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There's more to Halloween than trick or treating
Thanks to Coronavirus, many community events and celebrations have been cancelled, or have been 're-imagined' in different ways. With the spooktacular season now upon us, naturally, there have been concerns and questions about Halloween and whether or not it's still 'on'.
But Halloween-lovers of Australia, don't despair! Because the good news is, Halloween is still on, as it has been on for thousands of years. Now, if you think Halloween is just all about a bunch of kids in spooky costumes banging on neighbourhood doors and demanding candies and sweets, then you're spooktacularly wrong. Because Halloween is so much more than just about trick or treating. It's always been so much more than about trick or treating. Which means you can still celebrate it in a big way. I've celebrated Halloween in Australia for more than twenty years now, and I've only ever done the trick or treating bit once!
So whether or not we're in the midst of a pandemic, Halloween is, fortunately, one of those holidays that you can still celebrate. Read on, and I'll show you twenty ways how (and all without having to roam around the neighbourhood begging for candies!).
A little bit about the history of Halloween Halloween's origins are actually quite old, going back thousands of years to an agricultural, pre-Christian European past. Common tradition has it that it was the Celtic-speaking peoples of Ireland and Britain who celebrated a festival called Samhain which, under the Catholic church, became Halloween (or All Hallows' Eve, which is the night before All Hallows' Day or All Saints' Day, one of the Catholic Church's feast days). Samhain was an agricultural festival, celebrating the end of the final harvest of the year and preparing for the long, cold, dark winter months ahead. It was also a time when the veil between our world and the spirit world was supposed to be at its thinnest, so ghosts and the spirits of ancestors and dead loved ones were able to cross over and walk the earth.
It was Irish and British immigrants in the nineteenth century who brought and introduced their Halloween traditions to the New World of the Americas, and so Halloween became firmly established in the United States. It was also in the Americas when pumpkins were first used for Jack O Lanterns. Back in the Old World, turnips, potatoes or beets were used for Jack O Lanterns. But the Irish and British immigrants of the New World soon discovered that pumpkins, a fruit that's native to the Americas, made better Jack O Lanterns. And so began the Americanisation of Halloween. Even in the UK today, where Halloween was born, the American Jack O Lantern pumpkin is now associated with Halloween, and not the Jack O Lantern turnip!
How to celebrate Halloween during Coronavirus Here are twenty ways how you and your loved ones can celebrate Halloween during this time of coronavirus, and all without having to go trick or treating around the neighbourhood begging for candies and sweets.
1. Put up and decorate a Halloween tree. O Halloween tree, o Halloween tree, of all the trees most ghouly! There are Christmas trees as well as Easter trees, so why not Halloween trees? A Halloween tree makes a fang-tastic centrepiece for your home and definitely brings in that spooktacular Halloween spirit! For decorations, I used Halloween-themed tinsel (you can get these from Big W), mini plastic pumpkin candy jars that I've collected over the years and that you can get from Spotlight stores, special Nightmare Before Christmas-themed baubles from Big W, and silvery grey Christmas baubles.
2. Decorate your home. I always love decorating my home for Halloween. If you're stuck for ideas, you'll find plenty of inspiration online. And these days we're very lucky in Australia because stores such as Big W, Target, Kmart, Spotlight and dusk sell plenty of Halloween decorations. You can also buy your decorations online from Discount Party Supplies and the Base Warehouse. Make sure you stock up on fake spider webs and zombie caution tape. Just throw them around your house and yard for an instant creepy look!
If you prefer, you can also make your own Halloween decorations. I love making my own decorations every Halloween. This year I recycled plastic milk bottles and used lots of black and white paint to turn them into these ghouls for the backyard. For more Halloween DIY craft ideas, go here.
Or don't bake at all and just decorate ready-made cakes. Such as this graveyard cake. I made this using a ready-made mud cake from Coles and just slopping loads of ready-made icing and choc sprinkles on top. I used Arnott's biscuits for the gravestones and Cadbury chocolate fingers for the fence. The skeleton biscuits were from Big W, and the Halloween sprinkles were from Coles.
Get a bunch of plastic eyeballs (you can find some at The Reject Shop) or make your own using ping pong balls like the ones below. I got this jar of ping pong balls from Kmart and drew pupils on each of them using texta markers.
Once you've got your eyeballs, hide them all over your yard, and then get the kids to search for them. Each eyeball is worth a sweet treat! If you can't find eyeballs, then hide the treats instead. This is a great alternative to neighbourhood trick or treating.
5. Bob for apples.
A good old Halloween tradition! Usually, there would be just the one large tub filled with water and apples for everyone to duck their heads into. But because of Covid, let's keep things safe and hygenic. Have a tub for each person, and fill it with water and apples. Players then try to catch the apples with their teeth.
6. Bob for doughnuts.
If you don't like the idea of getting wet, then why not bob for doughnuts on a string instead? Hang doughnuts at the end of strings and get the players to catch (and eat!) them using only their teeth. It's actually a lot harder than it looks!
7. Create a mad scientists lab.
Fill tubs or bowls with slime, cooked spaghetti pasta, whipped cream, chocolate pudding, canned peaches, etc and hide eyeballs and plastic body parts or gummy body parts into each tub for your children to find. You could also mix vinegar with baking soda and food colouring in black witch's cauldrons (you can get these from retail stores like Big W), and abracadabra! You've made magic!
9. Have a scary movie night.
Really bust out those goosebumps and let out those screams by having a scary movie night! Choose your movie (I LOVE Stephen King's IT, but course, if you have children, a less scary option would be ideal!), pop some popcorn, and gather together for a night of frights. Pennywise the Clown, anyone?
