Thursday Throwback: Is Nothing Profane?

This post originally ran about three years ago.  This year, our house will be launching the following into an unsuspecting world:  Harry Potter, Aphrodite, a cat, the grim reaper, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,  a Pink Mummy Ghost (this is a costume which started off weird and gets more confusing each year), Ming Ming, and a confused and angry baby.

You can see by the preponderance of trademarked characters that, in the three years since I wrote this piece, my give-a-damn has broken.

Oh, Halloween!

If you are lucky enough to slide unharmed through the Scylla and Charybdis of the Wiccans’ Samhain and decent people’s All Saint’s Day, you will probably be thinking about Halloween costumes for your kids.

I started having kids pretty young, so I went directly from wearing costumes myself to making costumes for my kids. The type of costume changed, of course. When you’re a 19-year-old pseudo intellectual, it seems hilarious to dress up as Aristotle’s Incontinent Man; but for your kids, you really need to reign in the originality. It’s less scarring that way.

The more insane daily life is, the more prone I am to wildly ambitious homemade costume ideas. If I’m pregnant, teaching several kids at home, buying a new house, going to law school, and launching an organic chinchilla farm, that’s when it seems like a good idea to whip up a batch of papier-mache. How hard could it really be to dress any reasonably robust six-year-old as an Elizabethan headless horseman, with false legs, of course, so it looks like he’s really riding on the golden Sphinx part, when he’s actually walking? If I could get a little cooperation around here, I could get something done for a change.

But my goal in these days of relative calm (I’m not pregnant, we’re unpacked and not packing, no one has a new job, and all the pets are dead) is to dress the kids in such a way that it won’t make them cry.

This is not as easy as it sounds, when you have kids who tend to cry when you do exactly what they specifically asked for, several times, with witnesses.

Also working against me is one three-year-old boy who gets angry when he’s having fun. You let him wear a cape and stay up late, and surround him with people who can’t believe how adorable he is, and who want to give him lots of candy . . . and it really rubs him the wrong way.  This is the same kid who steps outside into the golden sunshine, takes a look at the butterflies wafting over the heads of gentle daisies, and yells at the top of his lungs, “IT IS NOT A BOOTIFUL DAY!”

But my biggest handicap is, as usual, myself. I know it’s supposed to be a kids’ holiday, and I genuinely want the little termites to be happy.   But I’m sick. I have a disease which makes it seem important to stay up until dawn getting the tin foil details of Princess Leia’s belt exactly right, even though I know darn well that it’s going to be dark out, and no one without infrared vision could notice any flaw of authenticity, and no one with or without infrared vision would care.

Well, it’s a holiday, and that means it has to be someone’s turn to ruin things — might as well be me. But I’ll tell you the thing I really enjoy about Halloween: at least it’s not a religious holiday — I mean, Halloween as a “boo, eek, Kit-kat and Smartees, oh-how-cute” day, setting aside  the issue of saints and souls and praying and such, which is for a different day.

Halloween is not like Christmas, or Easter, or Thanksgiving — you’re not supposed to be making sure your kids aren’t missing the deeper meaning of it all, and not being too materialistic, and enjoying happy times with your family, while simultaneously performing the back-breaking labor of organizing a pleasant day.

So when I tear around the house with a hot glue gun, insisting that the toddler can make supper for herself because I’m busy, dammit . . . it’s just Halloween! I may be acting like a jerk, but at least it’s not blasphemy.


  1. Hilarious! I must admit, we do store-bought costumes here. There is no way my autistic, can’t sit still during dinner one is going to allow me to measure her and fit her. And the boys…they have more ambition in my sewing ability than I do…

  2. Oh, this so reminds me of the Jack-in-the-box costume that my mother spent DAYS making for my then seven-year-old sister. It was a true work of art – complete with large elastic straps that made the thing move, so that my sister looked like she was actually jumping out of the box.

    But, have you ever tried to trick-or-treat in what is basically a carefully crafted box that a stove once came in? On stairs in apartment houses? I was the chaperon and after twenty minutes, got the kid out of the box and left it on the curb at each building while my sister trick or treated in a turtleneck, her underpants and a wonderfully made up clown face.

    We trudged home, and when my mother saw us coming, she began to cry. (Ruining her own makeup as the trademark ‘witch with the sparkly nose’ – dressed up to welcome the kids to our door.)

    For some reason this all became my fault, although I imagine that everyone saw reason once the tears were dried. Or had left five years pass. Whatever.

    Like I said, someone (me, obviously) has to be the one to run the holiday.

