For a long time now I’ve boycotted Halloween. Back when I was losing weight, I didn’t keep candy around for trick-or-treaters because I would be tempted to eat it myself. As I lost weight, I no longer found candy as much of a temptation, but I didn’t want to deal with l leftovers. Not buying treats to begin with made it easier.
This year, though, I started thinking about how this ritual of handing out candy has its roots in the concept of feeding ghosts. The Day of the Dead at beginning of November also focuses on feeding those we’ve lost.
Why is this? Why do we want to give food to those who can no longer eat? Or, in the case of Halloween, eat only by proxy?
Then it occurred to me that, as with many rituals, we do this because it also feeds us, and our own inner ghosts and memories.
When I see kids out in costumes, or hear about Halloween parties, it reminds me of my own trick-or-treating, of hanging out with friends, listening to “Monster Mash,” eating candy and having fun. Handing out candy is a way to feed the ghost of the younger me, bringing that earlier self back for a short while.
Similarly, when I’ve put chocolate on a Day of the Dead altar for my beloved dead, or made a dish that my mom loved, I more clearly remember those who are gone.
We connect so much with food, sharing it with family and friends, that it makes sense to still feel those connections and memories even after we’ve lost someone. It allows me to revive, if only for a moment or two, the sense of being with that person.
When I think about it that way, the idea of having candy on-hand is suddenly appealing. Maybe I’ll get to give some to an enthusiastic child, filled with the excitement of pretending to be someone else. Or maybe I’ll just end up with a bag of leftover treats, since people seem to have trouble finding their way to my door, but that’s okay. I know that if I focus on the memories that I’m feeding rather than the sugar, I don’t have to eat the candy to have a taste of sweetness.