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Ten Top Halloween Traditions in My Family

Published by Mattie Bothe

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Even Before Halloween Exploded into a Global Ghoul Fest My Mother Made the Holiday Special in Low Cost Ways

It was my mother who loved Halloween. For the sheer amount of imagination required to bring off the perfect all Hallows Eve. From the costumes to the decorations and of course food she infused us with the fun, and sometimes deeper, joys of the holiday.

Here the ten ways our spook festival was special year after year.

  1. Pumpkin Picking Day Morning Breakfast

The smell of pumpkin flavored pancakes – complete with raisin eyes and mouths – awoke in us not only hunger but the knowledge that it was pumpkin picking day

Following breakfast a trip to the local pumpkin patch was next. Piling out of the car we knew the rules. We had to pick out not only the best pumpkins for carving and painting jack-o’-lanterns but also the largest misshapen one. Its meat would to be turned into pies.

I know my mother had no clue pumpkin was a healthy food, loaded with carotenoids, fiber and potassium. She knew mixing a can of the mushy glop into the batter turned the pancakes a pretty shade of orange.

  1. Flying Pumpkin Guts

It is inevitable. Put children’s hands into strands of slimy pumpkin innards and something is going to fly.

Recognizing this fact my brother and I were sent outside with not only the standard jack-o’-lantern carving equipment of magic markers, knives, spoons and newspapers – but also donning large garbage bags.

That wise woman, my mother, knew for all the mess several positive things were accomplished. Jack-o’-lanterns were made, we played in the fresh air and most importantly there were no complaints about taking a bath that night.

  1. Meet the Pumpkin Family

Besides carving out pumpkins our artistic skills were put to use by creating acrylic paint faces on the ribbed orange surfaces. Newspapers provided the stuffing as we shaped old clothes into limbs of a pumpkin headed family. Arranged in lawn chairs on our front porch the Pumpkinettes, as we called them, provided a seasonal welcoming committee to all with little cost.

  1. Ghostly Garlands

With a few simple items – we had more ghosts at our house than a paranormal convention in Salem, Massachusetts.

Wads of paper towel were stuffed into a corner of the small white trash bags as the fishing line was wrapped around the bottom of the lump before being tied off – but not cut. Then the process would repeat itself until we had literally a line of ghosts. Thanks to the near invisible fishing line we could weave the poltergeists through tree branches or around door frames and create the image of spooks in frightful flight. Once again the cost was minimal and the creation fun.

  1. Linus, Pass the Doughnuts Please

Only the Grinch of Halloween would confess to not loving the television classic it’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

Half an hour prior to the annual Halloween adventures of the Peanuts gang hitting the airwaves we were smacking a cylinder of pop n’ fresh biscuits against the kitchen table.

Punching a hole in each of the rubbery dough circles a doughnut was fashioned. Then carefully placed into a skillet pan, full of canola oil we waited until they rose to the surface crispy and brown. Dunkin Doughnuts had nothing on us as the hot fried morsels were then thrown into a paper bag full of cinnamon sugar and tossed.

Armed with our delectable goodies and glasses of milk life was sweet as we watched the ever vigilant Linus and his quest to celebrate the Great Pumpkin

  1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The importance of the written word was paramount in our family.

Right before bedtime, during the week preceding Halloween, illuminated by the glow from candles and a crackling fire – our father would read from the Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.

In the quiet darkness our minds could imagine the thin and nervous school master Ichabod Crane who rode atop his horse with his sharp elbows stuck out like a grasshopper’s, the blustery Brom Bones, coquettish Katrina and of course the horrible the Headless Horseman himself.

No movie since has matched the images my childhood mind concocted.

  1. A Message of Good to outdo the Evil

While Halloween is filled with fun for many the sights of witches and devils conjure up evil. So a note of glad tidings was included in our bags of candy. Admittedly, writing 50 messages of you are a great person became tiring quickly. But in hindsight at my mother’s funeral – a few grown ups came up to me with tears in their eyes at the memory of those trick and treat bags. So it was a lesson whose importance came years later.

  1. Luminarias

The night before Halloween our garage was transformed into a luminaria factory. Brown paper lunch bags filled a quarter with sand had a votive candle stuck in the middle. Providing no rain was forecast we would space them every few feet from the sidewalk to the front porch to light the way for masked trick or treaters.

When lit the effect was stunning. It also taught us a new word in Spanish.

  1. The Halloween Play

Following the tabulation of the Halloween haul of goodies family and friends would gather in the living room. It was time to present out annual Halloween play.

With a tape recorder, my brother and I ran around for the weeks preceding October 31st capturing noises. Then we would concoct a play using sounds of dogs barking, doors squeaking, people yelling and one memorable year the sound of air being let out of a balloon slowly.

Polite applause always accompanied our finale, however the year of the slow leaking balloon our bows were met by thunderous ovations. Casper the Farting Ghost had been a smash hit!

  1. The Spirit Halloween Continues

Following Halloween costumes were stored, ghosts grounded and the Pumpkinettes taken apart. Their attire of old clothes were cleaned and pressed. Then with a large bag and a pumpkin pie from each of us my family would drive to the local homeless shelter and present them to the inhabitants

No tricks this time – just a treat to the soul for all involved.



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