Halloweening, Familia Style

When I was a kid, there was a minister who lived next door to us. He refused to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Instead, they got little Christian tracts on how evil and satanic the holiday was. At the time, I just thought he was weird. But I could do without Halloween now.

In fact, not seeing spider webs, creepy masks, and gravestones all over people’s yards and store windows every October was one of the things I loved about living abroad. Not to mention the fact that I didn’t have to either let my kids gorge themselves on candy for the entire first week of November or be the “mean” mom who takes it all away.

Unfortunately, this year we moved back to the U.S. just in time for Halloween. So I am faced with my Halloween dilemma.

I don’t know why this is, but Mormons in the U.S. really love Halloween. Most wards host a “trunk-or-treat” at which people decorate the trunks of their cars, park them in the church parking lot, and hand out candy to costumed children from them. The sugar orgy usually continues inside the church with additional games and treats. I remember being absolutely thrilled one year to win a hideous chocolate spider cake in the cake walk.

The “trunk-or-treat” concept was originally developed in response to all the concerns about Halloween safety. It was felt that it was important to provide a safe place for children to gorge on candy. However, since the church party was typically held a few days before Halloween, I knew many families who went trick-or-treating too, at least to the houses of family and friends. So in my candy-hating mother mind, trunk-or-treat actually makes the situation worse, not better.

We skipped the trunk-or-treat this year, but my kids got plastic gloves full of popcorn and candy corn today at church, and candy at library story hour yesterday. Still, I don’t want them to feel like they’re missing out on Halloween, so I’ve looked around for alternatives.

One of my Protestant friends recommended having a “Reformation party,” since Martin Luther nailed up his 99 theses on All Saints Eve. I love this idea, but I think I’ll wait until we’ve been through the Reformation in our history readings, and the children have some context.

Charlotte, a mom on one of the many homeschooling email lists to which I subscribe described her family’s Halloween tradition like this:

We live out in the country. We meet with two other families on a predetermined evening. The children, (5 in all), exchange gifts, (usually books or craft supplies). One of the moms, (the most organized of us 3), has our route planned. We visit 6 homes. The owners are aware that we are coming in advance. Two homes are widows, two are elderly and two are grandparents of our small group.

The children wear costumes and we spend 15-30 minutes at each stop. Some offer candy, others homemade treats, (safe because we’ve known these people our entire lives). One stop always serves us supper, another always has cake and ice cream for dessert. Sometimes, an activity has been planned at a particular stop. The children often have made drawings/ cards, or have picked bouquets of wildflowers to leave.

This has been a wonderful outreach. One widow in particular looks forward to our visit all year. She lives miles from town and can’t drive and feels isolated I’m sure. Before us, she never had trick-or-treaters because she lives on an untraveled dirt road. She loves decorating her porch and entryway for the children.

I loved her idea of turning Halloween into a service, family, and community outreach evening. Maybe sometime I’ll get that organized.

In the meantime, what we have planned is a family Halloween party with Grammy and Pampa. We’ll carve our pumpkins, bob for apples, decorate (healthy) cookies (with my honey-cream cheese frosting, nuts, dried fruit, etc.), and play games.

Yeah, I’m a spoilsport. At least it only happens once a year.

photo credits:

1. Our newlywed Halloween, back before I had kids and became such a wet blanket. If you look closely, you’ll see that the earring on Tony’s pirate pumpkin is his wedding ring.

2. My awesome brother Samuel, who when his firstborn son arrives in January will most likely be naming him Yoda.

7 thoughts on “Halloweening, Familia Style

  • November 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    I love your party idea, Kate. That sounds like a perfect cross-cultural holiday.

  • November 3, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I have to admit I love Halloween and hate Christmas. Not logical or rational. I just do.
    I don’t like the tons of candy but I love the neighborly feel of trick or treating, it is almost a take back the night for kids.
    And I love the reminder that death is part of our lives so we should celebrate while we live.

    I guess that’s what I love most about halloween, that it’s the one time we in american culture remember our dead and our mortality.

    At our place, we try to have a “Missing the Old World” party around this time where we invite friends over and everyone makes a treat and tells a story from the place or people they come from. It’s turned up some incredible food and amazing stories

  • November 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I like trick or treat for the neighborliness of it as a commenter above said, but I also love the ideas in this post! Thanks for sharing!

  • November 1, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Remember the Skinners’ Happy Harvest?

  • October 31, 2011 at 1:54 am

    My favorite thing about Halloween is how neighborly it is. Everybody goes out and meets everybody else, and we’re all friendly and having fun. I love that. For that reason, I’m very much against trunk-or-treats on the actual day, when we all ought to be in our neighborhoods being friendly. 🙂

  • October 30, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    I think your party sounds fun, and I love the idea of tying in the Reformation when the kids are more familiar with it. Have you seen the 3-part Bible docu-drama at byu.tv? Very well done.

    I’m not much of a candy fan, but we have arrived at a compromise. Our kids choose whether they want to do this or not, but for 2 years in a row, they’ve been in favor of keeping 15 pieces of candy and trading the rest to the Great Pumpkin. GP comes in the night, removes the candy, and leaves something else. Last year, it was bikes (it was time and we finally moved into a house in a neighborhood). This year, it will be Angry Birds t-shirts, which they’ve been clamoring for.

    The extra candy then gets redistributed, either to Trick or Treaters coming by later, to my husband’s college students as prizes for various things, or to my thighs:)


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