To say Halloween has never been my favorite holiday would be an understatement. Most holidays I am all over like it's my job (and as a mom of two, I guess it kind of is). I love the traditions, the time with family, the gifts, the food, and the excuses to dress up in fancy clothes. But despite including almost all of those things, Halloween has just never hit home.
Maybe it's my aversion to all things scary. Maybe the pressure of finding the perfect costume (timely when I was a kid; sexy when I was in my teens and early 20s; then quirky and creative when I accepted that sexy wasn't my thing) always felt like too much. Then there's the fact that I only really like about three types of candy: dark-chocolate-covered almonds, salted caramels, and Take 5 bars . . . and only one of those ever hits a Halloween treat bag, but even that's iffy.
For most of my life, I listened to friends wax on about how Halloween was their favorite holiday with an amused distance, knowing that I'd never be able to relate to their natural devotion to a day that combined almost nothing that appealed to me (except the excuse for a midweek party; that I could get on board with).
And then I had kids. Like everything else in my life, they changed everything, hyping up my enjoyment of the holidays I already loved and — surprise, surprise — even changing my tune about my least favorite one. From the minute I put my first child, then 6 months old, in a fuzzy bunny costume, complete with a plush carrot, and saw her face light up with excitement, I was hooked.
Maybe I don't have the Halloween gene, but my daughter most definitely does, and her pure enthusiasm has made me realize that Halloween can be kind of awesome if I make it solely about that. Call it Halloween joy by proxy.
We start picking out her costume sometime in August. She always starts by saying she wants to be something scary, then quickly backtracks when she realizes she hates being scared, always landing on some kind of animal costume with a plush body (she loves stuffed toys), a tutu, or a flower headband. This year's woodland deer costume combines all three. I'm already stocking up on products to create the perfect spotted deer face for her.
I never even liked trick-or-treating that much when I was a kid (see above candy issues), but watching my daughter and son — who shares my aversion to most things Halloween but is totally on board with the free candy — run around collecting snack-size candy bars and suckers with looks of ecstasy on their faces is definitely one of those pinch-me moments as a parent, regardless of how I know rationing that candy is going to be a week-long battle.
We also hit the jackpot when we moved last year and landed in one of those neighborhoods that totally embraces all things Halloween. At first I thought I'd just judge the tackiest of decorations from the comfort of my ghost- and ghoul-free home, but when I was basically forced to participate in the neighborhood trick-or-treating traditions (I was grandfathered into passing out hot chocolate and hot toddies by our home's previous owners), something clicked. Once I took away the sexy costume pressure of young adulthood, and the childhood pressure to collect as much candy as possible, to simply focus on my kids (and those hot toddies), the allure of Halloween became as apparent as the chocolate smears on my children's sugar-stuffed faces.
When I recently found myself considering buying a Halloween tee featuring a "rock on" skeleton hand to wear this Halloween (costumes and I still don't mix), I realized I had finally gone to the dark side. And the dark side, I have to admit, is kind of fun.