As we approach the end of October, we come to a day that gave our family a bit of a struggle. When our kids were small, we wrestled with the idea of sending them door to door begging for candy. We cringed at the prospect of our sweet little ones walking up boldly to the door of a neighbor and threatening “trick or treat”. Part of us wanted to look past the words and the begging view and have them participate with our neighborhood friends or other family members in this childhood ritual. Both their father and I had “trick-or-treated” as children- costumes, candy, running the neighborhood for hours. But times have changed, and not so nice meanings and focuses have presented themselves regarding October 31.
We had many family discussions about this day and its activities once the kids started getting old enough to realize what was going on. Loving dress up clothes and costumes, we determined to not let go of that fun. Starting in September we began talking about fun themed costumes they could do together. One year we had Tiger Lily, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Peter Pan and Nana (puppy). Then we hit the year that all three boys were Davy Crocket- coon skin caps and all (those costumes became their standard and what they wanted to be for several years), the girls were American Dolls. The sewing machine was busy in those days.
Early on they tried going down the street with some friends, but when they said, “Happy Halloween” and a neighbor refused to give them candy unless they said “Trick or Treat” our oldest smiled and said, “That’s ok, Happy Halloween.” She took her brother and sister’s hands and came home. Candy wasn’t that important to them, as we had plenty at home, and to tell the truth I think the whole “trick or treat” thing conflicted with “stranger danger” and it crept them out.
So we looked for fun, creative ways to spend the night.
- Many churches offer fun-fair style harvest parties. First we went to participate, then as the kids got older we went to serve. But these weren’t always on October 31.
- We invited friends over for an outdoor campfire, games and treasure hunt -if the night was on a weekend.
- If October 31 fell on a week day, we’d plan a family campfire and then watched a fun new movie.
My absolute favorite was the year we did our own in-house progressive dinner. We divided dinner into three courses: Soup, Salad, and Main Dish. Each course had a movie theme. The kids decorated their room according to the movie and we ate their course in their room. The theme was a secret. The girls had soup and decided to decorate their room for 101 Dalmations. They purchased dog bowls and served the soup in them. They put large black circle spots all over their room- even on the ceiling. We had a portable VHS player and played the movie while we ate our soup from dog dishes. It was fantastic. The boys chose Star Wars. They put their Star Wars toys and picture books all over. We enjoyed our salad and bread as Star Wars played in the background.
I have to confess, it was a bit of work on my part to pull this off. I was helping the kids, but not knowing everything they were doing, making the three courses, helping find needed objects… at the last minute I decided our main dish theme would be family movies. I hung up baby and family vacation pictures all over the kitchen. We played home videos while we ate dinner. Dinner lasted the whole evening and we cleaned up together. It was great.
All in all, instead of trying to ignore the night or reluctantly participate in activities that made us uncomfortable, October 31 turned into a special family night to be creative and spend time together, an opportunity to make some amazing memories.