On Robin Hood, His Merry Men, and Why We Celebrate Halloween. Even as Christians.

Oct 27 2014

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My middle schoolers had given up an hour earlier, done with the trick-or-treat march on our brisk Halloween night in 2013, so it was just me, a friend, and my tenacious 7-year-old twins, the mummy and the zombie, who were waylaid on Halloween by Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

We’d been to all the usual houses and met all the usual neighbors — and, let’s be honest, a few unusual ones, too — when there they came, the loud group of exuberant teenage boys, walking boldly down the street, hollering back and forth at each other and anyone else in shouting distance.

Now, every mama of littles knows to be on the lookout for teenagers on Halloween night. Not because we’re suspicious or mean-hearted or opposed to big kids having fun. I, for one, believe we should be allowed to trick-or-treat for forever, even into, say, our 40’s, if only our rigid society would lighten up a little. It’s practically a theological position for me, this idea that everyone gets in. Everyone can play. Everyone is invited to participate in the madness and the mess and the magic. But we mamas are on the lookout for teens on Halloween. We are. Because it’s our Mama Job when we’re sharing the Halloween streets to remind our younger ones that Scream masks aren’t real and to make sure no one’s trampled underfoot or lost in the crowd. So we watch the bigger ones, careful to pay attention to the things they may not.

And there were Robin Hood and his Merry Men, marching down the street exactly like you’d expect Sherwood rabble-rousers to do, with confident feet, a lot of swagger and a gleeful, jostling mob mentality, shouting with deep voices and quite passable British accents. “HELLO!” they said together, and one followed up, “I am Robin of the Hood and these are my Merry Men,” which is how we knew what we were facing. And so we shouted, “HELLO!” back because Halloween is the night for greeting strangers like friends.

We went to move past them, and I smiled, grateful for young men who were so cheerful and able to match my family for volume, which is when they stopped us, knelt down, and offered my boys handfuls of candy and compliments on their costumes.

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It turns out Robin Hood and his Merry Men were out doing what they do best. Giving to the poor. Or, you know, to my kids, who were dressed in rags and so amounted to the same thing on All Hallows Eve.

It was, in truth, Love they were handing out, willy nilly, radically assuming we were all worthy and valuable and deserving of attention and kindness, sweetness and grace. And they made what was supposed to be a fun night into magic.

Someone asked me recently how I can justify participating in Halloween as a Christian. “Don’t you know you’re teaching your children to love what is evil?” he said.

And I’m not opposed to Christians sitting this one out or throwing open the doors of their churches for harvest parties and inviting their neighbors in. To each their own, I say, because we parents must follow our gut, and one answer isn’t right for everyone. It’s really not, and good for you for knowing what’s best for your family.

As for me, though, I don’t want to miss out on the magic because I feel to the marrow of my bones that we find that of Love there.

You see, I want to spend my night throwing my door open to the surprises that wait beyond it. To the monsters and to the fairies and to the great heroes and heroines of our day.

I want to see the Cat in the Hat walking hand-in-hand with the Queen of Hearts, and to see whole swarms of bumblebees and butterflies tripping over their wings and each other as they buzz and flit from house to house, following exactly the erratic and ridiculous path of their namesakes. I want to giggle as Curious George walks right into my house as though he belongs here while I tell his parents, “It’s fine. It’s fine. I promise. We love this,” and they apologize for his enthusiasm, chasing him down the hall as he moves with super-speed on chubby legs.

I want to greet overwhelming crowds of the gory undead with smiles and treats and to wave at their parents who watch with vigilance from the street while they give their precious littles a chance to know their neighborhood; the kids as the Scare-ers, for once, instead of the Ones Who Need to Learn to Be Afraid. And I want to let my own children out in the community to run from stranger’s door to stranger’s door and to know that these houses around us are filled with more friends than strangers, after all.

I want to see the mean man with the nice dog who lives down the street smile this one time per year at the kids who always walk on his damn lawn.

And I want to see what old Earl will do this year to terrify the kids in his driveway.

I want to stop for a minute at the one house that provides hot cider for cold parents so I can say thank you.

And I want to watch my teens disarm the surly candy-givers who like to hate the kids who are Too Old for This Nonsense as my kids pull out the big guns — Halloween caroling, because my kids are weird weirdos who are weird — and I want to giggle as the disapproval turns, always, into handfuls of candy with “OK, fine, you guys. That was actually really cool.” Because it’s not just the kids who get to learn not to be afraid of others.

The truth is, I love Halloween because there’s just no other community holiday like it, where neighbors celebrate with unknown neighbors and bands of Merry Men turn mischief into magic and spread delight with booming voices and handfuls of candy and kneel down to the level of my littles to make them part of the band, too. I wouldn’t have my family miss it for the world.

Happy Halloween!

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I posted the original version of this essay in 2013, but it was after Halloween, and now it’s before Halloween, so I’m posting it again in support of kids of all ages and loving our neighbors.

Special thanks to Micah, Kaed, Josh, Josh, Jojo & Alex, aka Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who I was able to track down via Facebook, for making my boys and many other kids feel like a million bucks on Halloween. You guys are rad. And I hope you follow up again this year!

All y’all are giving teenagers a good name. xo