How To Give Our Kids An Old School '80s Halloween

Halloween Has Jumped The Shark, Here’s How To Dial It Back

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Well, here we are, folks. It’s Halloween season. My kids are at peak age—old enough to have very strong opinions about what they want to dress up as and feel they need to compete with their peers, but not old enough to have their own J.O.B.s so they can pay for their own shit. For example, my daughter came across a cute Hermione costume online that she loved. It was 80 bucks. EIGHTY DOLLARS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME, CHILD.

What ever happened to ransacking the old dress-up bin and piecing together something that resembled a rockstar? Or hitting up Goodwill and getting decked out for like $5? Also, I don’t know about your kids, but in my happy suburban world, there are no less than five “trick-or-treat” events—between, schools, churches, hospitals, etc. So if you’re going to hit those up, your kids might need a back-up costume in case the first one gets ripped, muddy, or has candy stuck to it by the end of the night.

Seriously, parents. What the hell happened to Halloween? I KNOW this holiday was easier when we were kids. The biggest stress our parents had was checking the candy for needles after the nightly news ran a story one year about some deranged psychopath trying to hurt kids. I mean, I’m not saying that’s not a big deal—it is. But I distinctly remember wanting to be a California Raisin one year, and my mom throwing a garbage bag over my head, pouring herself a beer, and calling it good. Can you imagine trying to make that fly today?

And there weren’t 82 candy-overloaded events that necessitated costuming back then. There was Halloween night and maybe a parade at school. I swear if my kids come home with one more “trick or treat!” flyer I won’t even need a costume. I’ll already look the part of the evil witch. Even our grocery store tried pulling that shit. Like I am going to willingly drag my ass back to the GROCERY STORE of all places to let my kids trick or treat? Because being there eleventy times a week isn’t enough? Thanks, but no.

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So here’s what I propose. Let’s dial it back a notch (or twelve) and give our kids a simple, fun, old school Halloween. This is what we’ll need:

1. Pillowcases.

None of these fancy Darth Vader or Paw Patrol light up talking buckets that cost a small fortune for collecting candy. If I have to replace the batteries in my kids’ BUCKET, we’ve officially gone too far, people. Plus, a pillowcase held way more candy, didn’t it? Every year my kids fill their buckets when we are a 1/2 mile from home and I’m left cramming candy from the last few houses into my purse. Pillowcases don’t fill up until they are too heavy to hold, and that’s how it should be. (However, if you’re a loyal bucket family, but you are committed to going old school, the only alternative to a pillowcase is a straight from the ’80s orange jack-o-lantern bucket with a black plastic handle. Got it? Good.)

2. Plastic masks.

You know the ones—made of that super cheap, bendable plastic? Probably made with 800 chemicals we heavily breathed in all night long? Mmmmm. Those were the days. We could be anything from Freddy Krueger to Richard Nixon back then. The store shelves were lined with them and they only cost like 50 cents, so you could even grab a couple and switch costumes half way between a trick and a treat.

3. ONE costume made at home.

And no, I’m not saying Mom needs to drag out her sewing machine (do people still have sewing machines?) or even a needle and a thread in order to be truly old school. I’m saying use some imagination! Dig through the dress-up bin, or an older sibling’s hand-me-downs. Tie a long t-shirt on the side with a scrunchie, throw your hair in a side pony and BOOM. You’re Debbie Gibson. (Just don’t forget the blue eye shadow.)

I know you don’t know who she is, kids, but the same concept works for Taylor Swift. Think outside the box already. Want to be Hermione? Guess what? You can make your own cloak by draping an old blanket or sheet around yourself and find a stick in the yard to call your wand. That’s what 7-year-old me would have done, and I would have loved it. You think Grandma was about to drop a bunch of cash on a costume that would end up with bubble gum and Laffy-Taffy stuck to it? She’d have laughed in my face.

4. Remember the candy rule.

Let the kids eat the candy. Seriously. Not “oh, we trade ours in for a toy” or “we get to pick our three favorites and bring the rest to the dentist to show we care about our teeth.” That’s a beautiful notion, but if we are really rocking a vintage Halloween here, we need to get our kids to eat AirHeads and Snickers until they puke, or at least feel mildly ill. Let them come home, dump their loot on the living room floor, trade Skittles for Tootsie Pops, and have at it while we sit with our feet up and drink a cold one while we beg them for the Reese’s cups.

6. Bring back clowns.

Listen, clowns have always been creepy AF. That’s not new. But growing up, the scariest clown was the character from It (the original). Any real-life clowns were goofy characters hired for toddlers’ birthday parties who had rubber noses and giant shoes. So for one day, forget about the killer clown craze of 2016 (the only thing as terrifying as that year’s election) and let your kids dress up as clowns if they want. And, remind them that if they see a clown, more than likely it’s also a person in costume, not a serial killer (especially if said clown is four feet tall).

7. Old school party decor

If you’re hosting some Halloween festivities, now is your time to really shine and show your kids how awesome our fright nights were as kids. Put some cold noodles in a bowl for the classic “bowl of brains” trick. Hang those black plastic spider rings all over your house, serve some Ecto-Cooler punch, and blast Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the background. And if you really want to impress your elementary school aged guests, dig out your old strobe light from your parents’ basement. Boom. You’re officially the coolest parent on the block. No need for Pinterest, because guess who didn’t have the internet to peruse for ideas? ’80s moms, that’s who.

Okay, there it is. A classic vintage Halloween—plastic chemicals, pillowcases, and all. I’m either gonna be Jem or Like a Virgin Madonna—I’m still on the fence. What about you?