Friday, October 31, 2008

Opting out of Hallowe'en

About four years ago I realized we were "doing Hallowe'en" entirely out of a sense of obligation. I felt obligated to create unique costumes for the kids, they felt obligated to wear them and wander around in the typical almost-freezing drizzle of November's eve, and we all disliked our obligations. When I had one or two children and was much less busy costumes were fun to make. But since our fall now usually means being away during September and returning home in October to a full roster of activities and organizational obligations, while we try to work the kinks out of the schedule and get it all smoothly running, October 31st loomed far too big far too soon. I'd rather be making jelly and knitting mittens and transcribing Violin 3 parts for the community orchestra than trying to cobble together costumes for four. The kids ... well, being outside after dark in the freezing rain isn't something that appeals to them. They're up late all the time, and outside whenever they feel like it. And they are certainly not kids who relish dressing up in order to drive to town and spend 34 minutes walking around the streets there asserting themselves at the doors of relative strangers. They've also disliked the candy-crazed energy of other children's trick-or-treating when they're gone out with friends.

And so I offered my kids a deal. I would spend twenty bucks or so on costume-making supplies so that they could go out trick-or-treating, or else I would spend twenty bucks or so on candy and just give it to them. And they could sit on the living room floor and eat their hoard and watch a video and we could all be done with it.

They took the candy.

Right now they're scarfing Nerds and watching Princess Bride.


  1. sounds like a great deal! we had never done halloween till we moved to this village, but it is done really nicely here, with a v clear rule of only knocking where there is a lit pumpkin or loads of halloween trimmings, and only knocking once.
    it is nearly enjoyable for parents too - prob because you know that the knocking is on doors that want to be knocked on! and not that crazy - i don't think it is quite so big a deal in the UK still, though it was near ignored when i was a child.
    we had a cold but clear and v v starry night

  2. We live overseas and trick-or-treating is just starting here. Actually, I am considering taking the kids next year out for the first time so they have at least had the experience. For now we always have a very small party. Mostly because I love making Halloweeny foods (blood juice, spider web cookies, bat cake etc.). They quite enjoyed it this year!

  3. Anonymous10:25 am

    I wonder why they needed to make a deal as it appears they didn't want to do it anyway.

  4. Well, Anon, I think they had tended to do something they disliked not only because it was expected, but also in large part because it got them free gross candy. And my sense was that they felt something special ought to happen on that night. Everyone asks "what're you going out as for Hallowe'en" and my kids like to be able to say "we don't go out -- we have a party at home instead" rather than just "we don't go out," a comment which tends to invite all sorts of incredulity and chiding. A Jack-o-lantern, a movie and a free gross candy feast seemed to fit the bill without any of the additional hassle.

  5. Anonymous6:25 pm

    I'm with you Miranda. Down here in NZ Halloween is just becoming more and more of a "thing" meaning walking around in the warm Spring evening trick or treating. It's the seasonal thing for just doesn't make sense here. So next year we're opting out too and plan to make it the marker for our first camping weekend of the season. jacinda

  6. We did something different this year too. We got together with a few other homeschool families at one families home in the country. We decorated up the garage and everyone brought a potluck item. Everyone, parents included, dressed up. The dads took the kids for a short jaunt around the acerages on a trailer on the back of a truck while the moms stayed behind, made a fire and tried out roasted marshmallows with Baileys. Then the kids came back and we did pumkin carving. It was a great way to spend Halloween for all of us.

  7. I have to say this is an exchange I never would've made. I enjoy making the outfits, using my creative and logical sides together to come up with clever but simple outfits. But most of all I hate the excess of sweets in the house afterwards.

    I don't think my kids would take this exchange either. I really think they'd do it without the sweets. My son (sugar-rush boy that he is) didn't even eat any sweets that evening. He lives for dressing up and enjoyed an excuse for it, and a succession of captive audiences. Perhaps more of an introvert/extrovert thing here?

    The other thing is that helps my enjoyment is the knowledge that already at 5 my son is starting to make some of his own dress-up outfits, so I doubt my services will be required when he is 9, let alone 14 (and trick-or-treating here is for pretty small kids, you wouldn't see a teenager trick-or-treating anyway).


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