Halloween is not canceled. Yes, Covid-19 has canceled the annual Halloween parties. Watching scary movies with your friends has turned into a live-tweet event and most areas have banned trick-or-treat. However, Halloween has been celebrated longer than plastic-wrapped fun-sized confections have been in existence. In my house, we celebrate Samhain. (pronounced Sow-hain). While Samhain activities are more fun with friends, they can add novelty to the Halloween that almost wasn’t. Here’s a list of stay at home spooky alternatives to gatherings:
- Apple Dolls – Before pumpkin carving, turnips and apples were carved for the spirits visiting our realms to use as corporal bodies. Apples were carved into faces and dried before stringing into wreaths or given doll bodies. Apple flesh is must easier to carve than pumpkins so little hands get the thrill of using a “real knife”. They can do so safely with a small pairing or pocket-knife without the fear of slipping on a tough skin. Once the faces are carved, they are dropped into a food dehydrator overnight. The faces shrink and crinkle as they dry which “age them” overnight. Kids love the excitement of a big morning reveal. Photo by Sacredwicca.com
- Bobbing for Apples – Not one for guests but since you are already self-isolating, let’s bring back a classic. Even without adding the extra obstacle of using a blindfold, capturing a floating apple with your teeth is a lost art. If you have never tried it, it is extremely difficult. Kids will love the water play, competition, and silliness of watching their parents dunk their faces in a tub of water. What do you do with all those apples? See above…
- Drag out the Photo Albums – Samhain is about
connecting with the dead which is now facilitated by photo and video
documentation. Time to reminisce over grandma’s cooking, grandpa’s stories, or
that family vacation which sounds like a movie. How is this spooky? Google
early 1900s Halloween costumes, yikes! Even the plastic bag costumes with cut-out
eyes of the 1980s scare today’s kids. You may have thought you looked truly
outrageous in your Jem plastic bag, but looking back, we were scary. Photo from The Vintage News
- Make a “witchy potion” – Making spiced hot apple
cider or wassail will have you channeling your best “Witches of Macbeth” impersonation.
First, you gather warming spices and fall herbs for seeping. How witchy is
that? You could give them spooky names and have your kids “gather” them from
your kitchen. Then you seep the herbs in a sugar-water mix while loading your
crockpot with apples. Why not carve some faces in them first when you are
making dolls in #1? Add the spiced sugar mix, apple cider, orange juice, and my
secret ingredient half can of pumpkin puree. Make this in the morning and allow
it to fill your home with the smells of fall until you enjoy it in the evening.
Kids in bed early? This goes wonderfully with bourbon, but I live in Kentucky
where everything goes well with bourbon – even Fruit Loops. Photo from Coolmaterial.com
- Get rid of bad habits – The second theme of Samhain is transformation. It is the season of allowing bad habits and old grudges to die. Apologies, pledges, positive affirmations, and swear jars are set up now to be reevaluated at Yule in December. What habits do you wish to stop? Is there something that bothers you that you would like to release – like doubts or fears? This is where the tradition of haunted houses came to be. Samhain is about facing your fears and becoming a better version of yourself before the winter holidays (where your family would be stuck in a small space with you for months, lol.) Have your family set up “swear jars” for their releasing habits or get witchy can have a burn ceremony. Write your bad habits on slips of paper and drop them in your chiminea or bonfire to be released. Then write the positive version of your habit on a poster board to make a reminder for yourself. For example, last year my 9-year-old burned his habit of splashing water all over his bathroom every morning. He then made a sign reminding himself to control how much water comes out of the faucet at once and to wring out his washcloth over the sink. The cutest – most useful – keepsake ever.
- Make autumnal window art – I used to love making
leaf stained glass windows as a kid. Have your kids gather leaves and use an
iron to seal them between two pieces of wax paper. You will have to put a towel
between your iron (on the lowest setting) and the paper to keep it from
sticking to your clothes iron. A more modern version is to use clear contact paper which is already sticky but I use this as an opportunity to teach my son how to iron. The panels can hang in your windows all winter
to create colored shadows on the floor which are perfect for tracing art
projects later. Photo from cbc.ca
I hope you have a happy and safe Samhain. Perhaps without the commercial aspects of Halloween, we can connect to our families (living and dead members) and focus on the transformational aspects of this spiritual holiday. Halloween is not canceled, just going through a transformation all its own. Blessed Be!