Halloween has changed since I was growing up. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, you had two choices for your costume: something that you put together quickly at home (likely with the help of your mom) or something that you picked up at the drug store on the way home from the bank, after you got the lollipop which you ate while sprawled completely across the backseat of the paneled station wagon (unless you were in the “way back” and were just sliding around as your mom took the turns extra-wide to give you more momentum with which to smack, giggling, into the sides of the car).
If it was the former, it likely involved a paper bag, some string, and some makeup – and maybe your mom even broke out the sewing machine. If it was the latter, it a) had a full-face mask that smelled terrible and attached with a stretchy string behind your head with eye slits barely wide enough to see out of that made you look like super creepy even if you were something totally benign like Holly Hobby, and b) had a “costume” that was made out of a single enormous piece of weirdly flame-retardant plastic (you can still smell that plastic, right?) and slipped over your entire body and also tied in the back.
Your costume options were, obviously, wide open, but tended to fall into one of three categories: something popular/current (Strawberry Shortcake, Smurf, G.I. Joe), something timeless/classic (firefighter, cop, cowboy, doctor/nurse, ghost, vampire), or something just a bit outside of the mainstream (mailbox – that would be my brother, Christmas tree – that would be me; these were homemade, of course… by our mom…). You took your Unicef box with you and a plastic bag or a pillowcase and, by God, you trick-or-treated — up and down streets, ringing the doorbells, gathering the candy, with your parent standing back and you doing the legwork, groaning whenever someone gave you an apple or a pencil and complaining that the change in your Unicef box was too heavy.
And when you got home, you ate that candy! You sorted it and counted it and, except for that year or two when there was some odd news story about something being stuck into the candy (pins? I honestly don’t remember) so your dad made you float the candy in a bowl of water (to see if there were any telltale holes from pin insertion, I guess), you ate it. You took your glow-sticks and your flashlights and your parents gave you the talk about not being a moron and running in front of cars. You learned how properly say “Trick or treat!” and “Thank you!” and how to avoid roving bands of teenagers who were out with silly string and eggs. It was wild, but man, it was fun.
These days, it’s a much more managed affair, from the costumes to the trick-or-treating to the candy consumption. Our house is far from immune. The girls begin looking for their costumes months in advance, scouring catalogs and the internet. Once they’ve decided, they then scour the internet for ideas on how to make their costumes even more fabulous. We shop in person and order things online. I have an entire Pinterest page devoted to Halloween and happily spent an hour last night making the girls’ Halloween-themed lunches (I know, it’s insane, but it made me smile). It’s become a freakin’ off-Broadway production.
When it’s time to trick-or-treat, children are accompanied by parents, often right at their sides (instead of, say, at the base of the driveway). We are warned to be vigilant and extra-cautious and to look out for predators (even though, statistically, kids are safer on Halloween; they’re also safe in general, but that’s another story for another time…). Kids grab candy and race off without a thank-you, and then that candy is examined and categorized and rationed. I know that, at my house, the girls are not allowed to have a free-for-all; they eat their couple of pieces of candy, save some for the coming weeks to be eaten as dessert, and either donate the rest to needy kids (there’s a candy drive at their school) or save it to decorate our Christmas gingerbread houses.
Halloween 2014 is WORK, y’all.
Thankfully, in our neighborhood, the actual trick-or-treating really does feel like it did when I was a kid. As I’ve mentioned before, we live in a wonderfully kid-friendly area with parents who do not hover, with neighbors who trust one another, with kids who play outside unattended and run gleefully from yard to yard. This means that, on Halloween night, once kids hit middle school (or so), they’re on their own, walking in groups from house to house – and being polite about it. Parents do accompany their younger children, but they hang back in packs, allowing the kiddos to do the trick-or-treating.
Oh. And they drink.
Sometimes, it’s coffee. Tonight, it may be hot cider or hot chocolate because gross, cold, rainy weather is predicted (NOT COOL, MOTHER NATURE). But more often than not, the parents are walking around with flasks or spiked cider or beers in their hands and more in their pockets (one in each jacket front pocket, to be precise). It makes for a far more festive Halloween. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.
Last year, for the first time, I was the one to stay behind and hand out the candy. I’d grown a bit tired of following the girls around; it had become rather the same each year, and frankly, a bit boring, so I thought I’d give candy passing-out a try. We do our garage up each year for Halloween and hand out donuts, cider, etc. (and we offer hard liquor for adults; this year, we’re creating a cider sangria – do come by) so it was really a lot of fun to just kick back in the cozy warmth and watch as the kids came by. Still, there were times when, frankly I got bored… when there weren’t any trick-or-treaters for a stretch, when the same costumes came by again and again, when I got a little tired of saying, “Take two!”
Surely there has to be a way to spice this up.
And so, to that end, I have created Halloween Bingo! Because Halloween is a family affair, it is meant as a family-friendly game; you need not drink alcohol in order to play it, and your kids are welcome to join in. You can also play it whether you’re the parent taking the kids around or the one doling out the goods. Halloween Bingo is for everybody!
(Side note: the items in Halloween Bingo aren’t necessarily cringe-worthy or bad – we’ve got some going on at our own house! They’re simply things you might see this year.)
If you are drinking, there are some additional rules* to be followed:
- Drink every time you see someone dressed as Elsa. (I know, “Let it Go” and the long white hair and the blue dress and all, but really, Anna is the much more fun sister. Why are there not more Annas??)
- Drink every time you hear another parent say, “Don’t forget to say ‘Thank you!'”
Drink twice if that parent is you.
- Drink every time you hear someone say, “What are you dressed as this year?”
* Most important drinking rule: don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly, especially when costumed children are running around.
Beyond that, it’s just straight up Bingo.
Some basics: As always, Bingo is five in a row. If you get Bingo, you need to call it out loudly – “BINGO, SUCKERS!!” – and the other players owe you a piece of candy. Once someone has Bingo, continued playing is encouraged; each subsequent Bingo should be treated the same. (If you’re drinking, take a drink for each square you mark.)
You can also adjust this and play Four Corners Bingo, Outside Edge Bingo, Plus Sign Bingo. If you do, you need to create your own shout-out and prizes; my time is limited here, people, because I’ve got a garage to decorate. (If you’re drinking, drink twice for each weirdo Bingo you get.)
If you manage to complete the entire card, you are clearly the Bingo Master. Shout out, “I AM THE BINGO MASTER!” and do an awesome dance move. Bonus points for The Worm. (If you’re drinking and you complete the card, finish your drink. And then get another.)
By doing this, I am fairly certain that Halloween will be completely un-boring. And delicious. And maybe also a bit competitive, which makes it more exciting because now my girls can argue about something more than just candy.
don’t forget to say thank you
what are you this year