Celebrate Halloween --the old fashioned way

    Celebrate Halloween --the old fashioned way

    Halloween Portrait. Marina's Family (The Movie) by Luis Marina, flickr cc attrib/comm use licenceConcerns about physical distancing, spiking covid-19 case numbers, and kids encountering dozens (or hundreds) of other people's 'social bubbles' just to wear costumes and get candy have me thinking . . . again. Uh-oh.
    Now, here we are, all able to forego the cold, sore feet, the exhausted and cold toddlers, the weird people asking their kids to do strange things, the risk of car and pedestrian accidents, the uncomfortable costumes over coats, the risk of Black Cat gum and candy corn... Bummer. 
    Way back in the day, after thinking 'do I actually want my kids begging from strangers, while I freeze in the dark for an hour or two?' my next thought was, 'is this a parade thing again?'
    Let me rewind. I have, as a child, a long history of attending parades ... with mounting confusion. Where did this come from, and why do people still do it? What is this walking advertising thing about, really? What's it for? And why is it so boring?!
    Sitting on the side of the road for hours, being baked in the sun, drenched with rain, or frozen (yay, Santa / light parades in Canada!) ... to watch bored, tired people trying to look like they're having fun for 5 miles of walking past mostly strangers doing the same things they have been rehearsing for weeks (or doing for years)... okay, but why? Is this supposed to be fun? Is it supposed to be interesting? People even watch this on tv, when they can't be there themselves. Okay, but why?
    Rainy Parade by Maria Elkind, flickr cc attrib/comm use licence
    I just don't get it. 

    Am I the only person who just doesn't get this?

