DIY Halloween for Wonderful Family Rituals!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I hope it is one of yours, too.  It evokes childhood memories of the first chill in the air, of piecing together our own costumes, and of proudly parading around the neighborhood with my brother and friends in our homemade getups.   It is the delight of my mom being totally engaged in finding the perfect hat, scarf, or jewelry to make our outfits complete.  It is standing in my mom’s bathroom putting on her make-up.  It is seeing how disguised – or not – my friends were when we met up in the street to choose which direction we would go to knock on doors. 

Lately, though, Halloween has become very commercial.  Pop-up costume stores in vacated big-box buildings make dressing up easy.  Yet, that ease comes with a cost, a loss of creativity, and a lot of waste.  These wear-once-and-discard costumes add to the landfill without contributing to the true fun of the holiday.  Making costumes by using things that you have at home or find in a thrift store establishes a great Halloween ritual.   Rituals are like family glue, holding everyone together, and those that you create around holidays add a special richness.   Here are some ideas to inspire you to bring Halloween back into the realm of your own inventive, unique, DIY creations so that you build those rituals that bind you together.  It takes time, and it is time well spent with one another. 

Make Your Own Costume

There is a world of costume ideas literally at your fingertips online.  For example, The Cardboard Collective has an annual costume challenge.  There are no prizes or competitions.  They challenge you to make your costume from cardboard, and they have hundreds of suggestions with photos.  Can’t decide on what to “be” on Halloween?  Your child can pick a character from one of their favorite books and bring them to life on All Hallows’ Eve.  Check out these ideas for starters.  If you want to have a green Halloween, check out all of the costume suggestions here.   

When my daughter wanted to be Hermione Granger one year, we bought a graduation robe from Goodwill. We downloaded the Gryffindor logo onto an iron on patch and ironed it onto the lapel.  She did her hair and made a wand from a stick she found in the yard.  It was wonderful!

Go green by using a pillow case or reusable shopping bag for holding treats instead of purchasing plastic pumpkins.  Draw or paint on the pillow case to personalize it.  Kids can add their name, Halloween icons, or something to tie it into their costume.

Check out garage sales, thrift stores, and your own closet for ideas.  You might get inspired by a hat or material that you can sew into something imaginative.  Repurpose and reuse.  We found inspiration in old robes, my dad’s Air Force uniforms, and my grandmother’s antique dresses!  Here are 35 ideas for homemade costumes.  Kids can also make easy masks from paper plates.

 Have a Halloween Party at Home

We rarely had trick-or-treaters in our Florida neighborhood because all of the properties were so far apart, fenced, and gated.  To make Halloween special, we had an annual Halloween party when our daughter was younger, and when she was in high school, she planned her own parties.  We got bales of hay from the local feed store for sitting and for building a hay stack.  We played “wrap the mummy” where the kids would wrap their parents in toilet paper (probably not very green!).  Kids dove for toys hidden in the hay stack.  We made ghosts out of plastic bottles and set them up for bowling.

Having your own party also means you can choose the snacks and treats.  Starting Halloween with a healthy meal is always a good idea whether you are having a party at home or are going trick-or-treating.   Martha Stewart is a great resource for appetizers, party ideas, and snacks.  One of our favorites is Savory Pumpkin Puffs filled with parmesan and Gruyere and brushed with Dijon mustard.  Yum!  Our daughter asks for these every year, and we have fun making them together.

Decorate Creatively

Decorate with things that you have at home.  You can stuff old clothes with leaves or hay to make a scarecrow, monster, mummy, or witch.  Punch holes in tin cans to make luminaries.  String them up and use battery operated tea lights if you prefer them over candles.  Use black paper to cut out silhouettes of crows, bats, pumpkins, witches, and owls to put in your windows or on your garage door.   Use white paper to cut out ghosts that you can string and hang from trees.  Create a ghost out of a ball under an old sheet that you shred at the bottom.  Use fall leaves as table decorations.  The possibilities are endless!

Read Books by Flashlight

Reading your family’s favorite spooky book aloud by flashlight is always a hit.  There are wonderful children’s books for Halloween, including The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, which remains one of our favorites.   You can read outside, maybe around a bonfire, or inside with all of your lights turned off.  If you want to get more creative, tell ghost stories that you make up on the spot. 

Have some warm cider, wrap up in blankets, turn on the flashlight, and let the fun begin!

Happy Halloween!