Happy Halloween! I don’t remember the last time we had Trick-or-treat on actual Halloween. Usually, it’s the Thursday before, so in honor of Trick-or-treat and Halloween Day, I’d love to share with you one of our family traditions -costume themes.
If you know me well, you know Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday. It was fun as a kid, but as a parent, it’s a lot. It seems like every year more and more traditions are added and getting costumes for all four of my kids and keeping all the pieces together through more than one event is overwhelming.
However, my oldest is a freshman this year, so I don’t know how many more years we have with all of them dressing up, so I’ve actually enjoyed the process this year. I know someday I’ll miss it.
In the late summer, the kids start talking about what they think will be a good theme. I didn’t know if things would change now that Anna is in high school, but I was relieved when, in August, she started brainstorming ideas.
When my first two were really little, I didn’t do a theme. I just borrowed a costume from someone and called it a day. We’d load them up in the wagon and go around my parents’ neighborhood (mostly to show off how cute they were). In our previous neighborhood, we’d walk across the street to see the older couple, who loved our kids. And that was about it. They were a banana, a pumpkin, a caterpillar. Just anything that was warm. We took a lot of pictures, but they didn’t stay in the costumes too long.
Once Anna was in preschool, she developed an obsession with Jake and the Neverland Pirates on Disney. She insisted Hudson should dress as Jake and she’d be his friend Izzy. We still have gold doubloons and Jake toys at our house from that phase. I made the costumes myself, and was pretty proud of my handiwork since my mom and my sister were the ones who always sewed things. I didn't really matter how my sewing was because they were so cute.
The next year, they were watching Toy Story nonstop, so it was Buzz, Jessie. My Dad actually added a pull string to this shirt Anna wore and she, being the performer she is, would say some of Jessie’s catchphrases when you pulled it. Since it was Nora’s first Halloween, we made her a pea pod. You may not remember the pea pod because you probably haven't watched the movie 200 times like we had, but I needed an infant costume since she was only a month old.
The following year, Hudson’s favorite movie was VeggieTales Robin Good. We knew that would be tough to accomplish, so we talked him into being regular Robin Hood. Anna wanted to wear this fabulous dress she found at Marshalls, so I told her she was Maid Marian and she was thrilled. Nora didn’t really fit the theme because she was a strawberry. But she was the cutest strawberry around. The only problem with Robin Hood, is everyone thinks you’re Peter Pan. (they do dress alike). Whenever Hudson came to someone’s door, they’d say, “Look! It’s Peter Pan.” And Hudson, who is very literal, said, “Actually, my name is Hudson. But today I’m dressed up as Robin Hood.” Every single time.
Then, we had a year where they didn’t want to go with a theme, but the following Halloween, we decided to do book characters. The older two were Harry and Hermione and the younger two were Clifford and Emily Elizabeth. I got this adorable Clifford hat on Etsy, and Emily Elizabeth’s clothes were all thrift store finds (except the striped tights.) There’s nothing cuter than a Clifford who didn’t make it through the festivities.
The year we really hit our stride with themes was probably when we did Christmas. The kids had so much fun with this one. We had Santa and Mrs. Claus, an Elf and Rudolf. The kids were at the perfect age and not at all self-conscious. In fact, a month later, we used these costumes to go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. They had a blast and the people we visited were super excited and impressed with the costumes. I think they thought we made them for caroling.
One of my favorite theme was Mary Poppins. Anna already had the costume from doing a dance to "Spoonful of Sugar", so it was pretty easy. I say that, but my sister did most of the sewing. She found Nora's dress at a thrift store and made it fit her. I especially loved Grady's little kite he carried. This theme was a huge hit. When we met Mary Poppins at Epcot, the new movie had just come out. We told her we loved her before it was cool. And we showed her this picture and she was so excited.
After Mary Poppins, they decided to do Aladdin. The live-action movie had just come out. Anna said it was the coldest Halloween she remembered and the Jasmine costume that wasn’t real worm, but Grady was plenty warm as Abu.
In 2020, we weren’t sure if there would even be Tick-or-Treat, so I didn’t want to put too much into our costumes in case it was cancelled. We decided to order Incredibles costumes. I also ironed on the Incredibles logo onto their masks. (One of those details that took too much time for the number of people who noticed it.) It was also Finn’s first Halloween, so I tried to get him a costume too. Turns out he doesn’t like accessories. (And he wasn’t terribly well-behaved walking the neighborhood with kids and candy everywhere.) After a few houses, he had to go home.
If you were to ask the kids which was their favorite theme, they’ll probably say decades. Anna enjoyed dressing as a 50’s housewife, Hudson liked being a hippy (except for the wig that kept getting in his face). Nora owned being a disco dancer and was obsessed with her gogo boots. And Grady still plays with his blowup boom box.
Finally, this year, the kids are dressed as stereotypical high school characters in honor of Anna’s first year of high school. I was always afraid by ninth grade Anna would stop dressing up, but she actually came up with the theme. We have a football player, a cheerleader, and an artsy girl. We had to sell the idea of being a nerd to Grady, but once his costume came together, he wore it with pride. When he was trick-or-treating in my parent’s neighborhood last week, someone handed him a pack of nerds and he said, “Mommy! Nerds for a nerd!”
We have family friends who dressed as a theme well into high school and I was always thankful for them -knowing their making it cool bought us more years. What I love about theme costumes is they don’t always make sense alone. They have to stay together and that’s just fine with me. When Grady was in preschool and they had the costume parade, he was dressed as Michael Banks for the Mary Poppins theme. Like the Peter Pan/Robin Hood confusion, people thought he was Christopher Robin. In hindsight, maybe I should have given him a Pooh Bear to carry around. Oh well.
It’s hectic to find costumes for four kids and keep all the pieces together, but it’s worth it in the end. I love seeing them dressed up together and making memories together. For kids, that’s what it’s all about. And candy. It’s also about the candy.