Halloween continues to become more popular in the holiday rankings, with neighbors vying for best spooky decor, households spending hundreds in candy hand-outs, and store bought costumes costing a bundle. While the commercial-ness of Halloween used to bother me, a move to Brooklyn changed my opinion. Here, that commerciality is overridden. Halloween is infused with strong neighborly sentiment, strangers supporting strangers, clever, homemade costumes, ample free activities and kids taking a break from technology, making me realize there’s plenty to appreciate about this holiday!
Look Local for Halloween
Living in New York City, there are some well-known free “city” Halloween traditions, such as the East Village/Tribeca Halloween Parade. The costumes and real-life characters behind them are certainly something to experience at least once! There’s also the Pumpkin Flotilla in Central Park, and the High-Line becomes “haunted,” with a spooky scavenger hunt, an old-fashioned photo booth, seasonal stories, puppet shows and face painting. But you don’t have to live in New York City to easily find and take advantage of other free or low-cost Halloween events near you. Because of the popularity of Halloween, many groups and organizations have jumped on the Halloween bandwagon. Contact your local libraries for parties or spooky readings. If you have a zoo in your area, chances are there will be some Halloween-related celebration, such as a special “bat” themed event that includes learning about these haunting creatures. Your local parks department may be sponsoring hayrides, pumpkin picking, corn mazes, costume events and more—typically at no cost.
In our area of Brooklyn, we look forward to a local costume parade typically led by local musicians (Dan Zane anyone?) playing tunes as everyone walks laps around the park showing off their costumes. Pride of creativity and originality play a big part in this parade with everyone taking pictures of others’ clever costumes.
Other cool things in the area include annual family faves such as Clinton Hill’s Halloween 313 House (spooktacular spectacle!), the Harvest Festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 that includes volleyball and an obstacle course, a Haunted Walk in Prospect Park or Fort Greene’s BAMboo! Block party. Why not organize a block party in your area?
Gone to the Dogs
Pet owners also get into the action these days, with parades and processions of costumed-canines enjoying some of their own festivities. In New York City, the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade is free to watch, and a suggested $5 to get your dog in on the action. In Richland, Washington the entry fee is a bag of dog food that’s donated to pets in need, and dogs and their owners compete for prizes for most creative costumes.
While costume parties are far and few between these days, Halloween is the perfect time for kids to play “dress up”. (Ok, adults too!) And while Halloween pop-up stores throughout the country offer ample selections for costumes, encourage your kids to get back to basics and design their own. Not only will you potentially save money but when your kids look back at what they did they’ll appreciate having spent the time to make something out of nothing. Well, at least that’s what my husband and I are telling our daughter, who is seemingly intent on buying a particular costume that we know will be nothing close in real-life to the way it looks in the picture. Together we reminisce with her about some of our favorite costumes we made when we were kids. You may be surprised what you already have in your closet that will be the basis of a great costume.
Bag the Technology as Well as the Candy
When I was a little girl, I remember going over to my grandparent’s homes and playing dress-up with costumes that came from a trunk. I have worked to provide costumes for my daughter through the years as well, and whenever she and her friends get dressed up, inevitably they have a blast. But in the heavy duty technology-filled world we live in, Emojis and video games such as The Sims and Webkins have taken over for much of kids dress-up time. Halloween is a time for them to get back to dressing up themselves, instead of dressing up a character on a screen. And, with the desire to go door to door for candy, it’s a great time to get them to put all the technology down (yes-cell phone included!) and get out to walk or run. (If your neighborhood is one that goes all-out in decorations, consider doing a walk to seek out some of the best even before the actual holiday.) It’s smile inducing, or sometimes fright inducing to see what’s out there!
For both children and adults alike, the thing that perhaps I appreciate the most about Halloween is how it allows you to connect with friends and complete strangers alike. It encourages independence when a child first learns to walk up to a door or a stoop to say, “Trick or Treat!” It allows you to enjoy the creativity of others and vice versa. You can feel free to compliment people out loud. Or tell them how gross they look—and know that they’ll still enjoy your comment, because after all, it’s Halloween! Complete blocks may come together to decorate all their homes, or carve pumpkins or host parties. Even in New York City, there’s a feeling of trust that abounds. People look out for each other. Last year, one of our neighbors decided to offer an alternative to candy out on our stoop—he spooned golden raisins into small plastic bags for those who wanted them. I was skeptical—after all, how many parents would allow a stranger to hand over unboxed raisins? But, I’m happy to say he proved me wrong—his raisins were gone in short order.
And speaking of stoops—the tradition in our neighborhood is that if you’re participating, you head out to your stoop to hand things out. So everyone is out and about, giving and taking, chatting and laughing. We have carved out another tradition in which once the kids come back home with their candy take—they then go through it and take out at least half (if not more). With that candy (plus our supplies) they then head out to the stoop to go give back to other trick-or-treaters right away. They enjoy giving as much as receiving. No tricks there—just treats!