Sunday, October 30, 2016

Third World Green Daddy 66: Sustainable Halloween

For a while now I've been meaning to share my experiences celebrating Halloween with my kids in what I try to make a sustainable way.

Halloween used to be one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Obviously the dressing-up and the trick-or-treating were fun, but more than anything I liked the lead-up, the stories of ghouls and goblins, the decorations, the haunted houses.  And Halloween parties, at my house, at school, and elsewhere.  My favorite Halloween memory is of when I was five.

My mom's friend made me a bat costume, and we went to a Halloween party in a local town hall in rural Wisconsin, where my family has a summer house.  There were strawbales, bobbing for apples, and the like.  Like something out of a book or a movie on old-time, wholesome US customs.  There was one guy in Chicago who decorated his house with probably hundreds of elaborately-carved Jack o Lanterns, and my mom and I would go by to see it.  I loved learning about "real" ghost stories, historical haunted mansions, witches in medieval Europe and colonial America, and the like. 

When I grew up, I retained my interest in these , but I never got into dressing up for Halloween as sexy vampires or whatever.  It always seemed absurd to me.

When I had my first kid, we didn't celebrate Halloween, because we were living in Colombia, where it isn't really a thing.  The only Halloween in a lot of countries outside the US is mainly the decorations at stores, and young singles going to dress-up parties; precisely what doesn't interest me.
But I did want Sam to get a taste of what I considered the authentic Halloween traditions.  So when he was about to turn two, we made a Jack-o-Lantern as a family.

And of course for the sustainable touch, we saved all the seeds for roasting, and after a few days, we cut up the pumpkin to make a soup.

The following year, as we waited for my younger son to be born, we were in the Washington, DC area, so we got our first taste of a real US-style Halloween.  My older son's school did Jack-o-Lanterns with his, and my mom came to visit and do fun things like making Halloween cookies with Sam, and making little Jack-o-Lantern fruit bowls out of an orange.

We were still pretty lackluster on trick-or-treating that year; we'd just had a baby, and trick-or-treating was a last-minute idea of mine on the way to pick up Sam from school that afternoon.  I took a few plastic bags, stuck Sam in a costume for a school assembly in Colombia from a few months before, and that was it.

So our first few Halloweens as a family we hardly even celebrated, sustainably or otherwise.  Since then my wife has been a real driver to not only celebrate, but to do so in the handmade, simple fashion we believe in.  She got a second-hand sewing maching, and has run with costume-making from there.  She sewed a Spider-man costume from scratch, which we then embellished with black puffy-paint.

Last year she was more expeditious, since she had to make two costumes.  We repurposed two pijamas that no longer fit very well, turning black vehicles into marker stripes on an orange background, and covering a Chicago Bears logo with a little image of a puppy.  A bit of face-paint, and we had a tiger and a grey dog.

This year, with our sewing maching broken, Caro just got grey and black clothes for Paulo's wolf costume, and orange/tan clothes for Sam's wildcat, and then made masks with Happy Meal boxes and felt.  She even hand-sewed a princess outfit for our neighbor!

Another fun aspect of this Halloween was that a cultural center near our house led a workshop to make Halloween baskets out of old powdered milk tins.

As for what to do with all the candy, we are probably a lot like most families.  Caro and I pick out the Snickers bars and chocolates for ourselves, and the boys eat lollipops from their Halloween bags in the fridge over the course of a few months.  I guess the only sustainable point there is that, for the sake of our own waistlines, I'll usually take most of the candy to my office, for others to gorge on.  Come to think of it, this is anti-sustainable, like big companies that leak pollution into the community for others to deal with.

We still have yet to ever decorate our house seriously for Halloween.  It is a lot of effort, and we just don't seem to have the time.  Maybe next year we can do a project with the kids to make decorations out of recycled materials like egg cartons and toilet paper tubes.

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, your mon sent me that photo of you in the bat costume. I'm glad you guys are keeping up the tradition of handmad costumes using unusual materials. Happy Halloween!