By this time last year, I believe the local authorities and medical professionals had already pulled the plug on any real Halloween festivities. I remember feeling disappointed for the kids who wouldn’t have the chance to trick or treat around the neighborhood and engage in that age-old tradition of knocking on random doors and accepting candy from strangers. I remember thinking back when our boys were toddlers and how odd that we would have to drill into them not to talk to people they don’t know, let alone accept any food from them. Except, of course, on just one day of the year when that rule goes right out the window (along with the packets of raisins and candy corn.) Our boys have always loved the holiday and it was certainly a disappointment last year when they couldn’t partake in the trick or treating part of the night. I might have been the saddest about it, though, because when it comes to upholding family traditions, I’m the stickler. I’ve noticed that the rest of the team is slightly more flexible when an obstacle gets in the way of doing something we’ve done year after year. Halloween 2020 slightly resembled that of Halloweens past. We still shared our spaghetti and meatball dinner with our close friends and former neighbors from back when we lived near Ocean Park/West L.A. Since we started celebrating together, the crowd has grown extensively over the years and up until Covid, you never would know who’d knock on the door looking for a meatball or extra piece of garlic bread en route to other houses around town. But Halloween 2020 didn’t look too kindly on a big crowd, so it was just us and this one other family and none of the kids ventured out. I am not even sure Covid was the reason. At a certain point, kids just age out of the activity and aren’t as consumed with the sheer joy of collecting that huge pillowcase full of decadent sweets that are so tightly monitored and somewhat forbidden the other 364 days of the year. I think by the time they’re old enough to walk down to Rite Aid and buy their own candy bars, the tradition has lost a bit of its luster. Remember how clever some homeowners got last year in designing exotic contraptions to get candy from their front doors to kids on the sidewalk for contact-free deliveries? Or others who meticulously created individual candy bags they’d leave out on their doorsteps to avoid any human interaction? We did none of that. Eliminating the social aspect of the holiday defeats one of my favorite components of the night. If I can’t open the door to see the kids’ cool costumes (does anyone else remember the girl from several years ago who dressed up as “inner thoughts?” it was the weirdest yet most awesome costume ever) or run into friends canvassing the neighborhood, then I rather just enjoy an extra meatball and stay home.

But as of this writing, we haven’t gotten much guidance yet as to how the holiday will go this year. Will homeowners still be somewhat hesitant to open their doors to throngs of people? Will families pause before sending their kids out to be face to face with those they don’t know? Los Angeles’ numbers are low and vaccination rates are high, but will that make a difference to the population at large? Our youngest may be considered too old to trick or treat but he also may be very anxious to make up for that lost year of staying in before he was truly ready to give up the activity. I think if homes are open for business this year, it would be nice to overlook and ignore the ages of the kids asking for candy. You may have wrinkles, walk with a cane and not bother with a costume but if you want candy, I’ll pass some out to you, no questions asked.

Well, technically speaking, I probably won’t be the one passing out candy this year even if it is all systems a go. The giveth and taketh away of various traditions during the pandemic has allowed me the freedom to be a little less rigid when it comes to clinging to how we’ve always done things in the past. It’s made me realize that the whole world can shift with barely a moment’s notice so what is the point of holding fast to something that can go away so easily? When I had the chance to see a concert this year that happened to be held on October 31, I asked the family if they’d be too distraught if I skipped our usual festivities and instead went to the Grateful Dead show (Dead and Company) at the Hollywood Bowl. Part of me was hoping they’d pitch a fit and beg me to stick around. My wife asked, “What about the meatballs?” My eldest said (I’m paraphrasing), “I’m 17. Do you think I’m staying home?” The 15-year-old had heard good things about that Halloween Horror nights (or whatever it’s called) at Universal Studios and the 12-year-old was only concerned about still getting to eat all the candy in sight. In other words, they were OK with starting new traditions this year: namely, doing what we want vs. what we’ve done. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved what we’ve done in the past, but I’ve also learned that embracing change is good, too.

So, however Halloween 2021 unfolds for you, whether you’re passing out candy or singing along with me at the Dead show, I hope you have a bootiful evening full of fright and fun.