Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. As a kid I have some fun memories of the school carnival and the sweet lady that lived by grandma who made doughnuts every year. I loved sitting in her kitchen with milk and warm doughnuts. But I also remember how wicked cold it was in Idaho by Halloween. And dark, it was always SO dark, and the fear of the “dog” that might chase you off the property was scary enough in the daylight hours let alone at night! Several years we’d trudge through snow in our costumes, which you couldn’t see because you were wearing winter coats, hats, gloves and boots! We also lived out in the country which meant driving to homes to trick or treat and ultimately that meant we were lucky to get in about a dozen stops. No pillow cases were needed for a candy stash, a Ziploc bag would have sufficed. And boy did you hoard your stash! Not only did you guard it well you devoured it all within the first few days. After you were frozen to the bone you’d go to the school for the carnival where food, fun, games and treats galore waited to greet you.
My kids however LOVE Halloween. Today homes are decorated as well or more so than they are for Christmas and there is at least as much hype around it commercially. I don’t claim to understand this, I just recognize it. Sadly, times have also changed in that you have to be guarded about what you set out. If you don’t want it to grow legs and walk away or if you want that carved pumpkin not get smashed, you can’t put it out unless/until you’re there to watch it. *sigh* Between house decorations and glow lights there’s no dark in Halloween nights anymore.
Trick-or-Treating is different as well, and it brings new meaning to “sugar rush.” Now it’s not safe to go to places you don’t know. If you don’t live in a nice neighborhood where you know your neighbors, you’re best bet is a trunk or treat sponsored by school or church. And that gets crazy too because pillowcases ARE necessary to hold the candy stash! Every year we joke about our process for these goodies. At my house the kids bring home two huge bags filled with penny candies. They spend the first 1-2 days picking through their bags with the novelty of it, pulling out the good stuff – that of course being the mini candy bars, and then the bags are virtually forgotten. I then take the stash, dump it into a container in the pantry and it becomes the “friend” treat stash for all those many days when neighbor kids come over to play and want a treat. The kicker is that even with this process, that container gets a yearly dump about the time Halloween rolls around again to make room for the new stash. It always feels like I throw away the vast majority of those collections each year. We live in a nice neighborhood and so on Halloween night it is crawling with costumed children. Our kids make it down about 3 streets and they have a bag full of candy, and that doesn’t cover more than about 1/8th of our neighborhood. It’s craziness. Then they join to play in the cul-de-sac while parents visit and pass out metric tons of candy to a never ending line of trick-or-treaters.
This year, my husband and I are opening our garage and driveway to fellow parents. We’re going to have chili on hand with some fruit punch and space to pull up a chair. I’ll probably put out the kids pop-up playhouse and tent for the little guys to play in while moms and dads rest and visit. This is what makes the whole Halloween affair enjoyable for us. Having time and reason to sit and visit with other friends.
As an adult I realize why more carnivals don’t happen now. It’s because there are always only a small handful of willing adults to give of their time setting up and manning all the booths and games. The burnout rate must be insane. This past Saturday our church did a carnival night. My husband and I were asked to do a family friendly, G-rated Fear Factor room. It turned out great, but by the time the hour and half were over we were well expired. We didn’t see our own children the entire time because we were busy with the room. Here’s what we did:
Do You Dare?
This was a table with things to feel and touch. I took two boxes and cut openings in the front. I taped down a bowl for contents and had each person brave enough to put their hand in feel what waited inside. I needed the contents to not be gooey or slimy for the mess factor (I wasn’t going to provide towels or napkins for cleaning or wiping), besides that it was completely dark in the room. So I did cooked, cold noodles for that wormy general gross feeling, peeled grapes for eyeballs, uncooked rice for “bugs”, and three kiwi for fuzzy/fury spiders. At the end of the table I stood making up silly rhymes about how hard at work I’d been and how they should put their hands inside if they dared. The final item on the table was my “brain” which was a watermelon carved to look like a brain. It felt cold and weird on the surface and I totally grossed out a few people by digging inside and pulling out a piece to eat.
This was black plastic table covering draped from the top of the chalkboard to the floor in lean-to fashion. I taped string up inside to feel like cobwebs.
This was the pop-up play house with the lit up jack-o-lantern inside. When they got a scare by a hidden “ghoul” coming out of the tunnel they ran to the house to be safe. Just as they got comfortable Blake spooked them. He got leg cramps sitting back behind that house but it was a great ending to the room. I brought them through in small groups of about 7-8 at a time. It felt like we did it a hundred times in the hour and a half it was open.
The other room decor was simple. I put up some lights and tombstones for a small graveyard and cut out eyes to tape up around the door and wall to reflect the black light. I recruited a few kids and covered them with some black table cover so they were invisible until they popped up or reached out from under the dare table to grab feet. The room was finished by making a Halloween sound track to play during the night. It runs 1 minute and we put it on eternal repeat.
My kids are on the countdown for Friday night. I’ve decided it’s more about the hype of dressing up and playing with friends as well as the novelty of collecting treats that gets them excited. For me it was actually obtaining some free candy, for my kids it’s more the collection process and playing with friends that interests them most. I’m looking forward to sitting in my driveway in the great AZ night weather and eating my bowl of chili.