    Your story made me cry, too, but from laughter!

    • Simcha’s post and your comment had me crying and laughing. I can just picture a little girl running around in a turtleneck, underwear, and a clown face.

  3. My mother sewed costumes for my sisters and me, real costumes that required patterns and a sewing machine and everything. One year she made three Little House in the Big Woods outfits complete with sunbonnets.

    I am ambitious but feckless. I solved the problem by having crafty daughters. They have knitted chain mail for their little brothers, made a papier mache Grendel’s arm for the one who wanted to be Beowulf, turned t-shirts into a penguin costume, made wings out of wire hangers and nylon stockings, and hot glued fake rose petals all over a fairy skirt. In return I buy brand-name miniature candy bars instead of the peanuts and licorice drops my mother favored.

  4. This is fantastic. Where was I three years ago when you wrote this post? Glad to have found you—–truly. Getting your posts wakes me up and keeps me on my toes, and challenges me in many areas. Have a spookalicious weekend, ghoul-friend, and Happy All Hallows. (By the way, I was 19 when I had my first child, too.)

  5. Yes, my mother home-made ANYTHING I could come up with… and it was always fabulous. I tried this with my kids, as well, with the resulting tears always burning me out. Seriously, you CANNOT decide, on the day of the event, that you want to be Sully from Monsters, Inc. instead of the Flash (DC comic). No, it’s not my fault, dammit.

    These days I do squat. Halloween comes, and I say to the little artistically-challenged spawn, “Do you people realize it’s Halloween? Well, what did you come up with?” which is always, um, nothing. A sudden rush of guilt brings me to the closet, finding costumes out of things that we own already, and end up with a few ghosts, a few cowboys, and a girl wearing a sweatsuit under a little ballerina thingy from the eldest’s one year of dance class. Oh, and of course the angry baby.

    Maybe this year I’ll get out the toilet paper and have an impromptu mummy.

    • Thanks, the mummy idea is a great back-up plan for when a costume doesn’t quite work out at the last minute. And it’s always last minute. I’m going to keep this in mind this weekend.

  6. Very funny! Never really thought about it but it is a nice break from the responsibility of holy-holidays. And maybe that’s why it bugs me when people throw All Saints parties on Halloween to avoid the satanic trick-or-treating.

    • We do both- All Saints’ party and run around for candy- My oldest will be St Irene for the party and then change to Anne Boylen for trick or treating- same costume- I just add a choker for Anne

    • Technically, since the Catholic Church has long incorporated the ancient Jewish tradition of beginning the celebration on the eve before (that’s why we have vigil Masses) it is a valid option (which is well… optional, of course) to begin your celebrations for All Saints (or All Hallows) on All Hallows Eve. And of the people I know who choose this option, none of them do it because they think getting free candy from your neighbors is Satanic. But I do agree with Simcha, trick or treating has as much to do with Catholicism as does turning things green (rivers, milkshakes, beer) on St. Patrick’s Day. So be safe and have fun!

      • Yes I agree it’s fine to celebrate on the vigil. It bugs me when it’s done for the purpose of avoiding Halloween, by those who frown on kids dressing as ghosts or witches because they think it’s somehow celebrating evil. I know people who think that Halloween is evil and that participating in Halloween activities is wrong. They can be pretty judgmental about others taking part in the fun. There are some Catholics (and MANY protestants, though I don’t think many of them celebrate All Saints) who really believe this. Sorry if I offended with my comment, I guess I should say what bugs me is the attitude of shunning Halloween altogether as some horrible evil celebration, with a sanctimonious “we only celebrate All Saint’s.” Perhaps you have encountered what I’m talking about, maybe not. We are going to an All Saint’s party on All Saint’s Day, but on Halloween we’ll go to our neighborhood Halloween party and trick or treating. Hope you have a great weekend!

        • No offense taken. I personally have never met anyone who was sanctimonious about celebrating the eve of All Saints but I know they must exist because I keep getting lumped in their category. What bugs me are the people (who’s blogs I could link you to but won’t) who go out their way to stretch and twist trick-or-treating into some sacred mystical rite of ancient Catholicism. Which is why I find Simcha’s common sense approach so refreshing. Trick or treating is like fireworks on the 4th of July. Some people like ’em, some don’t. To call it Satanic is as ridiculous as calling it Catholic.

