Each Halloween that comes and go reminds me of how much I have grown. Initiating my own family rituals, and incorporating those that I learned and participated in as a child, influence the way that my children view Halloween.
As a young girl, I was an active Girl Scout for as many years as I could remember. The season that I looked forward to the most was Halloween, for we actively acted as a troop to make each year better than the one before. Each year, a different leader would take on the daunting task of organizing a Halloween party for all troops in our town. Food, fun, and frights held our minds captive for hours on end every year as we joined together at one house or another. Some years, our own troop would gather together and ride to a neighboring town, where a place called “Santa’s Cottage” hosted a Halloween event. I still remember the hay rides, with people jumping out of bushes and thickets of trees to scare all of us. Once the ride ended, we would mingle for a bit with the people who owned the place, and feast on hot cider, hot chocolate, and donuts. In particular, I looked forward to the small Halloween party that our own troop would throw at our last October meeting every year. It was small and cozy, with friends gathered around to tell ghost stories and share candy and treats.
Being a Girl Scout gave me a lot to look forward to every year when I was younger. Not once did I stop to think that all of the things we did, especially around Halloween, would be things that I missed as an adult. That they would be things that I would want to encourage my own children to participate in. It shaped me in ways that I never thought Halloween could.
In my own family, we had many Halloween traditions. There was school, of course, where we all packed our costumes into our bags and set off for school with high spirits. Each of us knew what we were bringing to our class party, and the anticipation of the day was enough to have us racing through our studies and work so that we could get on with the festivities. It was always work, then lunch, then party time. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Halloween event at our school without the Halloween parade. Class by class, we all lined up in our costumes and waited for the march to begin. As we walked around town, proudly displaying our costumes, we would scan the crowd for faces we knew. The day always ended on a high note, with the prospect of more fun to come.
My mother always made sure that we followed the same ritual on Halloween. It rarely varied. We would return home from school, get out of our costumes, and have an early dinner of store made pizza. Growing up, we lived in a small trailer park in the middle of town, and that would be our first stop for trick or treating. All of the children living in the park would gather in the big field in the middle, bags in hand, and when everyone was there we would start running full bore for the first home. It always took us less than half an hour to visit each home, and by the time we returned back to our own homes it was time to hop in the car and start the event with our parents.
Our route, just like our routine, never varied. We always went to my maternal grandmother’s home first, where she would take pictures. Afterwards, we would go to the beginning of her street and start our trick-or-treating there. Mom would always stay in the car, and park at the end of each block. By the time we caught up to her, she would belt out the next set of homes to go to and where to meet her. Even though our night was planned, and rather routine, it never took the fun out of it. For three hours, she would allow us to run from door to door. Each time our bag filled, we would swing by the car and get a new one, then head back to the fun.
When the night ended, we would always leave our bags on the table and head to bed. Mom and my stepfather took care of the candy, making sure to go through each bag and remove anything that was unwrapped or looked suspicious. By morning time, our bags would be waiting for us to store in our rooms before starting our day. She never rationed our candy, or listened to our complaints when we ate too much. We could skip dinner and replace it with candy. Our only rule was that our teeth had to be diligently brushed so that we didn’t get cavities.
My teenage years brought a whole different kind of Halloween around. Toilet papering, shaving creaming, hanging with rowdy friends… it was all a new prospect on the holiday. For years I managed to enjoy a teenage type of Halloween, returning home with no candy whatsoever, and a head full of shaving cream. It never bothered me that I wasn’t going from home to home anymore. Not then, anyway. Looking back, I would love to go back to the child inside of me, enjoying each treat dropped in my bag and the utter exhaustion of pure bliss that I felt when I dropped into bed at the end of those nights.
I’m grown, mostly physically but a tad mentally/emotionally, and have children of my own. I try to incorporate my own little traditions with them. There’s still the pictures of the children all dressed up, and the hours of trick-or-treating. But now, I go with my older sister and her children. While we walk instead of drive vehicles while the children do their trick-or-treating, we still have peace of mind waiting at the end of every block for our own children. Our mother has never stopped joining in the festivities, and still drives her vehicle every Halloween so the children can empty their bags, or get a ride if they decide that they are done with trick-or-treating.
We still drop by my maternal grandmother’s home each year so our children can get candy. My stepgrandfather is still living, but our grandmother has passed away. There are no pictures of the grandchildren, no extra special goodie bags with the childrens’ names on them. It’s now just a quick drop by at another house where the children get candy.
I make sure to have a warming dinner with my children, since I remembered how I always woke up ravenous the morning after trick-or-treating. The pizza I had for dinner every Halloween as a child wasn’t enough to keep me sustained over night. Much is still the same as it was when I was a child. They still dress up, they still trick-or-treat, they still fall into bed at the end of the night exhausted while I go through bags upon bags of candy to weed out the undesirables.
My own outlook on the holiday has changed, and I try very hard every year to make sure that my children hold onto every last memory of each event that they can. I instill in them the knowledge that these years of trick-or-treating are very few, and there will come a day when they will no longer want to run from one house to the next. I urge them to cherish the day, to choose their costumes every year with a fresh eye (instead of always repeating the same look), and to enjoy the time they have with each other. I encourage them to visit the newest Halloween attraction in our town, a Haunted House splendidly set up that gives tours for hours on end. It always takes roughly an hour just to get in the place, and I soothe my children through the entire thing just so they can proudly say at the end “Hey, I did that!”
A lot has stayed the same, I try to use what I knew as a child to make the holidays bright for my children. The one thing I was never taught, and that I pray my children will never lose, is that those days are precious, no matter what is going on, or what direction the day has gone in.