Monday, November 2, 2015


On Saturday we had our first-ever Halloween party, organised (mostly) by my three kids.

We've done the trick or treating thing for the past few years, starting from when my elder two were 7 and 5 and their costumes consisted of old sheets with eye holes cut in them. (An oldie but a goodie!) About half the houses in our cluster of streets participate, and generally we've found it to be a fun, if tiring, family activity. The kids from round about often or usually go in a group, accompanied by a few adults. It's an enjoyable outbreak of joie de vivre; the kids love the dressing-up, the community, the walking, and of course the candy they collect.

This year, the kids wanted to go one better, so they asked (begged?) to have a Halloween party. "Just a little one, Mum!" they said. "We'll do all the stuff!" they said. So I relented, despite having half a kitchen, because I am a soft touch :-)

And although it was very full-on, not at all small (I had 22 kids here, and another 7 or so joined us later) and I did end up doing most of the prep and most of the clean-up ... I can't say it wasn't enjoyable, because it really was.

My three kids dressed as Princess Leia, the Grim Reaper, and a witch this year; their guests came arrayed as anime characters, witches, zombies, devils, Monster High characters, animals, and vampires.

We decorated the house with fake spider webs, paper pumpkins, plastic chains, light-up skulls, and some Halloween bunting. We served scary face pizzas, witch's brew (punch), pink and orange dips, eyeball and body part candy, and the non-themed but always popular party pies, sausage rolls and hot chips. We also made, and the kids enthusiastically demolished, a red brain jelly (in fact, I should've made two, it was gone in a blink).

After food, spooky hide and seek, and watching a bit of a spooky Goosebumps movie, we divided the kids into the over-10s (about 12 of them) and the under-10s (about 16 altogether, as we had by then been joined by several of the parents of the party guests with their *other* children) to go trick or treating. I stuck with the younger group, while my lovely friend, who had stayed to help with this behemoth party, accompanied the older ravening pack as they walked.

We had a lovely trick or treat walk. There was a real carnivale feeling in the neighbourhood - at least a third of the houses were decorated for the holiday, and there were dressed-up groups of kids and teens roaming the streets, calling out good wishes as we passed. The weather was simply perfect - warm, but not hot, and dry, which was a mercy after the thunderstorms that started the day off at 5:30am.

Back at the house, we had just enough time for a house-destroying few rounds of Murder in the Dark before the parents arrived to bear their sugar-hyped but exhausted offspring away. By 8:30, it was just us and a big ol' mess at my house - a mess we somewhat dealt with before tumbling into bed at 10pm to sleep the sleep of the just, but the majority of the clean-up was done on the mercifully lazy All Saint's Day that followed.

I know a lot of people in Australia sneer at Halloween, and think of it as an imported US American manufactured holiday. That's not how I feel about it, though. Yes, Halloween has always been a bigger deal in the US than here, but it's not a modern confected celebration either - it's one of the most ancient traditions there is, stretching back to Celtic traditions around the Day of the Dead and a powerful part of the Christian cycle since the Dark Ages. Controlled scariness, marking death while in life, and celebrating the fascination of the gruesome has a potent appeal, now as always.

On a lighter level, a chance to dress up, play and explore with friends is a part of childhood that children leave behind all too soon. I think every opportunity to be in the moment is worth seizing, and it's a great delight, as an adult, to get to join in this celebration.

This is post 2 in NaBloPoMo. 2 down, 28 to go!

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