Sometimes holidays give me a pit in my stomach.
I dream big and then get disappointed when I don’t live up to my self-imposed expectations. Like many moms, I feel pressure to make sure everything is perfect and magical. (And, mind you, I was like this even before Pinterest was filling the average mom’s mind with grandiose ideas.)
Holiday expectations can be especially hard for those who struggle with mental illness. In addition, the crowds, the change in schedules, the cooking and the rich and abundant foods can all prove stressful.
Over the years, I have worked to create Halloween traditions for our family that are meaningful. I have also worked to simplify and spread them out through the month of October to make things easier on myself, but still give my kids the chance to enjoy the holiday.
Here’s how we celebrate in October:
I have somehow inherited a lot of Halloween cookie-cutters, so we try to make use of them every year.
My mom always used the “snowflake cookie” recipe from her Betty Crocker Cookie Book for sugar cookies, so I do the same. (Though, neither of us have tried the glaze. I usually add frosting and sprinkles, where she would just bake them with colored sugar crystals.)
These cookies are great at any time of the year and we usually have them for Christmas, too. Every time I’ve shared these cookies, I’ve been asked for the recipe, hence the link. You’re welcome. 🙂
We love to check out Halloween stories from the library throughout the month. (Hey, I am a former juvenile literature assistant. I miss those HBLL days.)
Our favorite is The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll. (We actually own this one.) It tells the tale of two mice who unknowingly tend the same pumpkin and find a way for it to fulfill both of their dreams. I’ve read it since I was a kid; I never get tired of it.
Another good one is Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson. It is the story of a witch who adds some fun friends to her night’s broomstick ride, who prove helpful when she ends up in a tight spot.
Speaking of Room on the Broom, there is a movie adaptation of this story that we enjoyed watching on Netflix this year. And, of course, if we can we love to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and celebrate with Snoopy. (Turns out this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of that beloved tale!)
We pick out pumpkins every year. Most years, we make time to go to a local pumpkin patch. (We’ve even gone more than once certain years, between school trips, play groups and family excursions.)
I like to look around to find a pumpkin patch that doesn’t charge per person if I can, though that’s getting harder these days. When I was a kid, we used to go to Pick-a-Pumpkin Pumpkin Patch in Upstate New York, which was owned and operated by my cousin’s grandparents. They set a high bar, but we have enjoyed the smaller, but darling, Powell Pumpkin Patch in nearby Louisburg, Kansas. Powell still charges for pumpkins and merchandise rather than the visit, which is nice with a larger family and becoming more and more rare.
One year, we ran out of time for our traditional Powell visit and bought pumpkins from our local community garden or the grocery store. Even though we missed the hayride, the kids managed to have a good time.
We love to use our costumes more than once. We usually get the opportunity at our regular library story hour, at dance class, at school, at a church party, at the town Halloween parade, for trunk-or-treating, and, of course, for trick-or-treating. I try to gather everyone’s costumes and accessories about a week before Halloween and keep them in a box together. Then for each activity, I can just bring out the box so everyone can get dressed up. I check everyone’s costumes back in right afterwards.
Since there are so many free, pre-planned activities to go to for the little ones, I don’t sweat it if we can’t go to them all. I also don’t bother trying to have my own Halloween party. Maybe I’ll attempt that in several years, when I want a safe place for my teenagers. For now, we pick a few favorite events to attend and party our hearts out.
I let the kids worry about this nowadays. My first few years as a homemaker, I tried decorating for fall. My kids pulled apart my wreaths and table decorations and I gave up.
So the past couple years, I’ve noticed that if the kids get mopey that we don’t have any decorations up, they take it upon themselves to make signs for our doors and windows. They usually stick them to our metal door with magnets or tape.
We add our jack o’lanterns a couple days before the big day and we are done! Clean up is easy too, when you don’t have a lot of stuff.
Maybe next year, I’ll be brave enough to buy or make a new wreath. 😉
Since we usually have a chili dinner at the church Halloween party, we don’t always feel up to having chili again on Halloween.
So, one year, I made soft pretzel Mummy dogs–hot dogs wrapped with strands of soft pretzel dough to look like mummies. Another year, I made soft pretzel Halloween spider webs. Then, I decided that even though we love soft pretzels, I’d rather make them without the added stress of a holiday.
A simpler alternative we have discovered is making equally-festive, canned crescent roll dough, Mummy dogs. The kids are just as happy and it’s easier for me to deliver!
Another easy dinner idea is jack o’lantern face mini pizzas. Buy or make your pizza dough ahead of time (or even used canned biscuit dough or English muffins) and have the pizza toppings, sauce and cheese ready to go for a fun Halloween dinner before trick-or-treating.
How have you simplified your Halloween traditions for the stage you are in?
I mean seriously. It’s Halloween night and I am exhausted despite foregoing several activities…