Halloween is one of our country’s most excellent holidays. Much like Thanksgiving, it’s an annual event that’s focused on (sweet) food and community.

Living on the 200 block of Scoville, we get a lot of trick or treaters. This year, we handed out over 400 pieces of candy (and tea and other less usual items, which I feel is important if you want to give a kid a weirder Halloween).  I love it. I think it’s just fine that people come from all around the area to trick or treat in my neighborhood, because getting people together is one of the best reasons to have a holiday, any holiday.   Older and no costume? No problem.  I’d rather you were a kid with a costume, but I give out a treat of some sort to anyone who comes to my door, no questions asked..

There are many residents on many streets in Oak Park, however, who seem to believe that a big part of Halloween is not celebrating community but rather scheming to keep the community out.  I’m talking about residents who get “block party” permits on Halloween yet celebrate no parties of any kind. Walk by one of those streets allegedly holding a block party on Halloween. Is anyone outside grilling up some tasty grub or having a good time with their neighbors? With rare exceptions, Hell no. The street is empty. No one’s there. The party is not the point. Blocking out others is the point. And that, I probably don’t need to tell you, is not what Oak Park is about.

Now, these homeowners who choose to hold “block parties” on Halloween will say they need to block off their block to divert traffic and keep their kids safe. But what these people, in their huge selfishness, are unable to see is that they are simply diverting traffic to other streets, where other people’s children are trick or treating. On my block on this recent Halloween, I’d say there were at least twice as many cars as usual…and that’s because, on a street near ours, there was a “block party.”  We also had, as mentioned, hundreds of trick or treaters, many of whom may have felt awkward intruding on what the sign says is supposed to be a party among neighbors.

Around 6PM, an hour before the official end of the trick or treating hour, many homes (including ours) had to post signs apologizing that we’d run out of candy.  Next year, we’ll buy more.   No worries. 

But next year, it’d be wonderful if those homeowners who hold “block parties” on Halloween would shake themselves out of their fortress mentality to understand that blocking one’s street to keep out others is remarkably, preposterously and ridiculously selfish and anti-social. It’s not in the spirit of this or any holiday. And it’s not Oak Park.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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