How Halloween’s Done

So there I was in Jackson. Actually, I was way out in Wilson, which is on the Teton side of the Snake River. It’s a long way to town is all I’m saying. So I’m out there at my friend Joe’s, where there are maybe seven other houses total, right next to Grand Teton National Park, the Snake River and NOTHING ELSE. Which, by the way, is why I love it. And THAT is why I’m now headed to Santa Fe instead of Seattle. More on that later. But my point is that we were sitting around on Saturday (after a three hour trail run, I have to do a little sitting), and it occurred to me: where will these Jackson Hole kids trick-or-treat? How is this done? These are the mysteries that consume me.

Joe, of course, having nothing to do with any children on any kind of regular basis, had no idea. But as it happened, I was leaving on Sunday and on the way south, I was stopping at my friend Heather’s in Alpine for lunch. Heather has children. Heather has answers.

Heather’s five-year-old met me at the door wearing giant gauzy bat wings (which prevented him from running out the door – good job, Heather) and vampire fangs: Hi! I’m a vampire bat!

Well, hi to you too. Did you have fun trick-or-treating last night?

A confused look, and then he disappears into the kitchen, where his mom is making some of the most incredible chicken soup I’ve ever had and homemade bread. She laughs at hugs me and says, Tonight’s Halloween, silly.

Well, yeah, I know, but Halloween’s one of those things that’s different everywhere. And every year. You have to figure out how Halloween’s going to be done every time. My nephew, for example, missed trick-or-treating at the local outlet mall because this year, they held their trick-or-treating event on Friday night. Halloween is a holiday of coordination and scheduling. When is the right time to knock on the doors? How early will it get dark? Will it rain? Will the kids need thermal underwear under their mammoth bath wings? And the ultimate question when the holiday falls in a Thursday or Sunday or Monday, or anywhere close to the weekend, when will everyone be expecting trick-or-treaters in the first place?

So in Alpine, they trick-or-treat ON HALLOWEEN. Fascinating. But there’s more. Because it’s a far-flung rural area, much like Jackson Hole, they’ve created a way to bring all the fun together, also emilinating that weird door-knocking moment. I know it’s part of the tradition, but it’s awkward. Not beacause of the knocking, because of the grownups. Adults are sometimes just weird, no? Anyway, in Alpine, they do a thing called trick-or-trunk, in which everyone drives to the local grocery store, opens their trunks (which I’m imagining are filled to varying degrees with candy, decorations, creepy music and dismembered body parts according to the trunk owner’s level of Halloween commitment) and hangs out handing out candy while kids wander up and down the rows of cars.

Awesome.

I spent the night in Heber City, Utah, and I had dinner at the Angry Moose, where the bartenders told me that in Utah, no sort of Halloween happenings can happen on, you know, the Day of Rest. Understandable. But they did celebrate, and they did it on Saturday. They also do the trunk thing (which they called trunk-or-treat), or the mall thing, rather than the door-knocking thing. But here’s the best part: they were shocked when I told them about the churches at home that forbid all Halloween activity, that set up those “this is what hell will be like, you sinners” haunted houses. And yeah, I was pretty proud that I was able to shock people in Utah. But people. Georgia people. We SHOCKED UTAH.

Happy Halloween, whenever you celebrate it. See you in Colorado…

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