Halloween Then and Now

by Helen Elizabeth Boulos
Originally Published: 
Boys and girls wearing colorful Halloween costumes
Image via Shutterstock

The Halloween I remember was good, simple and fun — you dressed up and ate candy. My memories of Halloween are scented with the cheap plasticky smell of those drugstore purchased costume masks. I remember huffing and puffing through the neighborhood, breathing through the “made in China,” mask, exposed to who knows how many BPA’s and toxins. That smell overwhelmed me as I dashed from house to house, cradling my plastic orange pumpkin in my arms, because its cheap plastic handle had fallen off after I threw in the tenth Tootsie Pop.

My mother was not crafty and I am not crafty. The difference is she did not have Pinterest telling her the “right way” to do Halloween. But one year she thought it would be fun to make me a homemade costume. And for some reason she thought I would be a beautiful peacock. What slightly pudgy, self-conscious, fourth grade girl doesn’t want to go to school in a leotard covered with multi-colored feathers? My mother crazy glued about seven thousand feathers to a leotard that year.

The feathers fell off at an alarming rate throughout the day at the school parade and I was handed a plastic baggie in which to gather my feathers, as I molted all over school. But you know what, it was fun. Halloween was always fun. When you are a kid, costumes and candy go a long way, but now Martha Stewart, Heidi Klum and Pinterest beg to differ with our old ways. See?

Halloween Then:

1. Halloween Costume: Sometime between October 20th and 25th your mom asked what you wanted to be for Halloween, then she either gave you a witch hat and black dress, a sheet with some eyeballs cut out, or took you to the Drugstore to see what costumes they had on sale.

2. Candy: While you were at the drugstore, your mom grabbed a few bags of candy. On Halloween, she threw the candy into a big stew pot from your kitchen to serve the trick or treaters when they passed by.

3. Halloween Parade At School: When the big Hallowen Parade at school arrived your mom took you to drop off, happy that someone else (your teachers) would be handling the insanity that comes along with having hundreds of small excited little people marching around school in costumes, hopped up on candy from the parade.

4. Pumpkins: Pumpkin carving involved a trip to Giant for a couple of pumpkins, a sharp kitchen knife, and some candles mom found in the junk drawer.

5. Decorating: Halloween decorating was limited to the hang up sparkly witches and skeletons they sold at the Drugstore alongside the candy and costumes.

6. Trick or Treating Sustenance: Mom swung through the drive-through at (GASP) McDonald’s on the way home to get you something “healthy” for dinner before you consumed thirty pounds of candy.

7. Trick or Treating: If you were over seven, mom sent you out into the hood with your friends to trick or treat. Why not? She knew the neighbors, how much trouble were you going to get into really?

8. Candy Rules: Mom made you throw the apples away because Urban Legend had it that the nut jobs would put razors in there. Thus we were told to “just eat the candy, kids.”

9. Mommy and Daddy: Mom and dad passed out candy looking at all the ghosts, witches and the occasional Rubic’s Cube (because some moms were getting crafty back then). They kicked their feet up, drank wine and ate non-organic, mass produced cheese and crackers.

10. Stuffing Your Face: When you got home, you and your siblings stuffed yourself with as much candy as you possibly could grab out of your pillowcase or drugstore plastic pumpkin.

11. Photography: Some polaroids.

Halloween Now:

1. Costumes: Mom asks the kids what they would like to be the Spring before Halloween. This is necessary so she can take the appropriate screen shots of the summer’s blockbuster kid’s movies to make sure her costume is authentic. We wouldn’t want an Elsa in the wrong cape now, would we? She also starts her pinterest board. No such thing as too early for holiday prep.

2. Candy: Mom goes to Target the day school starts to make sure she has first dibs on the best candy to give out to the neighborhood kids. Bonus points for Non-GMO treats.

3. Crafts: Mom heads from Target to Michael’s crafts to buy some large baskets, faux leaves and orange velvet to dress up the baskets she plans to use to give candy out to the neighborhood children.

4. Costume Accessories: In July, when the catalogs arrive, mom sits down after dinner carefully selecting the kids’ seventy five dollar “Wishworks,” costumes, supplementing any extra materials (wings that actually fly, black roller skates to faciltate the devil with real wings’ speedy turn along the parade route). Mom also buys a “backup costume,” for photos Halloween night in case the first costume is soiled in the parade or Halloween social at school.

5. Professional Makeup: Once costumes have been planned mom calls the Face Painter, to make sure someone is available to do makeup that complements whatever costume the child has chosen. Two bookings are made. One for the school parade and one for Halloween night.

6. Trick or Treating Sustenance: Mom starts planning her neighborhood potluck: organic chili from Whole Foods, corn bread, Ceasar salad with lettuce from her garden, and organic nut-bran to sustain the kids while they trick-or-treat, chaperoned by the appropriate number of adults. Two adults per child seems to be the right ratio these days.

7. Trick or Treat Pail: Mom orders the monogrammed, glow in the dark, Halloween totes from Pottery Barn or Lands End no later than August 1st when they typically sell out.

8. Halloween Decorating: While the kids are in school, mom goes to the local nursery to fill the extra twenty decorated Michael’s baskets with miniature gourds, fairy-tale gourds, and green gourds.

9. Pumpkin Carving: Mom prepares for the pumpkin carve by purchasing the correct carving tools at William-Sonoma. She pre-empties the insides of the pumpkins and prepares pumpkin soup and spiced pumpkin seeds to supplement the organic pot-roast she serves at the Pumpkin Carve. It’s an event now.

10. Halloween Parade at School: Mom goes to school to attend the Halloween Social. She spends the three days before baking non-gmo, paleo friendly, gluten-free, nut-free, organic cookies for the Halloween bake sale. She also brings twenty bags of organic apple slices because there is no candy allowed at the school’s Halloween Social. Mom is told to stay after the party and change her children out of their costumes, as these costumes impede the chidren’s ability to learn.

11. Photography: Mom photographs all children in full face paint with full costume to upload to her Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed and blog.

12. No Stuffing Your Face: Mom takes all candy bags hostage when the kids are done, allowing them one piece a day for the next two months, so as not to go over their daily sugar limit.

Happy Halloween!

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