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Under the light of the moon: A rural Halloween

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Halloween conjures a plethora of different visuals for different people depending on your upbringing and what you enjoy about this spooky holiday.

Cute kids in costume. Lots of candy. Apple and pumpkin everything (who doesn’t love apple cider?). Parties. Bobby Pickett’s seminal hit “Monster Mash” blaring from your Bluetooth speaker. An annual showing of “Hocus Pocus” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas” waiting for when the kids are done with their fun – and your favorite IPAs and a scary movie on standby for when the kids have gone to bed.

Halloween is an adapted phrasing or contraction of “All Hallow’s Eve,” which proceeds All Saints Day, a Christian holiday honoring the church’s saints, established in the seventh century by the pope. The holiday of Halloween as we know it today has roots in ancient Celtic ritual, specifically around the festival of Samhain. Much of the lore surrounding the festival dealt with the journey of spirits throughout our world and into the next. They developed the practice of lighting bonfires or wearing masks to frighten spirits away. Later Roman influence brought intermingled celebrations of the passing of the dead and observances of the harvest. The period of time surrounding this date was also thought to be a good season for divination (see https://www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween for more information).

So, regardless of your favorite traditions or how you grew up celebrating Halloween as a kid – what does a rural Halloween look like? What are some new traditions you can start with your kids?

You don’t have to give anything up! It just might look a little different.

Carving a pumpkin. Carving a pumpkin is a staple of the season – it just isn’t Halloween without a jack-o’-lantern. If you aren’t growing pumpkins yourself, you can either pick some at your local U-pick or pick some up in town (anywhere from outside of the grocery store to your local feed or hardware store). While various vendors sell specialized carving tool sets, all you need is a good kitchen knife! Clean out the stringy, messy pulp and let your creativity take off. It’s important to take age-appropriateness into account – we don’t want young kiddos on knife duty, right? You can check out this article at https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g238/pumpkin-carving-ideas/ if you need some inspiration before you set your hand to carving.

Trick or treating. Living in a rural setting doesn’t mean trick or treating is off the table – it just means you have to be more intentional about it, as you don’t have dozens of houses within walking distance like you might have in the suburbs. If you have neighbors a reasonably close distance away, make a list of houses or an area you’re comfortable with your kids visiting, load everyone up and play chauffeur for a couple of hours, driving them around the county for a little bit of Halloween fun.

If that is too much or you don’t have any nearby neighbors, there are some other options: some opt for consolidated community events, like a trunk or treat. A trunk or treat provides a similar experience, especially for younger children, with adults that can be trusted in a secure and well-lit environment. It might require a drive into town, but it can still be a great evening for the whole family.

If you do decide to pull an evening of good old-fashioned trick or treating, be sure to be safe! This article from the National Safety Council has some good pointers on how to have a safe and enjoyable evening: https://www.nsc.org/community-safety/safety-topics/seasonal-safety/autumn-safety/halloween.

Haunted houses. While not always appropriate for the younger kiddos, your older children and teenagers can have a scream of a time at a local haunted house. Not sure where to look? There are databases for these types of attractions, including ghost tours, haunted hayrides and haunted houses – and the best part is they’re available nationwide! Visit https://www.hauntworld.com and see what attractions are nearby.

Sweet and savory treats. While there will never be any shortage of sweet treats on Halloween, sometimes you want to have some additional munchies on hand – especially if you are having a Halloween party. Some require some additional prep time, but these are all easy options you can make ahead for a delicious snack.

Did you set aside your pumpkin seeds when you were carving your pumpkin earlier? Visit allrecipes.com and check out this roasted pumpkin seed recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13768/roasted-pumpkin-seeds/

Want to try your hand at candy apples? This article from the Food Network has some creative pointers: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/halloween-candy-coated-apples-5448104.

Scary movie time. While we typically try and guide our kiddos away from the TV and toward “outside fun,” scary movies are an integral part of Halloween. More child-friendly titles like “Hocus Pocus” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas” can be streamed and more mature titles like “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Beetlejuice” or “The Exorcist” are also available. Most of the networks and streaming services provide lists of what’s available every Halloween season – making picking the perfect watch for Halloween a piece of cake.

Whatever your rural Halloween evening entails, with a little bit of planning, you and your family can have a scary good time!

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