For me as a kid, the best thing about Halloween was the candy. As an adult (but still a kid at heart), the best part of the holiday is seeing all the people dressed in clever costumes. My favorites have always been the homemade costumes.
I can’t recall all the Halloween costumes of my childhood, but I do remember making them (or my mom making them). My favorite was cut and sewn from an old tablecloth. It was a medieval minstrel costume with an orange and brown skirt and matching tights. Mom did most (if not all) the sewing, and I helped piece the rest of the outfit together with miscellaneous items I found around the house. For a finishing touch, on the way out the door to go trick-or-treating, I grabbed my soprano recorder.
When they spotted the musical instrument, some of the neighbors told me I had to play a song to get the candy. After a round or two of “Mary had a Little Lamb,” however, they were probably tempted to offer me extra candy to stop playing.
I have many fun memories of trick-or-treating with my younger brother, Eddie. Sometimes we’d go up and down our own small rural road outside Dalton, and other times Dad drove us five minutes away to Factoryville. There, more houses meant more candy.
I don’t remember which year I went as the minstrel. But I do remember we stayed close to home, because that was the year it snowed. I shivered in the flimsy fabric but refused to zip up my winter coat, because I wanted to show off the costume Mom and I worked so hard to assemble.
No one could guess what I was, but that was okay. I still came home with a pile of candy.
Halloween evolved a lot in the twenty-some years since then (as it did since my parents and their parents were growing up). Kids still dress up and go trick-or-treating, but depending on the municipality, it may not be on Halloween night. And in many areas, including the neighborhood in which I grew up, trick-or-treaters have been rare or extinct for the past few years.
This is probably due to the rise in trunk-or-treats and other alternative Halloween events hosted by churches, businesses, nonprofits and community groups. But with the majority of such events happening on dates other than the 31st, I’ve wondered what (if anything) families are doing these days to celebrate on the actual holiday.
Does Halloween now pass like any other day? Or are people making new traditions and celebrating in other ways on the evening of Oct. 31?
I know I’m not the only one wondering this, because I’ve been asking these questions on social media and in everyday conversations, and many people echoed my curiosity.
Some of my friends confirmed their kids no longer participate in the traditional trick-or-treating activity, opting instead for alternative events at their local churches or community centers. Others countered the trick-or-treating Halloween spirit is still alive in their neighborhoods with about the same number of young ghouls participating as ever. And others noted a recent significant decline in costumed kids at their doors on Halloween night.
Most of my friends who opt out of the traditional Oct. 31 evening festivities said they enjoy other family activities instead such as private parties, movie nights, game nights and making (and feasting on) seasonal treats together in the kitchen.
I’m happy to know that while the means of celebration evolved since I was a youngster on Halloween, people still mark the holiday with the same sense of community among their friends, families and neighbors. And I hope, while Halloween will likely change even more over the next 20 years, it will continue as a night of fun, togetherness and creativity.
The kind that can turn a worn-out tablecloth into a medieval minstrel costume.
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