Holding a Halloween celebration in your house can be as easy as pumpkin pie. Follow these basic ideas and get ready to spook!
When we lived in Beijing, our family became hooked on Halloween. Like, seriously hooked – it’s just the most fantastically frightening fun. And being a party-throwing maniac, I knew it would be without question we’d need to continue the tradition back home in Australia.
I’m therefore throwing the kids a Halloween party at home this year. I just can’t resist. I’m already planning and plotting all the freakishly good fun and setting a monstrous mood. I’d really love to hold a trick-or-treat as well, but seeing as though we’re new in town and haven’t really managed to street party with the neighbours (yet), that might have to wait for next year.
If you’re also not too keen to hold a trick-or-treat, you could host a smashing pumpkin party instead – or organise a trick-or-treating session just amongst family and friends. To get your creative puke juices flowing, here are some ideas that may it inspire you to unearth some creepy sentiment and get into the – er – spirit of this ancient pagan festival.
ALL HALLOW’S EVE
The origins of Halloween go back 2000 years to the Celts who celebrated the new year on 1 November. The Celts believed that on new year’s eve —31 October—the veil between the living and the dead became very thin—and this was when the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. This time was called Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
By the 800s, the Christian church, attempting to replace this pagan festival of the dead with something more church-worthy, designated 1 November All Saint’s Day, also called All Hallows Day. Samhain then became known as All Hallow’s Eve, and—eventually—Halloween.
Nowadays, it is the lolly bounty that expedites children to ‘sugar heaven’! In order to scare away the possibility of ghostly possession, people dress up and decorate their homes in the spookiest way they can imagine, then trundle noisily through the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and begging for lollies and sweets —or ‘treats’. If a treat is not forthcoming, the callers can then feel free to play a trick on their victim. Needless to say, the sweets are usually plentiful!
JACK-O-LANTERN AND PUMPKIN CARVING
The Jack-o-Lantern story comes from Irish folklore.
A man named Jack tricked the devil into climbing a tree, and once he’d climbed it, Jack carved a cross into the tree so the devil couldn’t get down. Jack promised to let the devil down if he never tempted him again. When Jack eventually died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his trickery, and was also denied entrance to Hell by the devil. Because he was left in limbo, the devil gave Jack an ember that he kept in a turnip shell.
Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, these shonky shenanigans promise the kids a ghoulishly hilarious time. Think it’s impossible to hold a trick or treat without freaking out the family or alienating the neighbours? Not so. Read on…
- If you decide to have a party before your trick or treat, choose a venue that can accommodate your guests, a table laden with goodies, lots of eerie decorations, and some space for games. Oh—and being able to make it dark is good.
- Ask party guests to bring along a plate—pot luck is far less stressful and shares the load.
- Be sure to check with your neighbours if they would be willing to provide trick or treats for the kids. It may be best to leave notes in letterboxes asking them to contact you if they wish to participate, so they can think about it with no pressure.
- Advise them you will take full responsibility for keeping their property clean and free of lolly wrappers, and that residents who do not wish to be involved will be left undisturbed. Also tell them what times you are expecting to be treating, and ensure you adhere strictly to these hours.
- The guest-list depends on your space and your treating set-up. Invitees should probably be limited to twelve years old and under.
- Send out invitations and a meeting place to gather and group children together. The invitation should state the date, the age of the children permissible, the meeting time and point and the duration of the treating (one hour is usually plenty). Make sure you remind participants to bring along a bag to stash all their treats!
- Request an RSVP date from guests, reminding them if they do not ‘register’, they cannot be included at the last minute. Your treat givers will need numbers in advance!
- Be sure to indicate on your invitation that one parent must accompany their children and/or friends’ children, even those at the older end of the scale. No children must wander alone in a group without at least one adult. Being the organiser, you do not want this responsibility, so designate it.
- Remind participants to dress up to the nines!
- In your note to potentional treat-givers, explain briefly what Halloween and trick-or-treating entails (for the benefit of those who have never had exposure to the festival), then ask if they would be willing to hand out treats (at their own expense). If they want to be involved, ask them to contact you and also ask them to place the flyer on their front door between the hours you have nominated for the treating.
- Assure them that if they do not wish to be involved, they will NOT be disturbed by treaters.
- Make sure you provide adequate contact details so the resident can get in touch with you to ask questions.
It is a good idea to update treat-givers on how many children you are expecting to be treating. This allows the givers to stock up on the right amount of treats.
Ask treat givers to only offer fully wrapped candy that is not tampered with – it’s probably best to only ask neighbours you know and trust.
Ask someone to represent your own house if no one can stay home and hand out treats for you.
PULLING IT TOGETHER
- Keep a list of the treat-givers’ street numbers—names are not needed. Print this list to give to treaters.
- When your guests arrive at the designated meeting point, hand them an address list so treaters can cover houses more easily and won’t need to enter the properties of non-participants. Remind them that participating houses will display a Halloween sign on their front door.
- Divide children into groups of six or less, if possible. Make sure at least one adult accommodates each group. If you wish, hand them a ‘Rules’ paper, which could include the following suggestions:
- Please ensure you take all lolly wrappers with you
- Please keep noise levels reasonable
- Remember not to knock on doors unless they display the Halloween notice
- Be sure to finish by the designated time
- Treat all properties and treat-givers with respect
- Be prepared for littlies to perhaps receive a fright!
- As soon as children are divided into groups, begin sending them off to houses. This helps enormously if you have large numbers of children. Send them to differing areas so they don’t get clogged in one spot.
- Try to keep similarly aged children in groups.
- Remind guests to bring along a labelled bottle of water—treating and lolly consumption is very thirsty work!
Creepy cupcakes, pickled cauliflower brains, brittle bones, moaning marshmallows… a little creative preparation goes a long way…
Making the effort to host a Halloween trick-or-treat is truly one of the most worthwhile experiences you can give your child. So many people love the involvement, and the party atmosphere is totally engaging and enormous fun. A word of warning—the kids will be on a high for hours and it won’t necessarily be from the sugar!
Don’t miss Mortals Beware! A Frightful Halloween Party for some supernaturally spooky Halloween food, game and decoration ideas.
Photographs Tania McCartney.