Tonight, when we came home from a dinner out, the house was dark.  It was cool out, and you could still make out the orange leaves against the black of the sky.  The almost full moon was made fuzzy by a few hazy clouds.  The kids wanted to light the Halloween lantern.  We left our house dark, except for three candles and my very girlie little girls screeched like bats, crawled like cats, acted like sneaking kung fu warriors.  They got into the night.  It is natural to feel fear when it gets dark.  The ritual of Halloween is a way to find safety, comfort and even a new freedom in the dark, as we enter a dark time of year.  During the ritual of Halloween, we change places. We go out as something unrecognizable.  We pretend to be something we are not; we loosen the grip light has on us. We find power in the dark, find comfort in it — as a vampire, a witch, spiderman, or even a princess. A lot of people know that Halloween rituals in America are a conglomeration of traditions, but they clearly developed from European celebrations of All Hallow’s eve, when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.  Many American families celebrate Day of the Dead around this time, with parties and altars for ancestors that have passed.  We note the correlation between dark and death, the beginning of the season when our plants go fallow, and celebrate by visiting our neighbors instead of hiding inside, giving treats to the ghosts of the night to ward off their “tricks”, and lighting our doors with spooky lights to keep away the bad spirits and bring the good ones in. It’s normal, too, to hear people say that Halloween is a “Hallmark” holiday, meaning a celebration concocted by consumer capitalism.  But however much the need for ever-increasing profits creeps in and takes over everywhere, the need to mark the change of seasons with a ritual for the dark seems valid and meaningful to me, especially when we connect with these traditions, understand them and make them our own. When I was a kid, I loved making decorations for all the holidays and seasons, concocting cool little kids altars with natural objects, but also cheesy stickers and pre-made seasonal cut outs.  My daughter does this too.  She makes amazing concoctions of natural beauty and  consumer kitsch.  I love seeing the Halloween crap re-purposed into a “Halloween maze for the fairies.” Or to see our Ikea lantern as the stage for creeping black cats.  I’m looking forward to watching my three-year-old cackle and howl with the rest the little kids on Halloween night, finding comfort in the familiar doorsteps and holding our hands through the scary stretches.  We all know life can be scary, and death is always with us, so it is a relief to celebrate the death of summer with beauty, harvest and dressed up kids hyped on on sugar! Do you have Halloween traditions that you love or that are important to you?