The Ghost of Halloweens Past

Over the years, Halloween has become a major holiday in itself, one worthy of outrageous parties and get-togethers.   According to Yahoo news, Americans will spend $8 billion on Halloween.  (That seems a bit excessive, right?)

When did Halloween morph into such a national spending frenzy?

(Segue alert…Here I go into a “when I was young” story.)

When I was young (see, I warned you), we very rarely had store bought costumes.  If we were lucky enough to have a purchased costume, it was one of those made out of cheap flame retardant fabric with a sweat-producing plastic mask. The fabric was always wrinkled beyond belief.   The mask was held in place with two staples and a rubber band.   It never lasted through a night of trick or treating.   Fun times.   I still coveted a store bought costume. (After some research, I found out that Collegeville was the maker of most of these vintage costumes and had the rights to cartoon characters, etc.) Granted there were no grandiose Halloween superstores back then.  We browsed through TG&Y to compile our want list.

PD request

From a rare Halloween party at our house in 1972.   The tall princess (in the wrinkly yellow skirt) is a school friend. I am the bedraggled cat (wearing last year’s bear costume from a Christmas operetta), the witch is the princess’ sister, the next princess is my best friend (notice, she is just wearing a party dress). The front row pictures Caspar (a little brother of someone), Woody Woodpecker (my little sister), and a witch in overalls (my best friend’s little brother). What a motley crew.  (Notice the orange shag carpeting?)

Our costumes were passed down from older cousins or we might have been able to buy just a plastic mask and improvise the rest of the costume.   So, there were lots of ghosts and hobos in my memory…the easiest costumes to make. So, how did my sister score a complete Woody Woodpecker costume?   (Note to self:   Must ask mom why I had to go as a cat/bear.)

Living in the sticks like we did, trick or treating generally meant jumping in the truck and driving to grandma’s house (2 miles away) and a few neighbors (3-4 miles away) who were warned by our parents ahead of time that we would be dropping by.   Once or twice, we were lucky enough to be invited by town friends to go with them.   Most of the time it was low key.    If we got a popcorn ball and a candied apple (made by grandma), we were excited.

It may be sounding to some that we were neglected and deprived.   Really, not so.   Halloween just wasn’t that big of deal. It was a fun time, don’t get me wrong, but we weren’t planning our costumes and parties a year in advance.   If anything, we grabbed a mask out of the toy box and just jumped in the truck for an impromptu trick or treating at grandma’s.

So, where am I going with all this?   I really don’t know except I still remember those days of depravity fondly.  I wish I had a sticky popcorn ball right now.

I have two pumpkins by the front door with a couple of pots of mums.    I will light up these cool luminaries that the godkids made us.  (Their mother is the little princess pictured above.)

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Mason jars painted in the holiday spirit.

I won’t spend hundreds of dollars at Pottery Barn to deck out the house.    I won’t spend upwards of $200 on a racy witch costume.

If I could get by with it, I would bake cookies and make candied apples to pass out but I know that diligent parents would make their kids throw them in the trash.

I wish for the ghost of Halloweens past.

Bah humbug!

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Spiders in the mist.

Happy Halloween!





20 comments to The Ghost of Halloweens Past

  • I love the pictures and even remember being a couple of those characters in costume! Casper was my favorite and I still remember how my face used to sweat like crazy under that plastic mask! My husband and I were talking the other day about halloween when we were kids. His grandparents gave out fruit and mine gave out popcorn balls. That’s something that would never happen today. We give out individual packs of microwave popcorn and a creepy crawly from a big bag we get at Sam’s. Parents are always glad to see the popcorn………I don’t know if it’s because it is less candy or if they want the popcorn for themselves! 🙂 Happy Halloween!

    • So, wouldn’t you kill for a homemade popcorn ball right about now. I like the idea of handing out popcorn. We are handing out fruit snacks here.

  • Other than the fact that I grew up in a neighborhood that was perfect for trick-or-treating, our Halloween childhoods were very similar. We rarely had store-bought costumes, and if they were, they were the same you used (I think I even had that Casper costume). We liked the home made variety because after we finished going up and down our streets, we’d mix and match what we had on and go around again as something totally new. 🙂

  • It’s fun recalling times gone past, yes things were very different. And your right, spending a lot of money doesn’t make things more special.

  • kitchenriffs

    It really is too bad it’s not practical to give out homemade goodies like cookies anymore – better quality than candy, and much better flavor. Anyway, we always used to make our own costumes too (although we’d buy the masks, usually). I, also, am a bit puzzled why Halloween has become such a big deal, but I know people who consider it the most important and fun holiday of the year. Good post – thanks.

    • Me, too. I think Halloween is best left to he kids. (That said, I bet I can venture over to your site and find a super Halloween cocktail or two.)

  • I think it’s not just Halloween, but every celebration is done to a bigger extreme any more. I saw a blog post through Pinterest about how 1st birthday parties have become such an elaborate ordeal, and for what? The kid won’t remember it and doesn’t understand what’s going on. LOL! The blog blamed Pinterest, Facebbok, and internet in general for the phenomenon, because we can so easily see other people’s parties for their child’s first birthday, and we think that’s so neat and want to do even bigger. Wonder if Halloween can be blamed on Pinterest too? haha

    Loved seeing that old photo!! Oh for the days of yore!

  • BTW, love that spider pic! Neat!

  • Oooo what beautiful misty mornings you have there! I’m proud to say that I didn’t contributre one bit to that big Halloween spending number this year, and couldn’t be happier. The costumes do get pretty out of hand now, don’t they? I’m still always a fan of simple, DIY ones.

    • Thanks, Jess. Now, I wouldn’t exactly say I didn’t contribute anything at all. I still bought a bit o’ treats for goblins that might venture to our boringly decorated house this year. 🙂

  • tkwblog

    I believe I had the same princess mask! I can remember wearing it and having an uncontrollable urge to stick my tongue into the little opening (which is not big enough for a tongue), my tongue would get scrapped but I couldn’t help myself! I agree, no big Halloween decor here either. I decorate for fall, leave it up until it’s time to switch to Christmas. All decor hand made or purchased on discount. If I had the money and storage space, however, I wouldn’t be against to decorating to the nines but no worries about that ever happening.

  • I am so with you on this one Debra!!! Halloween was so simple when I was growing up. We collected candy in a paper sack and our costume was a sheet with holes cut out for the eyes. And decorating a house – Really? 🙂