Halloween 2015

My kids absolutely love Halloween in America.  They started talking about plans for costumes during the Summer and the middle two have been literally counting down the days for months.  Although this is now our third American Halloween, the novelty of the experience has not worn off on my kids.

Festivities began on Friday with parties and a parade at school.  The school has rules about gory costumes, face paint and hair spray so there was much angst over needing different costumes for school than for actual Halloween.  Happily, since my younger kids love dressing up, we have two sacks full of dressing up gibbles for them to dip into and everyone got something together.  I went in to help with the First Grade party and was assigned to a room full of fairground type activities on a Halloween theme.  By far the most popular activity with the kids was one involving hitting a wooden frame with a mallet and thwacking frogs in the air.  The objective was to get the rubber frogs into buckets in order to score points but the kids much preferred seeing how high and how far they could propel the frogs across the room.  Ceiling tiles were battered, I had to drag frogs down from overhead projectors, and crawl behind bookcases to retrieve them.  Some groups invented twists to the game such as goal keeping and using the sticks from a hockey type game to bat the frogs as they flew through the air.  It was exhausting and I had the sound of the mallet hitting the wood ringing in my ears for hours afterwards.  Good fun though.

Then – after a very quick dash home to get some laundry in the dryer – I was back to the school to watch the parade of kids and staff all dressed up in their costumes.  It was great fun seeing them all, especially the kids who had made their own costumes.  The parade was immediately followed by more parties, this time for my Third and Fourth Graders.  Last year, I was a Room Parent so all my party time was spent in one classroom with one of my kids and I rarely saw the other two participating in festivities.  I was very glad of the opportunity this year to spend time with all of my kids during their parties even if it meant speeding up and down a corridor to pivot between classrooms.

I didn’t get much chance to sit down or stand still in one place during Halloween itself either.  It was another hectic day.  We also reached a bittersweet milestone as my oldest son went out Trick or Treating with friends.  It was the first time we had not had all four of our kids with us to go guising but we are very happy indeed that our oldest son has made such good friends here that we wanted to spend the evening with them.  My oldest was dressed as a plague doctor.  Apparently only one adult on his whole trick or treating tour had a clue what his costume was but, even though we had assumed everyone would get it, he rather liked being a tad obscure.  My other three went trick or treating around our neighbourhood with our next door neighbour kids and the children of our friends.  My 10 year old was the Joker, my 8 year old was Robin and my 6 year old was Frankenstein’s Monster.  The kids walked and walked until their pails were so full of candy and other treats that their arms were getting a bit orangutan like and their feet were sore.  We visited haunted houses, met Chewbacca on his porch, and my little Frankenstein’s Monster even got to meet his biological parents.  Then it was everyone back to my house – where we had left the dads on the porch to hand out treats to visitors – for steaming hot bowls of soup and hot dogs.  It was a long and busy two days but filled with so much fun and laughter – and sugar.






PS  If you would like to read a comparison between Scottish and American Halloweens, I covered that in my first Halloween post.

PPS If you like all things monstrous, then you might be interested to check out my altered book project over on my art blog, Pict Ink.

Our Halloween

My kids were giddy with anticipation over Halloween this year.  Their experience of their first American Halloween had been a wonderfully positive introduction to life in America for them. They loved everything about it and were eager to repeat the same fun experiences this year.

Having selected a pumpkin each when we visited the pumpkin patch, the boys settled on imagery and I set about carving them.  The reason I did the carving is that, with the exception of the smallest pumpkin, which really was tiny, the skins and flesh of the chosen pumpkins was extremely tough.  I resorted to using exceedingly sharp kitchen knives in place of the carving tools and, of course, the children could not be let loose with kitchen knives.  That really would have been a Halloween horror!  So we ended up with a large Minecraft Creeper, a baby Creeper, a galloping horse and the head of Jack Skellington to place on the steps leading up to our front door.

The younger three boys had Halloween celebrations at their Elementary School.  They each had parties full of crafting, snacking and games and were all involved in the Halloween parade.  The High School band played while all of the costumed children walked in a large square on the playing field.  As a member of the first Kindergarten class, our 5 year old was actually the leader of the entire parade.  He was clearly loving it, waving to the crowds as he passed them, though his Iron Man mask meant he could barely see where he was going and he had to be steered in the right direction by his teacher.  That morning I had told the children that I was going to levy a tax on them of one piece of their Halloween candy for each Elsa, Anna or Olaf costume we happened across on the day.  There were five Elsas in my youngest son’s class alone.  My kids said no dice to the tax proposal.  There were some really inventive costumes on show and it was fun to see all of the kids enjoying themselves.

My boys had daytime costumes, appropriate for school (Iron Man, Boba Fett and a weird Dark Knight Ninja combination that my 9 year old insisted on cobbling together) and different costumes for evening.  I got the majority of their costumes from thrift stores and the younger ones like to play dress up throughout the year so I don’t mind the costume changes at all.  My oldest son was a Clone Trooper, the 9 year old was Star-Lord (because he is obsessed with ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), my 7 year old was a Werewolf (he has been longing for a werewolf costume for years) and the youngest was Frankenstein’s Monster (his favourite classic monster).  I also dressed myself up as a Vampire, complete with pallid face and bright red lips.  Thankfully I was not the only adult wandering the streets in costume or I might have felt like a total pillock but the kids appreciated my efforts and my get-up entertained them so any embarrassment factor was worth it.


