Halloween was serious business in the Northern California neighborhood where I grew up. We planned our costumes and trick-or-treating routes for months beforehand, and looked forward to the day with the anticipation most kids reserve for their birthdays. But my favorite part of the evening came after we'd finished collecting candy, when all the adults and kids in the neighborhood gathered at one family's house for food, drink, games, and more treats.
While the older kids staffed a haunted house for the younger ones, the adults admired costumes, confiscated candy, and held sleepy toddlers. Everyone got to touch base over the comforts of a warm dinner. This has become a favored way to celebrate Halloween in many neighborhoods–unlike just about any other holiday, this one has a way of bringing neighbors together. Welcome folks to your own Halloween open house party with this simple, mostly make-ahead menu that's appropriate for kids and grown-ups alike. There are plenty of savory dishes to offset all the candy the little ones are sure to amass over the evening. The recipes are scaled to feed a big crowd but can easily be halved for a smaller gathering. Filling the house with family, friends, neighbors, and delicious smells of spiced cider and simmering chili memorably caps off a night of tricking and treating.
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