If your city schedules a yearly Trick or Treat event for Halloween, you might consider taking the opportunity to make Beggars’ Night a special community-building occasion in your neighborhood. Trick or Treat is one of the few times of the year when most of your neighbors will be in touch with one another, either by taking children around to “beg” or by opening their doors to all and sundry who knock! It’s an excellent time to touch base with one another, as well as to make your house a memorable one so that you not only help make precious memories for your littlest neighbors, but to demonstrate your intent to build the community you want to live in. Let’s talk about some ways to make Beggars’ Night a special community-building for your neighborhood!
Decorate the area where you will receive trick-or-treaters. That can be as simple as wearing a funny hat as you sit in a camp chair at the end of the driveway—a popular way to pass out treats in some neighborhoods—or as involved as creating a whole haunted walkway to the porch where you are waiting with candy. Feel free to go all-out if that’s your style, but a festive wreath and a jack-o’-lantern are enough to show that your household has entered the spirit of the occasion! Our family still includes a young child, so we have a not-so-scary inflatable decoration for the yard, and I create a pumpkin installation with lots of candles on the porch, where I am usually the one to hanging out on our outdoor furniture with cozy and plush fleece blankets and throw pillows to greet the neighborhood children.
However, there are some simple additions you might easily make to the atmosphere that you may not have previously considered! Create a candle-scape in a front window, or even light the whole front room with candles to create vaguely spooky flickering shadows. It’s a quick and easy way to add to the mood, especially if you’re not a family that goes in for elaborate decorations. Now that Bluetooth speakers are so readily and inexpensively available, you could easily create a Halloween playlist to delight everyone approaching your yard. “Thriller,” “The Monster Mash,” and the theme song from The Addams Family TV show are universally beloved, and a good jumping off point for you to begin compiling
a playlist that everyone can enjoy. Everyone will remember your house from year-to-year, and when you interact with people at other times, they will immediately know which home is yours when you use that to jog their memory!
Wear a name tag as you pass out candy to trick-or-treaters or take your little one around, and encourage other grownups to wear one as well, perhaps by making them
available at your house. If you’re comfortable doing so, you might include the street you live on underneath your name. So often we know of or have heard of neighbors but can’t put a face with a name. Encouraging the use of nametags will make a big difference over the course of the year. It’s easier and more pleasant to build your community when every interaction isn’t preceded by a slightly awkward “I’m-sorry-and-your-name-is. . .” exchange.
In my family, we have a strict policy of passing out what trick-or-treaters consider top-tier goodies. Fun-sized, not bite-sized, candy bars are the basis of the treat bowl, and we let the children choose their favorite if possible. However, including some safety lollipops for toddlers, sugar-free fruit snacks for the health-conscious, and Halloween-themed rings or pencil toppers for children with dietary restrictions among your treats is thoughtful. Making sure that you have something for every child who comes “begging” will endear you to kids and parents alike, and sending a message of inclusion will help the whole neighborhood get on board with making Trick or Treat night a community-building event for everybody, no matter their needs.
If your neighborhood has an active Facebook group designed to communicate things like, “Help! My dog escaped the yard!” or “Is Maria’s daughter Olivia still
babysitting?” or “I have so many tomatoes! Who wants some?” it is important to have as many community members as possible in the group. From prosaic appliance repair inquiries to major emergencies such as the occurrence of a house fire, being able to reach as much of your neighborhood as possible as quickly as possible plays a big part in creating the feeling of a tight-knit community whose members truly show up for one another. What does this have to do with Trick-or-Treating? Make a half-sheet sized flyer
advertising the neighborhood group to tuck into the children’s plastic pumpkins and pillowcases! This way, grownups within the community are sure to see the information as they check out the little ones’ candy hauls. Not everyone uses Facebook, and that’s okay, but to gain maximum visibility and ease of communication, push joining the neighborhood page whenever you can politely do so. Beggars’ Night is definitely one such occasion!
Offering something to the long-suffering grownups supervising trick or treaters is a small kindness that can make a big difference to the overall mood. There may be
a mom or auntie who has been up sewing all night, or perhaps a grandpa or big brother who still has spray-paint fumes in his nose from creating a realistic-looking horseshoe crab costume for a six-year-old girl with nothing but an odd obsession and a dream. A simple offer of one of the items in your treat bowl is nice, but I have also seen people offer individually-wrapped high-end chocolates, half-servings of wine to sip before moving along and leftover office swag like mini staplers or nice pens. Showing that you’re thinking of everyone and want to make Beggars’ Night an event for the whole community can plant the seed in everyone’s mind and heart to do the same!
Too many times I have heard people say, “I don’t even know my neighbors’ names,” or “We only ever wave at each other,” even as they lament a lack of community. If you would like to live in a place where people let out each other’s dogs and shovel each other’s walks and have a big Labor Day cookout together every year, someone has to take the first step in community-building. Think about using Beggars’ Night, with Trick or Treaters and their grownups knocking on every door in the neighborhood, as a community-building event that will naturally foster communication and cozy feelings of camaraderie. It’s a natural place to begin building the community you want for yourself and your family!