          We plan to have a busy weekend with a potluck, two parties (one’s a birthday) and a funeral. For those reasons alone, I can’t wait for it to be over! 🙂

  7. She really did make that person-on-a-horse-with-fake-legs-so-it-looks-like-they’re-riding-but-they’re-really-walking costume! For me, when I was about 5. But the very first house had stairs, and I couldn’t get up them, so I went home and put on a witch mask instead. But it was really cool. Also, Simmy, I will never forget the day you made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the shape of our initials.

  8. Oh, how I love your writing. I found you a while back through Sorta Crunchy and am very thankful. You are just awesome; that’s kind of amazing, coming from me, I know, since I am one of those nasty “frozen chosen” Presbyterians. But thanks for making us all laugh. Seriously. The laughter I usually encounter around here is maniacal in nature, mostly. That’s because I have seven children ranging in ages 25 down to ten months-four boys, three girls…and am thinking about to do it one last time before menopause stops me from my insanity. I had my first baby at nineteen and my latest one at 43. Ha. Hahaha.
    And WOW I am super impressed that you wrote a book. Can’t wait to read it!!!

      • Denise, if it still works, then you obviously aren’t too old, LOL. Seriously, for me, it was a great pregnancy and a great birth. My suggestions: See a chiropractor and take good care of yourself. Take folic acid starting now, and just go for it! Do something special or even crazy this time: we had a water birth and now I can’t believe I missed out on that all the other times – it was so great. I am having such an awesome time with my baby, and yes, I CAN survive sleep deprivation even at this age with a cheerful heart. We all adore him, he is the family pet.

      • Haha! My in-laws are Catholic but somehow my husband wasn’t by the time I met him. We did just have our baby baptized in their church a few weeks ago while we were in Colombia to make them feel happier. And I learned all about natural family planning from the Couple to Couple League years and years ago. Does that count?

  9. “This is the same kid who steps outside into the golden sunshine, takes a look at the butterflies wafting over the heads of gentle daisies, and yells at the top of his lungs, ‘IT IS NOT A BOOTIFUL DAY!'”

    This in particular made me laugh until my sides hurt. Is there one in most families?

    Great, funny post. We’re Halloween curmudgeons, didn’t even celebrate it until my 6-yo daughter figured out last year something fishy was going on with her friends involving candy and costumes. Ah, the protective bubble of homeschooling. 🙂

  10. We have to do the saint costume thing for the kids at their school–one boy,7, one girl, 5. My dear, wonderful husband said, “oh that’s easy! I’ll put one of my big black t-shirts on them, with a belt and rosary, a hood for the boy & your black slip on her head, and presto! St. Benedict and his sister, St. Scholastica.” He’s a genius. I should really buy him more chocolate.

  11. Wonderfully funny! My biggest challenge now a days is turning the Halloween costume into an All Saints costume for the All Saints party at the nuns’ house. This year Davy Crocket was a particular challenge until I asked the 13 year old for help. She came up with Blessed Jean Bodouin–one of the frontiersmen that searched for Saint Isaac Jogues martyred body and was martyred himself. Thank goodness for my avid reader!

  12. I wonder how I could convert a pteradactyl, puppy, and baby jellyfish into All-Saints costumes? 😉 At least our 15 mo old wants to be “May-we Keen” (Mary, Queen of Heaven, after a prayer card she’s obsessed with)!

  13. We are Luke Skywalker (a slam dunk thanks to last-years wrap around sweater craze), a rebel trooper from the Battle of Endor (what is this, I dont know, he looks like an army guy) and a sabre tooth tiger who’s getting painted rather than a costume.
    I only make costumes on the day of halloween or the first party we are going to and I usually use lots of poster paint and the recycling bin.
    I want them to have really well thought out, beautiful costumes, but I just cannot manage it.

  14. But what about this…? In the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, there was an article entitled, “Hallowe’en’s Dangerous Messages”, where it read, “Hallowe’en has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian.”

    Our oldest is just at the age where he’s hearing about Halloween. So far we’ve just done All Hallow’s Eve parties at church, because they’re fun and because we don’t live in an area where it’s easy to trick-or-treat anyway. But if the Vatican is publishing articles condemning Halloween, it does make me lean toward not celebrating it in future years. Frankly, I think a full-blown party is way more fun than running from house to house and then just coming home to scarf candy alone like what I did as a kid, anyway; at least our boys really enjoy it.

    • You mean the same Vatican newspaper that said Homer Simpson is a Catholic and that Oasis is a great rock band?

    • And the newspaper that was pleased to see Obama elected as president? Uhh… whoever the editor of “L’Osservatore Romano” is these days is probably appointed by Berlusconi. However, he’s not nearly as entertaining as Berlusconi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s