    So, back to trick-or-treating... As a kid, I certainly did it: loved the candy (when it was a good haul), hated the sore feet, uncomfortable masks, parkas under costumes (still Canada!) ...
    ... and the creepy adults trying to be spooky or solicitous or trying to get kids to do a trick (not a thing in my part of the world when I was doing this, old people seemed to think it was a thing... I didn't understand what they were expecting and it just made the whole thing weird.)
    Way too much Black Cat gum, and any candy corn at all... ugh.
    Never enough chocolate bars. Candy Corn in a Pail by TheCulinaryGeek, flickr cc attrib/comm use license
    Random weird 'treats' that mom or dad throw out as unsafe or unacceptable, (or steal to eat themselves) or to 'trade' for things the parents are okay with the kids having.
    Big kids stealing medium-sized kids' loot. Little kids crying from exhaustion, confusion or because they were freezing. Sore feet. Cold, sore feet. Fun fun fun?
    Seriously, the only part that was fun, really, was having the candy, and doing the dressup and seeing what others dressed up as... 
    So, my kids didn't 'get' to do the blocks of walking in whatever weather in uncomfortable costumes... well, when they were older, they did... and 'loved' it so much, they did it only once or twice... although they still dress up for Halloween with enthusiasm.
    Back, again, to when I was growing up (when the Peanuts specials on tv were new) ... there were a couple of families I knew who did pretty much everything different from how life was around me. The parents were involved in setting up things like the circus  or fair or holiday in the backyard (and sometimes the house), with decorations and costumes made from things around the house, kids performing acts or tricks, and sometimes the parents doing the same, with carnival and party games set up and run by kids or parents or both. Now, these were not wealthy families, nor big families --not compared to my 3-kids-family, anyhow.  Working class suburb families. 
    Halloween by Seth Soll flickr cc attrib/comm use licenseThey also did Halloween this way: a bonfire, candles, a costume parade, games with candy prizes, decorations, carved pumpkins, festive foods, scary stories, spooky music, and time outside in the dark, weather permitting ...
    Seriously, the only part that was fun, really, was having the candy, and doing the dressup and seeing what others dressed up as... 
    So when my kids were young, and we hung out with a nearby street of families with kids surrounding my kids' ages, we did the same thing: a potluck dinner with theme / festive foods, a carved pumpkin display, costumes, games, a fire in the back yard (with a permit, because Health & Safety) and (also with a permit) a fireworks show. Five or nine families, I don't remember now exactly, with the parents running the games and chatting, in the yard and house, all the kids dressed up and getting their pictures done, everyone bringing 2 big bags of whatever candy their kids liked (or the parents liked) best. Yay - no Black Cat gum or candy corn at all!)
    Halloween Pumpkin Contest by Amelia Extra, flickr cc attrib/comm use licence
    Now, here we are, all able to forego the cold, sore feet, the exhausted and cold toddlers, the weird people asking their kids to do strange things, the risk of car and pedestrian accidents, the uncomfortable costumes over coats, the risk of Black Cat gum and candy corn... Bummer. 
    We really can have festive celebrations without strangers, crowds, annoyances, or, today, chances of contraccting something scary to bring home to Great Aunt Lil.
    A few ideas:
    • Beanbag toss: into buckets, or rings made of string on the ground, or a board with holes cut in it (ours was re-used party-after-party, painted by one of the parents to be seasonal to whatever was happening this time, sometimes right before the party started) --candy or 'acceptable to parents' prizes, like stickers, small toys, or socks and boxes of raisins and other disappointments for kids
    • Knocking down the bottles / cans, also with beanbags or small balls, shoes or whatever (set up like bowling, or on fence posts or a table) with prizesHalloween Fun by anjanettew, flickr cc attrib/comm use license
    • Pin the thing on the thing --variations for seasonal parties, like the bone (or the heart) on the skeleton, the tail on the Easter bunny, the hat on the elf, the carrot nose on the snowman (we used an old door, painted for the party, and used real a pushpin in a bit of felt or fabric to look like the whatever
    • Pinatas, theme shape (a ghost or a skeleton or a monster or whatever) and filled with small bags of candy, small toys, stickers (expecting rain is very sensible where we lived, so keeping anything paper or unwrapped from getting wet), and small chocolate bars or bags of chips or whatever
    • Spooky storytelling: crank it down for young kids, make it really creepy for teens, like campfire stories*
    • Acting out a spooky story like a play for an audience of parents or stuffed animals or dolls*
    • A costume parade, with photos or selfies that can be added into a slide show that runs while you're eating dinner or playing games, or to share with friends or family you're not getting to see*
    • A pumpkin display, either all of one theme or everyone does their own, complete with the Award Show with prizes for the most unique, the most emotional, the most holes, or whatever you think up as distinctions between them*
    • Bobbing for apples (plums, cherries, grapes or whatever you happen to have or like eating) --an activity that is no fun at all if you are not close to the warm indoors and towels, but is harder than you'd think
    • Decorated cookies and / or cupcakes, or a station of bare cookies / cupcakes and frosting / sprinkles / picks or whatever you have (or make) for the kids to decorate (one each or a whole batch), with prizes (if you've run out of reasons to give them more candy) the same as for the pumpkins
    • Costumes the kids come up with that they have to use things from around the house to make, or a contest of 'which team can make a mummy out of toilet paper first' (something to do with that hoard of tp from March that will be dust before you can use it up in 8 years?)*
    • Party games of any kind, theme or not, that you think might be fun --whether silly, physical, cooperative, board games or some variation on tag / hide-and-seek
    • Bean Bag Toss by Erik (HASH) Hashman, flickr cc attrib/comm use licenseTreasure hunts (another way to give out candy so everyone gets the same amount, and older kids can help younger kids with the finding) from a list, or a set of pictures (or if it's all candy, sample wrappers stapled to a sheet of paper, from the candy you ate before Halloween!)
    • Races, complicated (to handicap older kids or parents to make them fair) like crawling, going backwards, relays, carrying things, filling things, moving things from one side to the other, or moving as slowly, like a zombie, or only on one colour of tile, or an obstacle course
    • Singing songs (themed, like The Monster Mash, or whatever)*
    • If permitted and you have the safe space and know-how, a chemical fire show --a fire that lights itself, or one that changes colours, or throwing things into it at specific points in the story
    • Memory games, like "Packing to go to Grandma's house" or "Mr. Mulligan's Cat" that use the alphabet for each item added to the list until you run out of letters or someone goes blank --the sillier the better; often little kids are better at these than parents, which is fun for them*
    • Dinner (or lunch, or both) made of or include a few spooky / decorated theme foods, like Witches Fingers, Eyeball Jelly, Cat Litterbox Cake, etc...  easy to find recipes online
    * All items marked with an asterisk can easily be done for or in an online party, to celebrate together ... and everything else can be videoed to watch later or share or show at the wedding ... as you choose.


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