I’m not sure at what point the summer slides into fall but it is certainly something I feel in the air. Maybe it’s just cooler temperatures but I want to start thinking Halloween! Colors begin to explode, trees are changing color and the farmer’s markets are full of fat orange pumpkins as well as white ones and cool green and blue ones but the orange ones will fit the vintage Halloween the best!
It may be a little early but then there is time to search out great old Halloween decorations. Black and orange are traditional colors associated with this holiday but you might find ghastly spooky things in all kinds of colors. Always, I begin to gather about anything black and orange to start with then head out to find some great decorations.
The vintage paper-maché jack-o-lanterns have been a long time favorite of mine and you can still find them with a little searching, prices vary as well as condition. I have bought some just for the fun of it, not being prized examples, some being cute and some downright creepy, which I guess works perfect for Halloween. Group any you might find, it looks amazing together; you can find some good reproduction ones too, just mix them together. There was a movie, can’t remember which one, that had a roomful of these jack-o-lanterns hanging down from the ceiling. It was very impressive! It’s hard to believe but originally they used to have actual candles burning in those! Thank goodness now there are great battery candles that look real and much safer.
Costumes, especially old ones for children, can be used to hang on a door or wall. Remember how the masks were always awful to see out of. Our family always had homemade costumes usually some kind of dress up clothes and old jewelry especially if one wanted to be a princess or better yet add big earrings and tie a scarf around your head and become a gypsy! Cowboys were another favorite, and how could you pass up a ghost in a sheet with eye holes cut out, always good if it was cold and you had to wear your jacket while trick or treating!
Throw a vintage Halloween party, require everyone to dress in vintage style costumes. Decorate with black and orange crepe paper, and any vintage Halloween decorations you can find. Create a “boiling witches cauldron” with a large pot with hot water and dry ice (check out DIY info to do it safely), it adds a great and kind of creepy atmosphere. Find some old pointy-toed boots, a black shawl, broom and a witch hat to put by your door to show that the witch is “in”.
Cider, popcorn and caramel apples were always favorite treats as well as lots of candy; fill old canning jars with candy corn, caramels and any favorite candy you might like. We used to “bob for apples” in an old wash tub fill with water and apples. It’s tricky to try to get an apple with only your mouth, hence the bobbing part! Make a bean bag toss by creating a large jack-o-lantern painted on cardboard with a big mouth and compete to see who can get the most bean bags in for a prize. Even more fun: parade your party down to an unsuspecting neighbor’s house. We did this at a friend’s party a number of years ago, it was great fun and the cars driving by usually steered clear of us and the surprised look on the neighbors faces was great, particularly the children!
Getting ready for the little trick or treaters with decorations by the door, dressing in costume and of course great treats. We used to get homemade treats from families we knew but times changed so much that prepackaged treats are safest. Fill fun-decorated Halloween treat bags, tied with orange or black raffia or ribbon. When my daughter was about 2 and first went trick or treating, she got little boxes of animal crackers — much better than small hard candy pieces and a good thing to have on hand for those tiny monsters! In one town we lived in, the “witches wail” was actually the towns tornado siren going off with the awful wavering sound — that still scares me — signaling that it was time to head home to check out all the treats that have been hauled in and to see if anyone saw some scary monsters, and maybe after a night of fun they won’t even miss a piece of candy or two!
About Maggie: I have always loved Halloween and as long as my kids were still at home, I still decorated. Now, living in an old house here in Lexington, the kids that were here when we moved in are all off somewhere. There are a few tiny ones now but we do not get anyone coming by to trick or treat. I continued to decorate but soon found most of the kids were dropped off in the larger neighborhoods. I miss the part where everyone knew each other in the neighborhood, even when you couldn’t always recognize who was behind the costume! Once, we had some young Cub Scouts once ask if my rocking chair made a creeky noise and if it was a ghost. I just replied I didn’t know for sure!
Words: Maggie Bonanomi | Photos: Patti Klinge