Halloween: Then and Now

If, like me, you are “of a certain age”, you can readily remember how Halloween used to be very different.

And if you’re feeling cynical, you can easily come up with a list like this.

Mid September:

THEN: Go into the attic or basement, looking for the box that has the kids’ sweaters. Hope it doesn’t take long to find, and that the sweaters still fit. Wonder where you put the Halloween decorations.

NOW: Go online to find the this year’s fashion in Fall clothing for the kids. Pay extra for priority shipping, because your kids need them NOW. Check the return policy in case they screw up and you have to return them. Don’t order Halloween decorations; you don’t want to max out your credit cards right now.

Late September:

THEN: Make sure to put ‘Pumpkin Spice Blend’ and ‘Gingerbread Seasoning’ on your shopping list.

NOW: As soon as they’re available, load up on pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin spice air freshener, pumpkin spice muffin mix, pumpkin spice shampoo, pumpkin spice window cleaner, pumpkin spice tampons….

Early October:

THEN: See if the neighborhood kids will be willing to rake your lawn every other Saturday. You’ll provide the rakes and bags.

NOW: Check online for a well-reviewed local landscaping company who can come and clear your lawn of leaves when you’re going to be home, because you don’t trust them to do it right if you’re not watching their every move.

THEN: Get the flat cardboard skeleton and witch figure out of the back of the closet where you had shoved them last year. Tape them to the windows in the front of the house.

NOW: Realize you forgot to buy decorations. Drive madly around town trying to find something unique that is also fashionable (and environmentally friendly). Wind up at the dollar store buying generic Autumn decorations.

Mid October:

THEN: The kids bring home a flyer from school informing you that the school will be having a Halloween Party the day before Halloween, and that all students will be allowed to wear costumes to school that day.

NOW: Get an e-mail from the kids’ school reminding you to consider cultural and religious sensitivities when choosing your children’s costumes this year, and that for safety concerns, students will not be allowed to wear costumes in school.

THEN: Go through your old clothes and linens to come up with costume ideas for the kids. You can do better than the “ghost out of an old sheet” costume – perhaps an old poncho and that cheap souvenir sombrero your aunt got you from her trip to Acapulco last April will make an acceptable Mexican. If all else fails, you can pop down to the local Caldor’s and pick up a couple of cheap pre-made costumes – the “Made in Japan” kind that are just a basic mask and plastic sheet printed to look like a well-known cartoon character.

NOW: Search online trying to find for costumes for the kids. Funny how everything seems to be the “sexy” version of a standard character, even when it’s not really appropriate.

Couldn’t she get a Powergirl costume?

THEN: Get a decent sized pumpkin at the supermarket.

NOW: Drive an hour to a nearby “Pick Your Own Pumpkin” farm. Fight through the crowds of people with the same idea to find a parking space. Hope there aren’t too many people in the background of your selfies. After buying a dozen heirloom gourds, realize you forgot to actually buy a pumpkin, and pick one up at the supermarket on the way home.

Late October:

THEN: Check TV Guide to see when “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is going to be on. Mark your calendar, and see if the kids want to eat TV dinners while watching it (they probably will).

NOW: Wonder if you’ve set the parental controls on your video streaming service, so the kids won’t be watching R-rated horror movies on their tablets when you’re not around or they’re in their rooms. Decide not to bother, since they’ll probably work around them anyway.

THEN: Spend twenty bucks buying half a ton of candy. Good N’ Plenty, Sugar Daddies, Milk Duds, Dum Dums, Jujyfruits, Bit-O-Honey, Brach’s Candy Corn, Hershey’s….the works. Except Necco Wafers. No one eats those. Hope you’ve got enough; you almost ran out last year.

NOW: Spend a hundred bucks at Whole Foods buying assorted healthy snacks. Granola bars, preservative-free popcorn, apple chips, rice cakes…. Make sure to get some gluten-free and vegan items, because you don’t want to leave anyone who might have an allergy or special dietary preference out of the fun.

THEN: Think about going out Trick-or-Treating with the kids for a bit. Not that they need chaperoning, but you might get to flirt with that guy Steve a few houses down. He’s so good looking, and great with kids! You can’t believe he’s still single!

NOW: Text a couple of people in the neighborhood to make sure there’s at least one adult with the kids at all times. No one’s taking their kids to that guy Steve’s house, right? It’s weird that he’s single and enjoys being around kids so much….

THEN: Cover the kitchen table with old newspaper. Carve up the pumpkin with a good kitchen knife, letting the kids help you turn it into a Jack-O-Lantern. Throw out the seeds and innards, because who the heck eats that crap anyway. Put it out on the porch when done.

NOW: Buy a Pumpkin Carving Kit, complete with stencils, X-Acto knife, scraper, and spray preservative. Drape plastic sheeting over the kitchen table. Tell the kids not to bother you because the pattern is really intricate. Carefully remove and clean the seeds, because you came across this great recipe for cinnamon spiced pumpkin seeds online. Four hours later, when you’ve done the best you could with the pumpkin, put it out on the porch.

The Night Before:

THEN: Mischief Night. Hope you’ll get off easy like you did last year. Just a couple of feet of toilet paper. Ol’ Man Kowalczyk really got his Pontiac egged, though! He deserved it, the way he refused to let kids go into his yard to get their Wiffle ball out of his hedges.

NOW: What the hell is “Mischief Night”?


THEN: Have dinner early for the kids, so they will have time to get into their costumes and hit the street before all the good candy is gone.

NOW: Get the kids into their costumes as soon as they’re home from school, so you can take them out and be home before sunset.

THEN: Light a candle and drop it into the Jack-O-Lantern on your front porch.

NOW: Drop an LED candle into the Jack-O-Lantern on your front porch. Realize, as you try to position the candle just right, that you made a disaster of the stencil pattern.

THEN: If they clean out the neighborhood early, pile them into the car and take them around to your friends and relatives for some more!

NOW: You’re done early! Great! Make them put all their stuff aside (you’ll inspect it later). It’s time to make them dinner.

THEN: Good thing you brought a heck of a lot of candy! You almost got cleaned out! Nothing left but a couple of packs of Dots.

NOW: You realize that the only people who came were not actually Trick-or-Treaters, but volunteer campaign workers. They did look a bit too old, now that you think of it. Guess you’ll be eating granola bars and rice cakes for the next couple of weeks. You already threw out the cinnamon spiced pumpkin seeds you made a week ago; they came out like pieces of spice-flavored cardboard.

THEN: Time to check out what they got, and trade! Hey, look! Mrs. Goldberg gave out her chocolate Rice Krispies treats again! Going to have to snag a few – for quality control, of course….

NOW: Inspect everything with a magnifying glass. Anything not in its factory-sealed wrapper is immediately thrown out. Can’t be too careful these days; somebody Tweeted you a link to a story about how someone found a needle in their Halloween candy a couple of years ago…. Offer to give the kids the leftover granola and popcorn in exchange for all the stuff that’s going into the garbage. Wonder why they groan about it.



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