I am very ambivalent about Hallowe’en, have been since I was about ten.
As a parent, when our eldest was 3, we were being pressured by family and friends (seriously), to take her trick or treating. Let me get this straight, I thought at the time. My child who is normally in bed and fast asleep by 7pm is supposed to be dressed up in something cute, walked up and down a subdivision road so she can beg at doors of strangers for candy…which I wouldn’t normally ever give her. This makes a lot of sense, not.
I had to admit, however, that I’d enjoyed trick or treating, dressing up and begging for candy from strangers just fine when I was 5 or 6, quite a lot actually, so I felt guilty denying her the opportunity. Hubby took her out with my sister-in-law and our wee nephew. After 4 houses, she was too tired to keep walking, at which point he picked her up and carried her house to house, so she would have enough candy. !!!! is basically what I said when they got home.
She did of course go out trick or treating every year after that with great enthusiasm, joined after a couple of years by her sister and my nephew’s little sister. We don’t live in a trick or treat area – houses spaced far apart down long driveways, no streetlights, etc. So we took them to my sister-in-law’s parents home on a cul de sac in the village, where we all enjoyed hot dogs first and my sister-in-laws parents seeded their treat bags with candy before sending us out the door. I enjoyed the family time of those years, a chance for the young cousins to all be together, and yes, a few chocolate bars for myself.
But I hated the temper tantrums about costumes, the whiny voices as greed trumped tiredness – just one more house, we haaaave to, the firecrackers. The year that the school no longer handed out UNICEF boxes for the kids to collect pennies was the year I felt most “done” with the whole thing. Or maybe the year that one kid dipped into the other kid’s stash of goodies, and was caught, but took the line that her sister got more, it wasn’t fair. Grrr.
So after a chat with my husband in which we did not see eye to eye (and still don’t on this one), but in which he generously allowed me to put my foot down, I announced some years ago that once the girls reached high school (grade 9, age 14) they would no longer be going trick or treating. I thought I’d already heard whining, but I was in for much, much more. I repeated my reasons over and over: teens taller than the homeowner begging with pillowcases at the door are intimidating. Teens out after dark in unsupervised groups look like trouble, might in fact BE trouble, and are likely to be treated as such. There are other ways to enjoy junk food and the company of friends, and you’re old enough to organize them. I am happy to help with that, if you want.
Teen 1 solved the problem nicely by offering to take her sister and younger cousins around when she was 14, while we enjoyed adult time indoors. When she was 15, she offered to help a friend who lives on a busy trick or treat street to hand out candy at the door. And the last two years, she’s been invited to a party organized by a friend just down the road, whose parents have similar views to my own, meaning the party is over by 9pm, has adult supervision and corny games, which they hugely enjoy.
Teen 2 reached her non-trick-or-treat age this year. She stressed about it for most of the summer: cajoled, whined (not really), made snide comments, the works, to no avail. I waited it out. About three weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to organize a traditional Hallowe’en party. Pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, etc. So we did. She planned her menu (home made pizza, veggies and dip, candy corn parfaits and junk food), her activities – pumpkins, apple bobbing, cookies on a string and a monster mash dance off. She decorated the house (our black cat got tangled in fake cobweb, and did not appreciate my laughing at her). She and her friends shopped for their costumes at thrift stores.
Among others we had a goth fairy, Batgirl, a character from Hallowe’eentown, a donkey, Miss Scarlett in the library with a knife (my personal fave), a pussycat, and Nickelback. No off the shoulder costumes, no street walker look alikes. No commercially made costumes, except the pussycat ears.
My end of the deal was the pizza fixings and the candy (lots please) for the prizes. She made the candy corn parfaits from a recipe she found online. It is mostly pudding, with chocolate cereal for crunch. I have never bought chocolate cereal in my life, and wasn’t about to begin, so we compromised with chocolate cookie crumbs which I sometimes use to bake with. I haven’t bought instant pudding mix in years either, having found out how to make it from scratch, but in the interests of independence and quantity, we bought the packets.
The party was a lot of fun. For all of us. There was plenty of candy for each kid, plus some leftovers. Being 21st century kids, they used their phones to video each other apple bobbing, but apart from that, they could have been kids from 100 years ago. A simpler time. And not any less fun for all that.
Late edit: maybe not 100 years ago – instant pudding, pizza, and Nickelback didn’t exist, lol.