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Halloween: A Transformative Medium
By Maryam Motia

The following is a true story about my experience of Halloween, as a space for linking me to family and community through practicing mindful parenting. It was an “a-ha” moment for me, coming to know that Halloween has the potential beyond individual joy to also include the joy of the whole family and the community of the person. Sharing such an epiphany might even extend its benefits to society.

I used to live in a multicultural area of the city in which most of my neighbors had children. My children had made friends with their peers given that they lived in the same neighborhood and were going to the same school. We as parents knew each other; some were very close, and some were acquaintances. I lived in that location for a few years, so I had pretty good knowledge about my neighbors’ ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, as well as their educational, socioeconomic, and immigration status, given that the majority were non-white migrants. One of the most motivating and thrilling values in my life has been caring for and including other people, especially those who are part of my life.

It was Halloween night, crowded and exciting as always. My children had prepared a lot of treats for their friends. They were ready to go outside and indulge themselves. We went into the neighborhood to trick-or-treat and also went to the mall across the street where community members typically gathered on Halloween. It was a lovely night; my children enjoyed being outside and moving between houses in the community as well as stores at the mall, accumulating piles of chocolates and candies.

Given that they had collected a lot of treats and their bags were full, we went home early. At home, they excitedly explained what they had experienced and which friends they had come across. They started talking about those who had not shown up on that night. They explained to me that some of their friends did not celebrate Halloween.

Listening to their elaborative speech about the situations of their friends, I was aware that some neighbors had understood Halloween as being related to colonialism, capitalism, or cultural assimilation. Some had also stated that Halloween did not fit their religious beliefs and thus they did not celebrate it.

Given all these respectful reasons, as a mother, I deeply felt for both my neighboring parents and their children. I thought that despite not participating in Halloween, my neighboring parents did not intend to deprive their children of excitement or prevent them from enjoying the treats that are exchanged on that night. I was immersed in my thoughts and feelings of the mothers who were yearning for their children to experience the joy of sharing while not letting them engage in the feast. In my mind, new ideas were forming!

I asked my children to identify who had not participated in the Halloween party. I learned that some of my neighbors had not left their houses for various reasons including their child’s sickness. I suggested to my children, “Since they did not come to others’ doors to receive treats, we should go to their doors to offer some.” We started packing all types of candies and chocolates we had prepared and decorated in advance to distribute among the children. Then, my children knocked on their friends’ doors one by one.

My little angels came home so thrilled that they could not even wait to take turns sharing their experiences. They explained how excited their friends became when they opened the door and saw my children standing there with packages for all the young people in that household. My children shared their fantastic experiences of witnessing another human’s wonderful feelings of surprise, an unexpected piece of care, and an unspoken desire for care and its fulfillment. Furthermore, I received many kind messages from mothers, verbally or written, for thinking of and caring about them and their children. Those warm messages, reflecting their deep feelings of gratitude, were heartwarming.

The experience of spreading care, empathy, and cultural humility not only nurtured solidarity within our community but also tapped into the significant role of parenting. Such an experience transcended my mundane authority to simply parent my children, to the divine power of creating caring humans. That experience highlighted for me that every single moment of life holds the possibility of practicing humanness, letting both parents and children grow together. Those moments remind us of our ethical responsibility as parents to be good enough role models for our children. They push away our boundaries of selfishness, fear, and hesitancy to expose our children to consideration beyond themselves, and their comfort and joy. They transmit the nuances of personhood to parenting and community membership.

May Halloween be a healing space for our souls and a reminder of our lives, rather than death, by reviving our humanness and transcending mundane individuality to divine community.

— Maryam Motia is currently a PhD candidate in social work and an instructor at Wilfred Laurier University. Her area of interest includes the mental health of immigrant women in Canada. Holding a master’s degree in counselling, she worked as a family counsellor before immigrating to Canada. She has been volunteering for Immigrant Services - Guelph-Wellington for the past years.