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From left, Kaylie Bergeron, Noah Champagne, Kaiden Pellagran, Chander Pellagran and Khloe Bergeron, dressed in their favorite Halloween costumes, pause a moment before entering the Boo at the Zoo event on Sunday, October 21, 2018, at the Zoosiana, located outside Broussard, La. ORG XMIT: BAT1810211802005765

At a time when social divisions loom large across America, another Halloween has arrived to remind us that connecting with strangers — and treating them generously — can be an exercise in possibility rather than peril.

Our other holidays, such as Christmas, Hannukah, Thanksgiving and Easter, advance their own forms of public outreach, but they’re primarily focused inward, into the intimacy of families. Halloween, like Louisiana’s much-beloved Mardi Gras, is an outward affair, one grounded in the life of the street.

Like Mardi Gras, Halloween is an improvised costume ball, one that nudges us to try on other selves. That kind of homespun theater is an exercise in empathy, reminding us that fellowship starts as an act of imagination. In considering the lives of others, we recognize the ties that bind us, regardless of race, religion or party.

That kind of solidarity is needed more than ever these days, as partisan bickering and social media narrow our sense of what country and community can be.

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While Halloween offers a welcome respite from politics for many, others see the celebration as a way to lampoon their leaders. We assume that Trump or even a few Hillary masks will sell briskly this year, and that’s OK, too. The hallmark of a healthy republic is the freedom to make fun of the ruling class, something that Louisianans seem to do well. Carnival, so often a pageant of political satire, gives us more experience than most when Halloween rolls around.

 Some might ask why, in a world touched by so much actual horror, we embrace Halloween as a festival of fright. It’s a question that resonates with particular poignance this October, as we close a month marked by mass shootings and bomb scares.

But Halloween is a way for us to smile through the grimness, to express the enduring resilience of the human spirit in the face of fears both real and imagined.

We welcome Halloween across south Louisiana. The days grow shorter, the evenings cooler as trick-or-treaters take up their annual prowl. But that long line of porch lights down our streets speaks of something sublime — our willingness to illuminate the shadows and open our doors, answering the darkness of the hour with the best that we can give.