When I was pregnant with my second child, I prayed she would not be born on Halloween. I was due October 27, and I was 3 days late with my firstborn. I hated the idea of a spooky birthday year after year. (Sidenote: what a dumb thing to worry about. I am so much more mature now).
Fast forward 12 months past her late-October-but-not-Halloween birthday and my family was setting up for a giant bash in honor of her first year. We can all admit that first birthday parties are for mom and not for baby, and this one was no exception. Bounce house, gorgeous cake, and a smoked brisket dinner she wasn’t going to touch – we set it all up in the front yard. And this began an accidental but lovely tradition of a Halloween front-yard party, which will remain a tradition in our neighborhood because of the ways it helped us grow. Because we have ditched all the Pinterest food and crafts and identified that the goal is to love on others in our neighborhood. And when that is the goal, it’s so much easier to let the kids pick their costume on Oct 31 morning from your costume bin, and focus our efforts outward instead.
We continued the party tradition for several years in our own yard, and last year abandoned the “birthday” pretense and attended a friend’s front yard party. This year a new family is hosting, but the key factors remain.
- It’s in the front yard. Then you have longer conversations with other parents out trick-or-treating with their kids. You have the opportunity to show them hospitality by offering whatever it is you have (BBQ, a bowl of chili, bottles of water — it’s irrelevant WHAT it is, but important that you will welcome people onto your lawn and give them something extra).
- Everyone is welcome. You might send out some invitations (a text) to friends in your neighborhood, but anyone who wanders by and wants to stay is welcome.
- An activity – a bounce house, or bubbles, or sidewalk chalk can keep littles entertained while you chat with a parent. We have been the “fun parents” letting kids face paint each other (this looks pretty horrible but they love it), and have determined we are kind of more temporary tattoo people. We have had play dough some years, and coloring pages others. Easy is better so you can have enough for any amount of drop-ins.
- A fire pit. Some might argue this is extraneous and should not count as a KEY FACTOR, and I say those people hate Fall. A fire keeps bugs away and brings people together. **Extra points for burning pinon wood.
- Music. This lets people know there is a party going on, and draws people from down the block to your front yard party.
And then there are some extra things that aren’t imperitive, but make the party more fun:
- A cooler for bottled water that everyone can take from. Trick or treaters gorging on candy and parents carrying a yeti-cupped concoction can all use a bottle of water.
- Giant candy bars for trick or treaters. Cheap candy is disgusting. Be generous with your neighbors and buy the good stuff, whatever that is to you. I will never forget the house that gave out dollar bills growing up. I want to be that guy — he wasn’t policing us, and probably got tricked out of a few repeat-tricksters but the joy he brought to the neighborhood kids was worth it.
- Inviting firefighters. In Richardson, you can call and invite the firefighters to a party. They can’t promise to come, but if they don’t have a call they will come by in a big truck and delight everyone in your yard. The best part is, you get an opportunity to feed and thank your firefighters! They are working (and their partners are manning the kids alone on a family-focused night) to serve our community while we play. We love taking the time to thank our community servants! If they come – ask to see pictures of their kids in costume – they love that!
As we brainstorm for this year, I recognize how we provide things that bring the community together, but that doesn’t require anything high maintenance. Sidewalk chalk, a fire pit, and some kids in weird non-pinteresty costumes will suffice. In fact, since it’s Texas, it’ll be 90 degrees at 6pm and our kids will have stripped off half their costumes by 8pm (see above #firepit), but the goal will still be achieved: meet some new neighbors, invest a little more in some people that you don’t know well, and be hospitable to all. And whether we call it a birthday party or not, those are gifts I’d love my kids to give away all year long.
Happy Halloween! Leave me a note and let me know what our parties are missing!