How do you celebrate holidays?

“I am apt to believe that [the second day of July, 1776] will be celebrated by succeeding generations…with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.”


“Books spoke of magic as of it were a kind of sweet spice in an autumn pie–something to savor and delight in–something almost cozy.”

Ann Turner, U.S. author, thought by Mandy, Elfsong (F)

This will be my family’s first holiday season without the Covid lockdowns, and I’m really excited. My daughter is three years old now, and can actually understand what Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas mean to her, and how other people celebrate the holidays. Her lessons have been reflective of that and I think it’s great.

Halloween typically starts with a trip to the store to pick out Halloween-themed jammies. Yes, that does also include my husband even though he doesn’t care for holidays too much. I’ve been attempting to zap him out of being the literal manifestation of the Grinch or Mr. Scroodge for the past few years. Once the jammies are picked (usually 2 pairs for my daughter), one pair is saved for Hallow’s Eve where we watch “spooky” (because come on she’s only three) movies, eat popcorn and candy, and make/bake Halloween-themed cookies!

The Halloween shopping trip is one of my favorites! I simp for Christmas but that’s not the same as Halloween. Halloween is the only truly fun holiday where nothing is really expected of a kid other than to go wild, eat candy, and dress-up as their favorite characters or animals. They aren’t required to hug or kiss Aunts and Uncles they see only once a year, they aren’t surrounded by boring adults, and there aren’t any stringent rules to follow or abide by in terms of Halloween etiquette.

The day typically starts out with a plan to choose a pumpkin, and the first thing I do is wake up my daughter with ghost noises and much fanfare, to which she acts scared of and fake shivers under the covers while trying to stifle the inevitable giggles from bubbling to the surface, trying hard not to give herself away. Then she will pop up like a bed spring, blanket over her head, and shout, “BOO” trying to scare me. Once the chase has concluded and my daughters cheeks are flushed with faux exhaustion, I’ll begin making her favorite breakfast: Bacon and Eggs. I watch her toes wiggle as she chews, along with one piece in each hand (a mandatory request when she devours bacon), as she lightly hums in complete bliss and contentment. Not a care in the world.

Once my daughter has finished eating an entire pack of bacon, it’s time to pick out a pumpkin (at least that’s my plan for this year, because last year I was full of uncertainty due to the massive amount of Covid outbreaks among children that was occurring, and my daughter hasn’t been sick once) and that’s the new activity we have added. There is really only one Halloween tradition that I consider to be “unique” for our family and that is painting the pumpkin, rather than carving it. I am the one that has removed this childhood tradition because I never enjoyed doing it when I was younger, I only did it for my dad and grandfather. The idea of sticking my hand into the gourd to scrape out the gooey insides, and harvest its seeds for future consumption doesn’t sound all that fun; especially when you learn that you can buy pumpkin seeds and eliminate the possibility of stabbing yourself trying to carve a pumpkin, only for it to look like a first grader carved it and NOT a 26 year old woman. Yeah…let’s spare mommy that particular form of embarassment.

Then comes the jammies. I scan the aisles of my local Target for the perfect pair, and pull her towards the sets that are in her size and allow her to choose two of them. I follow the same strategy as the bacon rule in the morning, one in each hand. I figure if her hands are full the less likely she will be to grab, touch, or ask for a toy or whatever dumb thing catches her eye; it could literally be anything. Once Lyla has made her decision (usually something with a pattern of black cats, candy, or ghosts dotting the fabric like ants on a picnic blanket), my husband has made his by this point and it’s never anything one can look at and say, “That’s definitely for Halloween,” just something that is either orange, black, neon green (spooky green), or purple (Joker colors basically hah). My hunt is always fairly straightforward and it hardly varies as the years go by, much like the Ham (my daughter) I am not afraid of being labeled predictible nor does the inevitable ribbing my husband gives me for my choices impact them enough to change them. I’ll look for anyhting Harry Potter related to put onto my body, last year it was a pjama set with navy blue, school girl shorts that have the same texture of felt, with a fluffy maroon-colored sweater with the word “Hogwarts” written in the navy blue of the shorts and in cursive. I don’t plan to deiate this year either, I’ll walk out with a wand for all I care.

The day ends with a ham running around the house excited to wear her new jams and pointing to the black cats in witch hats strewn all along her stomach, as if she were picking it out all over again. Frankenweenie plays in the background as the scent of baking cookies fills the room and almost brings the Ham to a standstill. She stops suddenly as if someone pressed pause, looks around, and takes a long exaggerated sniff. She gasps in anticipation before belting out the words, “IT’S READY MOMMY! Yum yum in the tum tum.” Not realizing the smell isn’t what determines when it comes out of the oven. I laugh and gently explain the timer and I receive in return a head nod with an, “Okay mommy,” as she drags herself to the couch in exasperation and disbelief at the false hope that was created.

It’s these moments I cherish above all else. Especially thiscoming holiday in particular. Pulling out the pillowcase or jack-o-lantern bucket, putting on your costume and makeup, and heading out to go collect candy. It feels like a treasure hunt, you scout which houses have the best candy, which ones have full-sized candy bars, and as you pass friends and other children you hear the rumors of the dentist who passes out apples or the parents whispering to each other about the homemade treats given out at “that one house down the street the widowed lady whose new to the neighborhood is passing out” (and yes that was a real thing that happened to me) as you roll your eyes thinking, “that would never happen.” Or the complete terror that washes over you when you spot the older kids lagging behind their younger brothers and sisters with an air of superiority.

I miss those things more than words could ever describe. The beautiful thing about having children is the childlike joy and wonder that is instilled in you once again. It’s like a rebirth of sorts, you experience the holidays in the exact same way you did as a kid. Your child’s excitement is the same as when you experienced as a child, the only difference is you experience it from a different and new perspective. Oftentimes it’s even better than what you could ever hope for.

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