Warm summer breezes become a memory. The increasingly crisp air is laced with the smell of wood smoke and fallen leaves, and we prepare for the spooky, ghoulish, sugary fun of Halloween!
While Halloween has ancient roots in Celtic celebrations of the dead, and was carried to the United States by Irish immigrants, it didn’t resemble the festive holiday we recognize until the 20th century. In the growing postwar suburbs of the early 1950’s, families free from sugar rationing began organizing neighborhood trick-or-treating and decorating their homes with jack o’ lanterns.
The jack o’ lantern is also an old Irish tradition originally carved from potatoes, turnips and beets. Later, immigrants and other Americans began carving jack o’ lanterns from pumpkins, which are native to North America.
The term jack o’ lantern comes from the story of Stingy Jack, who played various tricks on the Devil, eventually finding himself cursed to walk the night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack placed the burning coal in a carved out turnip, as the story goes, and has been wandering the night ever since.
Because the “trick” part of trick-or-treating has long been a concern, neighborhood celebrations have been a safe haven of celebration for just as long. And just as the holiday itself has evolved, so have the festive rituals surrounding trick-or-treating and jack o’ lanterns. Here are some of the newer fads, centered around neighborhoods and family oriented fun:
“Booing” or “Ghosting”
This new Halloween tradition is a polite and playful version of the old neighborhood trick ding-dong ditch. Instead of ringing your neighbor’s bell and running away, leaving them with a puzzled and upset expression, you leave them a goody bag (filled with candy and other treats) with a note. In the note, let your neighbors know they’ve been “Booed” or “Ghosted,” and tell them to pass it on to two more neighbors.
Kids love the ringing and running, and everyone loves the playfulness, not to mention the treats! For added fun, make “ghost pops” out of lollipops covered in white tissue paper. Tie the tissue on with string or a rubber band and let the kids draw ghost faces on them.
For Halloween fun that caters to adults and kids alike, many neighborhoods host Halloween block parties. This requires neighborhood participation and some preparation, but the results are unforgettable!
Staged in two shifts, the early shift is devoted to trick-or-treating for the kids, followed by a kids party/slumber party at one of the neighborhood homes (hosting responsibilities rotate year to year).
Once the kids are safely celebrating their sugary Halloween booty at the neighborhood party, the adults get dressed up for a stroll and celebration of their own. Neighbors stroll from home to home, stopping briefly for treats and festive beverages at a series of homes, culminating in one, larger party.
In some neighborhoods, they pitch in and rent a trailer, turning it into a hay-ride! Adults enjoy the neighborhood tour of festivities pulled by a designated driver.
Whose already adorable pet isn’t even more adorable—and hilarious—when dressed in a fun costume? Add to the fun by hosting a neighborhood contest for the best dressed pet! Or see if your local Murdoch’s hosts a Growl-O-Ween contest.
Work-of-Art Pumpkin Carving & Painting
Thanks to Pinterest, pumpkin carving and painting have become wonderfully elaborate, involving templates and days of careful carving. Once the work is done, though, you can photograph and post your results for everyone to see! Murdoch’s recommends getting out your DeWalt tools for extra special carving fun.
The “Pumpkin Fairy”
So, your Halloween festivities were wonderfully fun and safe for all… and your kids have collected enough candy to induce months of sugar-fueled mania. What’s a parent to do? Fortunately, crafty and creative parents hatched the notion of the “Pumpkin Fairy.” Excess candy gets exchanged for fun and educational gifts. Typically, the gifts are smaller ones, of the Christmas-stocking variety. It’s a best-of-both-worlds solution, allowing kids to enjoy trick-or-treating without over indulging.
Happy Halloween from all of us at Murdoch’s!!!