Together with one of the boys’ friends, my monstrous mob traipsed the streets of our neighbourhood for two hours. Mr Pict had devised the route as if he was a military General manouvering troops.  At first they were part of a pack of neighbourhod kids but gradually they pack drew out into a long line which was probably easier for each household to manage instead of having to open the door to a dozen kids bellowing “Trick or Treat” in unison.  The majority of houses in our neighbourhood were participating in Halloween and handing out edible treats but some had gone to incredible effort to entertain the little ghouls.  One house had set up their garage as a den of horror.  My 9 year old and his friend refused to even enter and the 7 year old came out howling, but the other two loved it.  Another house had set up three rooms in their house to be a haunted house full of spooky props and people in costume.  My 9 year old again didn’t go in but everyone else had fun on their spooky tour.  Our neighbours had set up their porch with elaborate decorations including a zombie baby doll, Frankenstein’s Monster sitting in an electric chair and the Bride of Frankenstein standing alongside them.  My boys loved going up to the Monster, especially the little one who declared he was Frankenstein Jr.  It was a really fun night and my kids came home with their Halloween buckets full to beyond the brim with sweeties, chocolate and crisps which they then spent half an hour trading up.


And they never did give me my ‘Frozen’ tax.


Our First American Halloween

Yesterday the children and I experienced our first ever American Halloween.  My husband likes to recount the glory days of his youth hauling home massive sacks of candy so his stories created high expectations.

We have loved seeing all of the decorations in our neighbourhood.  In fact, our boys are so awestruck by the front lawn displays that I am not sure they will recognise the streets in our locale once those decorations come down.  There are large flag ghosts, air-filled Igors, scarecrows and pumpkins galore, zombie graves, skeletons and witches everywhere.  It’s fantastic and contributed to the excitement of anticipating our first American Halloween.  Of course, our house was exceptionally lame by comparison.  We don’t own any outdoor decorations for Halloween so all we had were half a dozen pumpkins and all of our seasonal decorations are currently in a shipping container – still in Scotland – so we just had a few odds and ends we had picked up in the two weeks since arriving in the US.

The festivities really started off with a Halloween Parade at the older boys’ Elementary School.  My youngest son and I went along to spectate and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the kids in their costumes, some of which were amazingly creative or hilarious.  There seemed to be a whole squad of ninjas (two of mine included) and princesses and ninja turtles were also strong in numbers.  It was great to see everyone having fun and smiling and especially to see my own kids looking so relaxed among their peers, not standing out as “the new kids” at all.

After a hurried dinner, it was time to get into costume.  I had a ninja, two zombies and a vampire to assist in getting ready.  My fingers were the colour of undead flesh having used them to rub face paint onto the faces of my two oldest boys.  Everyone looked suitably ghoulish as we headed out on our first Trick or Treat.



To be clear, it is not that we have never celebrated Halloween before.  It is, of course, a thing in Scotland too.  However, despite having grown in status over the course of my lifetime, it is still not an event on the scale it is in the US.  The traditions are also quite different.  Growing up, we made lanterns out of turnips, not pumpkins.  Yes, turnips.  If you think carving a pumpkin is hard going on the hand and arm muscles, try scooping out the interior of a turnip or swede  and making it look like anything other than the basis of a winter soup.  In recent years, common sense has developed and Scotland has also adopted the pumpkin as the lantern vegetable of choice.  But I’ve still not had therapy to recover from a childhood of turnip carving.  The other tradition that is slightly different is that in Scotland we don’t go Trick or Treating; instead we go guising.  Children go from door to door, dressed in costume, and have to perform at each household in order to earn a reward.  In the case of my kids that meant telling corny spooky themed jokes, some written by themselves.  I think I like the idea that the sweeties have to be earned, I have to say.

Anyway, the kids and I set off along our street while my husband stayed behind to dole out colourful sugar to Trick or Treaters who arrived at our door (we switched roles half way through) and the first thing that hit me was how warm it was.  It wasn’t even mild.  It was actually warm.  I’ve never experienced a Halloween before where half your costume wasn’t hidden beneath a parka and even the undead were wearing woolly hats and mittens.  Of course, this time last year the eastern seaboard of America had Hurricane Sandy to contend with so I’m not naive enough to think that this will be the normal Halloween climate from hereon in but it was definitely a pleasant experience to be wandering in the dark when the temperature was so warm.

The decorations in the street looked even more festive and spectacular in the dark.  There were orange fairy lights bedecking bushes, spotlights on muddy graves from which skeletal hands were emerging, a mummy leering at us from our next door neighbours’ window and, at one house, giant eyeballs peering at us from upstairs windows as if it was a real life Monster House.  My kids scurried towards any house with a light on, knocked on doors (at one point I thought my youngest was at risk of taking someone’s hinges off) and clammered “Trick or Treat” to any man, woman, child or dog who appeared at the door.  Despite being hyper, they remembered their manners and said “Thank you” each time and didn’t turn their hands into industrial scoops every time a bowl of treats was proffered.  Indeed, at some houses they were urged to take more.


They came home with their Halloween buckets (or pails) full to the brim.  They then tipped all of their sweets out and arranged them into categories.  Some types were familiar to them – M&Ms, Milky Way, Kit Kat and Twix – but most were entirely new varieties.  We, therefore, have a lot of experimentation to do over the next wee while.

Watch this space for my kids’ reviews of American candy at some point in the not too distant future.