It’s been one heck of a rollercoaster of a year! But to hear that now our usual tradition of guising (Trick or Treating for those not in Scotland) has to be called off is another in a long list of blows, especially for kids.
My children adore this time of year, dressing up, going to parties, lighting fires, eating delicious food – so I’m going to make a real effort to make sure it’s still a fantastic, memorable day for them.
Here’s a list of my top ten ideas for making the Covid-Halloween a fun, warm family affair. And don’t panic, I’m not advocating anything overly crafty or expensive either, but just things you can do with what you have and a teensy bit of prep.
The origins of Halloween is Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) an ancient Gaelic/Celtic/pagan festival at the start of winter - but there are similar festivals at this time of year in many cultures. One of the earliest traditions was to light big fires. You would extinguish your home fire, and join the community, building a huge sacred bonfire to honour the deities and ring in a prosperous year ahead. Once the celebration was over, they would relight their hearth fires from the sacred bonfire – to help protect them into winter.
So why not have a fire of your own. Our family love having an open fire in the backyard, sitting around it wrapped in blankets, toasting marshmallows. Fire has as sacred, ceremonial and healing nature to it - I reckon we could all do with some healing and warding off negativity this year!
Why not dress up as you usually would, and all contribute to a harvest feast. Set a challenge to make costumes from what you already have in the house – bandages for a mummy, sheet for ghost, anything black for a witch. Then add in some delicious food. You could go with a big roast dinner perhaps, maybe a BBQ if the weather’s ok, or a massive apple pie… Whatever a feast means to you. Or roast your food on your fire (see number 1). My kids love making baking so will be in charge of pudding this year.
One of the things I like best about the Scottish tradition of Guising is the need for children to ‘work’ for their treats. Children turn up at the door and have to tell a joke, do a dance or perform a little act before being rewarded with a treat. You could either follow this tradition in your own home or make them work for it with a treasure hunt. Even better – what about a treasure hunt by torch-light?
To set it up, I use different colours of post-its (a colour for each child), but any coloured paper would do. I start at the end of the hunt, and work my way backwards, leaving clues around the house and garden. The reward can either be sweets or perhaps a small gift, DVD or book. When setting it all up, it’s best to focus on one child at a time though, or it can get confusing! Oh, and make them burn off some of the sweets - one clue inside, one outside, one upstairs!
Here are some examples of the sorts of clues I use with my girls;
In all original Halloween traditions, there is some level of belief that on this particular day, the veil between the living and the afterlife is unusually thin. For some this brings warding off of evil, for others, like those in Mexico celebrating the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), it is a time to remember and celebrate loved ones who have died.
I’ve always loved this idea. One of my traditions is to light a candle for each of the family and friends I’ve lost. As I light each tealight candle, I remember the individual, telling my daughters about what I remember about them, and why they were important to me. I then let the candles burn till they’re finished. It’s a very reflective moment, and a lovely way to bring a bit of meaning to the day.
Why not spend a bit of time on the day decorating your house! We like adding a few Halloween decorations. Let’s be honest, feeling the temperature dropping and the days getting shorter isn’t very cheery. Brightening up the house can help to add a little joy. Especially this winter – it’s going to be a long one as the Covid restrictions continue. I love the idea of the initiative Shine Bright Scotland, asking Scotland to put up lights and lanterns wherever possible to ‘Light up the darkness and shine bright this winter’ – like what everyone did with the rainbows of the first Covid lockdown.
What about having a family games night? You could go for traditional Halloween games (dookin' for apples, strung up doughnuts, searching for sweets in a bowl of spaghetti, or eating jellies out of a pile of icing sugar). Or you could go for board games or fun physical challenges – whatever works for your family. My girls are always hounding me to play family board games, so Saturday will be a good excuse to dust off all those we’ve not played in a while. Here are a few of our favourites if you’re looking for something new;
What about a family movie night, complete with popcorn, hot chocolate, dress-ups, blankets and pillows – the works. Here are some of the best family Halloween movies;
And for the smallest in the family;
Why not all muck in and build a family den? Set it up in the loungeroom with blankets, fairy lights, pillows – we often use our clothes airer and some string. You could use the time to tell stories, (check out story cubes if you need a bit of inspiration), or you could set up your den so you can watch a movie at the same time. Add a picnic feast, and it’ll be a fantastic memory.
What about some reverse guising? Why not do a bit of family baking, wrap it up with a bow and deliver it to neighbours? This might be especially nice for anyone shielding or not able to get out and about at all. Cakes, decorated biscuits, flapjacks, or even just a bag of sweets - all would spread a bit of cheer.
And last but by no means least – why not book the kids in to have their photo taken? A pleasant evening walk to my place, a quick photo – making a great keepsake of an otherwise crazy time, and all benefitting LYPP Linlithgow.
What are your Halloween traditions? Are there any others you'd add to this list?