Fall is in the air and in my house we are eagerly anticipating Halloween. Now, this isn’t to say we don’t talk about Halloween all year. Choosing the right costume is so important the kids plan what they are going to wear beginning as early as November. Yes, one year before the holiday we start declaring what we will be. So far, over the past year we have planned on being the “Scooby Doo” gang, the “Grease” characters, zombies, Easter bunnies and pirates. It’s a good thing my mom has made many costumes, because trying them on and planning is a big part of the fun. My only rule for costumes is that I won’t go to a Halloween store and buy one. My poor kids — the costume has to be homemade.
Last year we each had three costumes. One for school (somehow dressing as a devil and a zombie at a Catholic school seemed ... wrong), one for a party and one for trick-or-treating. I read once that people used to dress up on Halloween so evil spirits who come out that day wouldn’t recognize them, so I guess this way we’re pretty safe. I had a lot of fun dressing up as Titania, Queen of the Fairies last year for an adult party. I may or may not have spent too much time talking to a Nick Bottom-type character, but oh well, this is one of the perils of Halloween. At least I looked good.
When I was young, my friends and I used to go trick-or-treating. My aunts Janet and Debbie took all of us cousins a few times. They would drive us around to nearby neighborhoods, drop us off at the end of one street and pick us up one block later. I remember them telling us if we weren’t good they would take us to the pumpkin patch and drop us off there. My big brother Christian said he wouldn’t mind. It seems at some point they actually did drive Chris to a pumpkin patch so he could show us all how brave he was.
My dad said he used to go trick-or-treating, too. I was surprised; somehow I thought this was some new event created by marketing campaigns. But no, waaaaaaay back in the 1950s (kidding! kidding!) people also used to dress up and go door to door seeking candy. The only difference was that back then parents weren’t generally quite so paranoid as we are now. My dad said his parents, after making them go around to the neighbors’ houses (half a mile away in the country) would drive them into town so they could trick-or-treat around their grandparents’ house. Only in those times the adults didn’t wait patiently at each street corner, they just waved good-bye and knew their kids would likely eventually come back.
The last time I went trick-or-treating I was 14. I dressed as a snowboarder, not too far-fetched a costume, considering it snowed that year. A couple of my friends and I knew it was our last shot at childhood, so we tried really hard to make ourselves look as young as possible. Not really easy, considering at 14 we were all essentially full-grown. But who can blame us? — trick-or-treating is so much fun. Now I bring my own children trick-or-treating.
I remember as a young adult when people first started taking their kids downtown in the daylight. I couldn’t believe it — what an adulteration of Halloween! Trick-or-treating in daylight? At businesses? Lame. But, you know, it’s fun. I love seeing all the different costumes, seeing friends and acquaintances with their kids. I don’t usually let my kids wait in the long lines for the candy, I tell them they can get candy at home, so not to worry — especially because we never really get any trick-or-treaters. I buy candy just in case, though; I just make sure it is something I won’t eat if I’m left with a bag of it. No way are any Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Kit Kats going to enter my home. Somehow, if they do I feel this obligation to eat them all. I buy Jolly Ranchers or other sour candy so there is no temptation.
Happy Halloween. Don’t forget your costumes — you wouldn’t want those evil spirits to recognize you!
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native, middle school dual language teacher and mom to two children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.