Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Epic Halloween Post to You

This post has been swirling in my mind for a couple of years now. 

First of all because I became amazed--and I don't use that word lightly here--I am in total bewilderment at the amount of money and energy people spend on Halloween decorations and costumes.  What the heck is going on with this holiday, and where is all of this disposable income coming from?

Halloween 1962-1980:
My mom's box of halloween costumes was limited.  She had a witch costume.  And the stand-by hobo look.  Other than that you dressed up from stuff around the house.  I did notice in the costume parade at school that some kids were getting a little more time and attention paid to their costumes, but no big deal.  This day was a perfect excuse for a classroom party which means the mom's brought in cookies for us.  Yippee.  Trick-or-treating by teenagers was not allowed and considered rude.  Trick-or-Treating was only for elementary school-aged kids period.
At our house, and many others, there was ONE family pumpkin.  We sat down as sibblings, decided on what would be carved, and worked together to carve this ONE pumpkin.  This was done in the late afternoon.  Then said pumpkin was placed on the porch with a candle in it, and viola, house was decorated for halloween.  Was I aware that some families had multiple pumpkins, one for each child?  Yes.  Oh, the luxury.  But I was from practical, economy-driven stock, and why should they spend 25¢ so that we could each have our own pumpkin when the thing was just going to be thrown out at the end of the night?  Just work together and carve this one pumpkin and be thankful you have the opportunity to do you know how many starving children there are in China that would give anything to get a small portion of what you have???  The decision of carving the pumpkin was basically how big were the triangle eyes? and do they go here and here, or right here?  and which side of the pumpkin is the best view to carve the face in?  Because.....THERE WAS ONLY ONE FACE THAT THAT PUMPKIN WAS GOING TO GET:  (always. every year. no variance. this was it, as it was on most every pumpkin I ever saw later that night)

At our house, every year we had chili.  As soon as it was dark, we put on our costumes and headed out.  With a parent and a few blocks of the neighborhood.  We came back, poured our loot out on the floor, ooh and awed at the variety, and started eating.

And that was that.  Halloween, done and done.

Quick refresher of Halloween.  It started and ended on the 31st.  Got dressed for school.  Brought your costume in a bag.  Went through the school day and after lunch put your costume on over your clothes.  Did a parade.  Ate cookies in class.  Went home and carved one pumpkin with your brothers and sisters.  Ate chili.  Went trick-or-treating for an hour with your dad.  Came home, put the loot in a bowl.  Went to bed.


Halloween 1986-2007
Costumes:  Yes.  I bumped it up a notch allowing a variety of costumes.  I didn't just give my kids the choice of two.  But I did set a budget and tried to make do with what was around the house.  Halloween stores started popping up and there was no way in Halloween induced hell I was going to pay $30 or more to buy a costume.  We had some ghosts on display around the house.  A hanging annoying ghost that boo'd at you when you walked by - and with 5 kids running around the house it was always going off.

The biggest difference here was that I was now in the state of Nevada.  And October 31st is our statehood day.  Which means that it's a State Holiday.  No school.  So now the costume parade and cookies by the parents had to be held on the 30th.  And the costumes were a little more involved.
We started out with the traditional one for the family.  But in the back of my mind, the rich kids each got their own.  And who doesn't want to think they're rich?  Reality for a mom of a bunch of young kids, flying knives and slimy pumpkins are a recipe for disaster.  When the older two were old enough to carve their own pumpkins, I started buying them each their own pumpkins.  Since the 31st was a school holiday and the kids were home, we carved pumpkins earlier in the day.
I'm crushed.  My husband is not a fan of chili.  I could not continue the Chili tradition.  Pizza became my easy, quick, go to dinner for Halloween.  Trick-or-treating at dusk, several blocks.  Half way through my kid-raising years the church we go to started having Trunk-or-Treat as a safe alternative.  So we went to that, then the kids went around our own neighborhood anyway.

Here's where things started going askew for me.  As the kids got older they wanted to KEEP going trick-or-treating.  I was raised that was rude, but all their friends seemed to be doing it?  What to do. What to do.  Always in a mode to protect my mom sanity this became the solution:  I will only help the younger children with costumes and trick-or-treating.  If you are over 12 years old, you're on your own to design and make the costume.  You could only go out with a group of friends.  That seemed to work for us me. 

Quick Refresher.  It's started on the 30th because of Nevada Day, ended on the 31st.

Halloween 2013
Costumes:  They seem to have evolved into quite a production of professional quality.  Better hope you can sew or have a grandmother that does, and spending $30 or more per child is not unheard of.  Nevada Day has now become a separate 4th Friday of the month holiday, so the kids are back to having it on the actual 31st in school.  BUT.  At church, Trunk-or-Treat is now standard activity.  Some wards have strayed from the 31st to the Friday or Saturday before.  At that point you're not offering a safe alternative, but an excuse for a ward party.  Who wants to get their whole family dressed up for Halloween two different nights?  And instead of buying one bag of candy for a handful of visitors I would expect at my house, I'm now buying $50 worth of candy (two large tuperware bowls) to pass out at the church to a group of kids that go round and round and round three times plus all the neighborhood kid that join in.  I'm not complaining, I've always done it, I am just stating a differnce on how this has all evolved.
Pumpkins:  The standard jock o'lantern face is not acceptable any longer.  These pumpkins must be elaborate pictures cut into the rind.  Intricate designs that involve the help of parents, and a special pumpkin carving tool kit.  And it is now standard for each child to have their own pumpkin.  And all of a sudden it's dangerous to put a candle in a pumpkin? What the?  You have to use glow sticks?

Dinner:  We're back to having chili.  Now it's served at the trunk-or-treat.  Which, thankfully, my ward is doing it this year on the actual Halloween night.

Here's the killer.  Since I've never been one to turn the outside of my house into an elaborate fake web of Halloween decorations, it's pretty plane except for the traditional glowing pumpkin.  But I'm at the church, not my house, remember?  So what we have is a dark undecorated house, that we're not home at because we're at the church.  I thought nothing of it until a few years ago the radio and news started running stories about child molesters and how they are not allowed to decorate for Halloween or hand out candy.  Great.  Now my neighbors think we're child molesters.

The biggest change of all is the number of families that dress up.  Parents and children.  And themes.  It's crazy.  At first it was kind of unusual to see older people dress up.  But now, it's almost standard.  The amount of time, money, and energy that needs to go into this is mind boggling.  How in the heck do you 20-somethings have all of this time, money and energy? 

There is no longer just a party at school, but every organization and club your children are in have some sort of dress up.  Mothers are putting their kids into costume 3 and 4 times before the holiday is over.

For what?  What is the lure of Halloween? Why are we doing this to ourselves?  I honestly don't get it. 

Quick Refresher: 
Halloween in the 2010's:  It is a freaking all-week-long extravaganza.
I love Halloween for the children.  Watching their excitement as they parage their costumes, the originality of what they dress up as, handing them candy and talking to them.  I love that. 
I just think sometimes simple is better.  Why can't we notch it back down with this holiday?

No comments: