Have you all seen the movie “Christmas with the Kranks“? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. It’s a beloved classic at our house. We watch it every year right around Thanksgiving. What a hoot! If you’ve ever dreamed of skipping Christmas, this movie is a “must see”.
Although we have never skipped Christmas, we have successfully “skipped Halloween” for the past several years. For real…and it has been fabulous!
Back when our daughter was young, and for the first several years we had our boys, we bowed to social pressure and let the kids participate in the school and community activities, including trick-or-treat. Every year, however, it got harder and harder and things continued to get worse…much worse. From the minute the decorations started showing up in the stores until Halloween finally passed, my kids were horrid. Every crazy behavior you can think of happened all day every day. After enduring an absolutely hellacious nightmare of a Halloween several years ago, we were done. We all vowed NEVER AGAIN!
It was also about this time I figured out why this particular time of year was so incredibly difficult for my kids. I have posted about those here and here. Those powerful realizations were game changers for us. No wonder our kids were freaking out!
We finally had the courage to do what I had wanted to do for years. We skipped Halloween…for real! The first year we did it, my kids were still young. Oh, my goodness. You’d think we’d committed a felony or something! Halloween is a huge deal in our neighborhood. In fact, I dare say it’s out of control! It must be on some “safe neighborhood” registry or something. People from all over creation swarm our streets on Halloween night and our normally quiet neighborhood turns into chaos. There are hundreds (often close to 1,000) trick-or-treaters…seriously…and all their parents drive up and down the streets alongside them.
We didn’t care. We bucked the all the scorn and judgment and ridicule, along with the copious amounts of unsolicited opinions and parenting advice we heard from people who don’t get it. We also ignored all the nay-sayers who were convinced we were somehow depriving our children of some God-given right of passage and damaging for life by not allowing them to participate. Oh, how precious little those people understood about the effects of trauma!
We didn’t deprive our kids of anything. Reality is that traditional Halloween WASN’T fun for our kids. Ever. We simply stopped trying to convince them it was! We also did what we needed to do to help them get through the constant triggers and insanity going on all around them and feel safe in the process.
Ok, ok. Just like the Kranks couldn’t really skip *all* of Christmas, we can’t and don’t really skip all of Halloween. Much as we wish we could wave a magic wand and make it go away or pretend it doesn’t exist, we can’t. It’s everywhere and there is no escaping it. We now simply do what works for US and for OUR family.
Thankfully, we are now well past the days of ridicule and scorn. Now it’s just our norm. All the neighbors (at least the ones we care about) know we’re home and they keep an eye on things. In fact, last year our next-door neighbors purposely deflected all the trick-or-treaters away from our house so they wouldn’t keep ringing our doorbell and then sneaked in our back door to borrow some pantry items for dinner. The ones who took issue with it before have moved away, outgrown the hype of it just like we have, or realized what they think doesn’t matter and we’re going to do what we do regardless…and that we have a lot of fun doing it.
Making it Work
We’ve learned a few things over the years that we’ve been doing this. One of the biggest things is that in order to make it work, we have to prepare in advance. We learned the hard way that going to the store, even in the morning or middle of the day on Halloween isn’t safe. Too many people come to the store dressed up at all hours of the day and the other kids that are in there are unruly, obnoxious, and do stupid things like sword fighting in the isles with fake bloody swords.
My kids also quit going to school on Halloween. This was especially true when they were in elementary school. The celebrations, decorations, and costume parades were all intense triggers and WAY too much for them. Once they hit middle school and high school, depending on what activities are going on that day, they can decide whether to go or not. If the decide not to, I call them in sick…because PTSD is a very real illness. We stay home, hang out in our jammies, watch tv, make cookies, and get things ready for our special family night.
That’s not all, though. During the rest of the month of October, we skip the church Halloween party, as well as all other school festivals, office parties, and specifically Halloween themed community events. We don’t carve pumpkins, and I got rid of all the trick or treat buckets and old Halloween decorations (some of which I’d had for years and years.) The only thing I kept were my happy faced lighted pumpkins, which still adorn the top of my hutch all month long.
As there is literally NO PLACE except our own home that is safe for us on Halloween night, that is where we stay. During the big trick-or-treat festivities, we shut out all our lights, close all the curtains and blinds, hide in our basement, and have a very fun family party of our own. We watch movies, play video games, make a mess with silly string, and have a pizza party with all the trimmings.
I dare say one of the most fun parts of our whole night is trying not to get caught that we’re home! Since all the neighbors know we don’t do Halloween and their kids never come to our house, we know that anyone who does ring the doorbell isn’t from here. So, we make a total game out of it. Our stairs are right behind our front door with windows, so it can be a bit of a challenge. We aren’t completely heartless, though. We do keep a very small amount of candy on hand in case we do get caught before it gets dark (and we usually do at least once.) I have to confess, though, our favorite year was when we handed out the candy my kids collected from a recent parade. Talk about recycling at its finest!
The kids can dress up if they want to. The deal is, though, they have to use whatever we have at home. Sometimes they get creative and do some really fun stuff. Other years, they don’t care. The older they get, the less they care and that is just fine with us. One year they did convince our whole family to dress up as super heroes, though. That was a lot of fun!
In all the years we’ve been doing this, one silly little ritual has stuck. Regardless of what else we do that night, or how big my kids get, we still trick-or-treat…at home…in our hallway. We do a couple of rounds. Each person picks a door (we have just enough of them for all of us) and gets to hand out various items related to dinner. The first round is plates, cups, and utensils. The second round is various parts of our meal. We all take turns going door to door to collect our meal. Behind one door is a salad, another might have donuts or root beer floats, and mom or dad usually serve the pizza.
By far the best part of our celebration is that our sweeties are tucked snugly and safely in their beds long before the insanity outside dies down (it usually runs well past 10:00 p.m.). We also no longer have the intense fallout we used to have for two months prior and 3 weeks post Halloween!
Three cheers for doing things our own way and in a way that works for our family!