’m here with a plea: Do whatever you want on Halloween, but make sure you do your part first. Have some candy, be there for the trick-or-treaters, be there for your neighbors doing the same.

You’ll make memories, and you might even make your neighborhood a better place.

Halloween is still days off but it bears an early advisory. The trick-or-treaters are already dreaming of candy, and we should be happy to supply it. Because between the nougat and caramel, the sticky fingers and crinkly wrappers, candy becomes a potent force for civic engagement, something New Orleans can always use.

This came into focus during the city’s annual Night Out Against Crime. The block party in my neighborhood functioned as a dress rehearsal for Halloween. There were pumpkins. There was candy. Neighbors shook hands, introductions were made.

This is what happens at Halloween too, but porch to porch, stoop to stoop. As the kids careen, adults connect.

Candy is the fuel for trick-or-treating, and trick-or-treating is street level civic engagement at its most basic.

There is no itinerary, no government funding or consultants required. It's about seeing faces, learning names, sharing a tradition, watching differences at least temporarily vanish in the social ritual of making kids happy.

You just need to show up. And you've got to have candy.