It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco in 1997 that I understood what a big deal Halloween and trick-or-treating are in the U.S. Back then, the notorious Castro Halloween street party was still in full swing. That was the real deal! I don’t know who enjoyed it the most, adults or kids. Still, I became very wary and afraid of opening my door to trick-or-treaters.

Two years after I arrived in the U.S., on April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School massacre took place, as well as a series of other tragic events involving teen violence.

I grew afraid of walking down the street and coming across a group of teenagers.

One year, Halloween fell on a Friday and I was off from work. I bought candy at the last minute, hoping to spend the evening giving out goodies to cute little kids decked out in their costumes. However, as it got dark and upon catching a glimpse of teens strutting down the street in their costumes, howling and laughing, suddenly an irrational fear of violent trick-or-treating teens overcame me!

I couldn’t help myself. I turned off all the lights and spent the evening in terror, in the dark, hoping that there would be no more doorbell rings and I would finally be able to relax. I felt stupid and angry at myself. It was a long-drawn out evening, one of those times when you double check your watch every few minutes and the hands don’t seem to be ticking as fast as you’d wish.

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Now, about 10 years later, the fear has subsided and I welcome trick-or-treaters. I won’t allow irrational fear to take away from the fun of watching kids enjoy the night. I love their excitement and how they prepare for this occasion.

At this time, every year, I wish I were back at home celebrating Halloween again with my family. I used to love Halloween as a kid. My dad used to pump us up for the occasion even though hardly anyone else followed this tradition in Spain. We had to celebrate a little differently since there was no trick-or-treating. We carved the difficult-to-find pumpkin, lit a candle in the scary hollow and, just like Santa, the big old pumpkin would leave us treats the next morning! Lots of treats!

This year, I look forward to helping kids—teenagers, too—enjoy their trick-or-treating.

Happy Halloween!