10. Have a zombie nerf war in your yard.
Get some nerf guns and a bunch of zombie nerf targets from stores such as Big W and Target, hide the targets all over your yard, and get ready for a battle with the walking dead!
11. Hand out Halloween treats to your neighbours.
Instead of going around the neighbourhood trick or treating, why not show kindness instead and hand out treats to your neighbours? We've done this for the last six Halloweens and have handed out delicious cupcakes to our neighbours. Especially in this time of coronavirus, showing kindness is more important than ever.
12. Carve a Jack O Lantern pumpkin.
An old Halloween tradition but still a good one! If you've never tried it before, then why not give it a go this year? Woolworths and Coles are selling special Jack O Lantern pumpkins for carving. They're also selling watermelons for carving (as well as pineapples) if you want to go a bit different this year! Special pumpkin carving tools are also available for sale at Woolworths.
However, if the idea of getting all sticky and gooey with pumpkin flesh is enough to make your skin crawl, then why not decorate a Jack O Lantern pumpkin instead? One year, I bought these mini pumpkins from Coles and the preschoolers at my son's Halloween party used lots of glitter to decorate them.
13. Throw a Halloween party.
It's the best way to celebrate Halloween with your family, friends and neighbours. Deck your halls with spooky decorations, get all your Halloween-themed food sorted, get a big tub or box of treats ready, and throw in some Halloween party games and traditions for your guests such as bobbing for apples or doughnuts, hunting for eyeballs in your backyard, battling with zombies in a nerf war, carving or decorating Jack O Lantern pumpkins, making potions, and whacking a Halloween pinata! Go on, throw that party, it'll be a scream! Read here for some more ideas on throwing a kid-friendly Halloween party.
14. Visit the graves of loved ones who have passed away.
In the ancient pre-Christian past, the time of Halloween (or Samhain as the Celtic-speaking peoples knew it) was a time when the veil between this world and the world of the spirits and ancestors was at its thinnest. It was the time when those who had died were said to walk amongst the living once again. The Christian church adopted this belief into its celebration of AllHallowtide, a three-day religious observance comprising All Hallows' Eve (or Halloween), All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day) and All Souls Day. According to the Catholic Church, this is the time to remember the dead, including martyrs, saints, and all faithful departed Christians. One of the traditions of this time is to therefore visit the graves of loved ones who have passed away. If you are not able to, why not light candles in their honour?
15. Divine your future.
One of the old traditions of Halloween is divination or ways of foretelling one's future, especially regarding death, marriage and children. Why not learn about and practice some divination rituals that humans have used throughout the ages such as reading tea leaves, Norse runes, tarot and oracle cards, and numerology? Go on, I dare you. What does the future hold for you?
16. Have a Halloween photoshoot.
Gather your family, friends and fur babies; put on those ghoulish costumes and ghoulish faces; take lots of fun photos, then share them on social media or put them all together into a Halloween photo book. This could be the start of a fun new Halloween tradition for you and your loved ones.
17. Have an escape room adventure with your friends.
First created in Japan in 2007, escape rooms can now be found in many cities all over the world. An escape room is an immersive, interactive, physical adventure game where you and other players are placed in a specially designed room. Each room has its own individual theme and storyline, such as a medieval dungeon, a creepy abandoned hotel or a post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland. The room has clues and puzzles which you need to find and solve together in order to get out. And you are only given a limited timeframe to escape.
Escape rooms make for the perfect fright night experience, especially if the theme and storyline of the room fit in well with Halloween such as a haunted house adventure or a creepy crime scene investigation. So find out about all the escape rooms in your city, gather your band of brave warriors and throw yourselves into a spooktacular adventure this Halloween!
18. Make a haunted gingerbread house.
Who said gingerbread houses were just for Christmas? You can also make haunted gingerbread houses for Halloween. At this time of the year, many stores should already be selling Christmas gingerbread house kits. So get one or a few, gather the family, and turn the Christmas kits into your very own haunted houses. Use plenty of chocolate icing or icing in traditional Halloween colours such as orange, green, white and purple. Then add lots of Halloween-themed sprinkles, gummy eyeballs, gummy worms, gummy body parts, etc.
19. Have a Halloween games night.
Instead of a night of frights, why not have a night of fun Halloween games, especially if you have young children? Some games you could play include the Mummy Wrap Game (kids work together in this game to wrap each other in toilet paper or crepe paper); Pass the Pumpkin (similar to Pass the Parcel but you pass around a pumpkin instead); bobbing for apples or doughnuts; and a Halloween version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey such as Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin. For more Halloween game night ideas, go here.
If you have older kids or young adults in the house, then you could have a Halloween board games night instead. Why not play Cluedo or the Ghostbusters-themed version of Monopoly? There's also Unsolved Case Files, Stupid Deaths, and Harry Potter Magical Beasts Games. All of these board games are easily available from Big W and Target. For the more serious board gamers, check out the wide range at online retailers such as Gameology, Board Games Master, and the Games Capital.
20. Get Halloween crafting.
You can make your own Halloween decorations. Go here for some great ideas. And keep the kids busy on Halloween night with these super cute Halloween craft boxes, available from Woolworths.
As you can see, there's so much more to celebrating Halloween than just roaming around the neighbourhood in a costume begging for treats. Halloween is truly a most wonderful time of the year, and trick or treating is really only one part of it. In this year of coronavirus, why not go beyond the trick or treating part this Halloween and start some other new traditions with your loved ones?