My family is a bunch of Halloween maniacs, and we don't care who knows it.
In pre-pandemic times, this meant that the Halloween season started around mid-August with the arrival of the first Chasing Fireflies catalogue. If you're not familiar with this pamphlet of dubious first-world joys, it's a full 100 pages of gorgeous, ridiculously expensive costumes (child's zombie queen ensemble: $95) that my family and I like to hate-read together, hooting at the prices and the high production values while also studying the thing like we're gonna be graded on it.
But there was no Chasing Fireflies catalogue in the mailbox this year because #2020 (although it is scrollable online , apparently). The company changed ownership at the beginning of the pandemic, which impacted the business as it did so many others. Judging by the customer-service-related comments on their Facebook page, they may be struggling with a different year than the one they'd planned—like so many of us.
Until 2020, our family relished the spooky silliness of the Halloween season without much thought. We gobbled mini Snickers until we were sick, put out an armada of pumpkins, decorated our city patio with haybales and cornstalks, plotted our trick-or-treating route to hit all the best decorations and celebrity brownstones while being sure to swing by a friend's stoop for a sidewalk cup of hot cider (spiked for the grownups).
But Halloween in a pandemic is forcing us to rethink some of our family's favorite traditions.
I mean, I'd be the first to admit it: Halloween is ridiculous. It's expensive and commercialized. It's one of those holidays that has been meaninglessly blown out of all proportion, to the point where the 1970s child that I was—dressed as a "princess" in one of my mom's old nightgowns—would hardly recognize it any more: the months-long observance of what used to be one night. The orange-black-purple-everywhere of a modern Halloween that starts in August and thinks nothing of a $95 costume for a child.
Besides, who needs spooky decorations when the newspaper is the scariest thing you'll ever see? Who needs a light-up cobweb strung up on the porch when we're all so hopelessly caught up in this worst year ever—and thrashing and struggling just seems to bind us up tighter?
Who needs Halloween in a pandemic year?
I think we do, actually. I really do think we need it.
This year, we're being forced to change traditions we'd never really thought about before—we took for granted that Halloween was one of those optional excesses that you could sidestep completely or dive into fangs-first. But I'm finding that my innate stubbornness (what I guess I could call my native Midwestern optimism, crossed with a Brooklynite's determination to never give up ) is just making me double down on Halloween.
I want candy. I want to feel my neighborhood come alive with kids and decorations and people being creative and silly for no real reason. I want to rewatch Halloween specials that remind me of my childhood, and I want to spend time with my kid planning "spooky" activities and making treat bags. I want to delight small people who haven't had much delight this year. (Also, I want to freak them out a little—but only in a fun way , I promise.)
This year, I want to make fun out of fear. More than ever, I want that. So much.
My family was already those people —the ones who kicked off Halloween decorating and planning and baking and Charlie-Brown-watching as early as we could decently get away with it. We're the people who stop juuuuuust shy of actually getting a Halloween tree , but every year I ask myself why we haven't done it yet—it seems like it's only a matter of time.
I haven't decided yet whether we'll do trick-or-treating , honestly—there are too many variables to make that decision until much closer to the actual day.
But this year, counting down to October 31 , we're packing in as much Halloweening as we can manage—out of sheer defiance .
Try to scare me, 2020. I dare you. Have you seen our Halloween decorations , deployed in stages with NASA-worthy precision? Stage 1, launching September 1: anything "seasonal but not spooky"—basically this translates as "flotilla of fake fall produce."
Stage 2, launching October 1: "Specifically Halloween but indoor only," which means transforming our living room into a witchy theme park where you can't walk two feet through our house without tripping over a plastic body part.
Stage 3, which coincided with our annual apple-picking-pumpkin-patching expedition (which we did at the same farm this year as every year before, but with a timed appointment): "Organic matter," in which apples spill over the kitchen counters, haybales and cornstalks get propped up in every corner, and the human inhabitants of the house are officially outnumbered by pumpkins of various sizes.
Stage 4: Outdoor decorations and lights, which, when fully assembled, can be seen from outer space.
Every night after homework, we stress-watch an episode of Halloween Wars or The Halloween Baking Championship together. I am not a great baker, but I have to fight back against the encroachment of apples in our 800 square foot apartment (right now, mid-October, we're averaging about 10 apples per square foot), so I've started pumping out seasonal baked goods. Our kitten has special Halloween toys, which drive him into an exquisite state of furry madness, like the wild little gremlin he is.
We're making treat bags for friends and kids in the neighborhood. I'm sending Halloween treats to my nieces and nephews around the country. We've watched all the good Halloween movies and we're going to keep watching them—in fact, we're going to a drive-in movie the weekend before Halloween to see Ghostbusters with friends.
So come at me, Halloween 2020. I'm ready for you. You can't scare me, I live with like 20 partially-assembled skeletons. Next year the Chasing Fireflies catalogue is going to be my memoir . I am owning the Halloween wars. I am pre-emptively haunting my own house. I am not going to let this pandemic take one inch of fake cobwebbing out of my helpless, hopeful hands.
We are in this thing to win it, people.
This year, it's Halloween or high water.
Our favorite spooktacular Halloween finds from the Motherly Shop!
This is the sweetest little witch we ever did see. She'll bring instant Halloween magic into your home (because you know, that's what witches do)! And if she ends up staying out year round because you can't bear to put her away with the Halloween decorations, we totally get it.
Get your tiniest pumpkin in on the action with this adorable felted onesie. (Psst: It also comes in kid + mom tees, so the whole family can match. I mean, come on!)
These adorable Halloween hair clips add instant spook (and glitter) to every hair style—babies all the way to mamas!
Halloween costumes have never been easier. This adorable set of wings + a mask will take any outfit to instant dragon in seconds!
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