Long before Pottery Barn Kids and all things Martha Stewart, before store shelves got washed with orange by the end of summer, I loved Halloween.
It’s a no-obligation holiday, pure fun with so many ways to celebrate. You get to pick; nothing’s pre-ordained – no Thanksgiving turkey, no church service, no one way fits all. We’re left to our own devices to craft our own traditions.
Mine are pretty simple – the same multi-generational families coming over to celebrate, making caramel apples (I don’t think my girls will ever let me give this one up), having a fun dinner and going trick-or-treating.
But there are plenty of folks around town whose traditions are a little more…creative.
Case in point – Michael Kaplan. Not too many men are confident enough to dress up as Snow White even once. But every Halloween, Michael self-assuredly does just that. Unless he’s decided to be Cinderella or another fairy princess.
Michael’s really not a closet drag queen. It’s just that when he and his wife Julie hosted their inaugural Halloween party six years ago when their son Garrett was a baby, Michael didn’t realize that dressing up like a gory monster would be a problem for Garrett and his friends. So in the spirit of making everyone happy the next year, Michael dressed up in what he considered the most benign of costumes – a princess.
But, Julie says, her husband is “a little twisted,” and Snow White wasn’t enough for him.
Now, Michael welcomes guests each year as a sweet fairy princess. All through dinner, he channels his feminine side. But once trick-or-treating commences, Michael disappears for a costume change. Before anyone realizes, he’s in the front yard, among five or six life-sized mechanical creatures. In his scary costume, Michael’s indistinguishable from the faux ghouls. Until someone comes close, and he comes to life and scares them to death.
“I laugh so hard watching Michael scare and have fun with the trick-or-treaters that my sides hurt,” Julie says.
“The best part of it all is that we’re together with our friends, and trick-or-treaters come year after year to see Michael. It brings out the kid in everyone.”
After moving from Dallas to a quiet street near Rice University, Sam Touchet let his inner child take over as he schemed with his children to create a pyrotechnic show for their new neighbors. The goal was to create a flaming pumpkin, something to attract trick-or-treaters and foster a “we’re your new spooky and fun neighbors” vibe. But spooky and fun quickly became dangerous and scary when a kerosene-induced flame spouting from a pumpkin’s insides failed to burn off on its own.
In what could either be described as an anti-climactic end to the show or as a dramatic finale, depending on your perspective, Sam wound up snuffing out the blazing pumpkin – and the ensuing screams – with a hand-held fire extinguisher.
Sam’s wife Jennifer says, “The 8-plus set of boys loved it, but new parents with babies ran screaming from our house. We certainly made an impression – we befriended the neighbors who laughed, but I’m not sure the ones who ran ever spoke to us again.
“It wound up being a one-year tradition that, now that I think of it, we might try to revitalize since we’ve been here five years and are a little more trustworthy.”
Jen and Allen Deutsch are parents of three young trick-or-treaters, but they also host a longstanding gathering each year that happens to be adults-only – with a caveat. Only come if you’re wearing “something you wouldn’t usually wear” (a nod to anyone with costume phobias, but a distinct mandate to get in the spirit).
Jen, who says people “rarely take the easy way out,” shared a few of her favorite costumes: Richard Simmons and a “client” (his pregnant wife); Bush and Cheney (think shrubs and chains); and Elvis with a Vegas dancer in full costume.
And what to do with the gobs of post-Halloween candy? We’ve got a tradition for that. In our house, children know to save a week’s worth of favorite candy – a piece for each day. Everything else is fair game for the Candy Fairy, who has a nocturnal feast of her own sometime around Nov. 2 or 3.
Visit us on Facebook to post a photo of your child (or pet) in costume. Entries with the most “likes” win four movie passes to Edwards Cinema.