Haunted happenings are everywhere. Halloween has changed since I was a child, even since my children were young. The holiday has grown in popularity and activities leading up to it have stretched out. This is no longer a one-night event.
I grew up in a small town. You purchased a few pumpkins and carved them with a basic jack-o-lantern face. One year my dad decided to dress ours up by using markers to paint around the carvings. I didn’t like having jack-o-lanterns that weren’t “normal” but everyone coming to our house to trick-or-treat thought they were great.
Store bought costumes were a simple “cover” over the clothing and a plastic mask that covered the front of your face and attached with an elastic band. As we got older costumes might be more of the self-made type. I remember one year my sister went as Mrs. Beasely from a popular show called Family Affair. I don’t know why that one costume stands out. I don’t even remember what I dressed up as most the time. There was always the school party and the parade of costumes throughout the school. Then everyone went home and anticipated dark so they could go out trick-or-treating.
Trick-or-Treating was of course done on the appropriate night regardless of whether the weather was good, rain, or snow. Someone always stayed home to hand out candy and the other parent took out the kids trick-or-treating. The worst part was my mother was very cautious and so we were never allowed to eat our candy for several days. This was back in the 60’s and 70’s when people did things like slip razor blades or needles into fruit or candy, or sometimes use a needle to shoot drugs into candy. She always checked every piece of candy over carefully to see if it appeared to have been tampered with, and then we had to wait a few days to see what type of tampering made the news. It was a horrid wait, but eventually we got the go-ahead to eat whatever we wanted. People were generous with their hand-outs so we always had way more than we could eat anyway. As I got older there was the occasional Halloween party or haunted house, but those were not huge parts of the holiday for us.
By the time I had children things had changed a bit, plus I had moved away from the small town and lived in a much more populated area. Costumes were more detailed and many times people designed their own at home. My son’s first Halloween I dressed him up as a pumpkin and he “helped” me hand out candy while my husband took our daughter out trick-or-treating. One year when she was small I made her a clown costume and have a photo of her looking at herself in the mirror, entranced with her painted on red nose. As the holiday approached we made trips to the cider mills and pumpkin patches. We purchased pattern books and usually spent several days carving elaborate designs into our pumpkins, and of course the seeds had to be roasted. My daughter always enjoyed Halloween, but my son has always loved it so it was a big holiday at our house. As they got older we attended haunted hayrides, and as teens they would go to the large haunted houses. As adults they still love all those activities.
The school parties were much as they had been when I was a child with treats and a costume parade. Parents attended taking photos of the little ones all dressed up. One year there was an announcement over the PA for all the Batmans to meet the principal in the cafeteria for a photograph. The school principal had dressed up as Batman, a popular costume that year, and there were so many Batmans in the school that he decided to have a group shot taken with them.
Nighttime trick-or-treating was done with a pillowcase to hold all the loot. The streets were packed with parents and children going door to door. Most years I stayed home and handed out the goodies and my husband made the rounds with the kids. On occasion I would go out, and it is always fun to see the little ones in costume whether coming to the door or trudging down the streets. My husband started with our kids a tradition they had in their family — putting out sheets of newspaper for each kid to dump and sort their candy on — basically an inventory of the goods collected and a great time to trade. A must in our house – I got all their Butterfinger candy bars!
Now my children are grown with children of their own. Trunk-or-Treats are held everywhere leading up to the big day, and there are plenty of other events related to the holiday as well. Haunted hayrides, trips to the cider mill, trips to the pumpkin patch, and of course traditional trick-or-treating are still alive. I no longer live in a sub division so my only trick-or-treaters are my own grandchildren who are brought by in costume to trick-or-treat at our house. Some things never change, and one year my daughter, Caroline, told Austin, my grandson, that he had to give his Butterfinger to me.
I do not miss the expense of having to purchase several bags of candy to hand out, but I do miss having the children coming to the door all dressed in costume yelling trick-or-treat. In some ways I miss the lengthy carving of the pumpkins, but not the mess it created. I still go to the cider mill, but that is an event everyone should enjoy several times a season.
What are your Halloween Traditions?