October 1 marks the beginning of the last—and arguably best—quarter of the year. The end of the year welcomes crisp mornings, the security of your favorite sweater, a mug of hot chocolate warming your hands on a frosty evening. It welcomes ceremonious trips to the pumpkin patch, the football field, and grandma’s house.
While I have always treasured the traditions that the end of the year brings, my love for the holiday season has grown immensely since becoming a mother. As a parent, you get to experience the magic of hayrides, trick-or-treating, pilgrims, twinkly lights, and Santa Claus as if for the first time through your child’s eyes.
This season my daughters are 4 and 2, and we are preparing for what is sure to be the most magical and wonderful holiday season yet. However, there is one challenge we are facing this year threatening to hinder my seasonal bliss.
This summer my family relocated to Colorado Springs from our home of Kentucky, leaving behind grandparents, cousins, and deep, intimate friendships. Which raises the question: How do I enter into a season steeped in tradition, when everything and everyone around me is NEW?
After all, we all know that what makes Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas so special isn’t the candy, costumes, turkey, or presents. It’s the people. It is connecting with the people who are present at all of these events. For us, those people are now 1,000+ miles away.
Building New Traditions
While there are many challenges that come with building a life in a new place, we love our new home and are so excited to be here. Instead of mourning the traditions we have lost, I am focusing my time and energy on building NEW traditions for our family here in COS. And the first tradition I am beginning is a Halloween block party.
The concept is simple: I am throwing a pre-trick-or-treating street dinner and inviting all of my closest neighbors. We will begin around an hour or so before trick-or-treating, and meet in the cul-de-sac surrounding our driveway for a pre-candy meal. Eventually, when the kiddos are ready, we will wander off to trick-or-treat around the neighborhood. Neighbors will be welcomed to come back to our gathering spot after they’ve filled their candy bags for adult beverages and desserts while the kids play/compare their bounty.
Connection over Perfection
This won’t be a Pinterest-worthy party. There will be no intricate decor or party favors. In fact, IF there are any decorations at all, they will either be from the Dollar Tree or handmade by my children. This isn’t an opportunity to show off my hospitality skills. This is my simple and honest attempt to foster community and connection in our new home—to invite others into our treasured family traditions (that have changed so drastically recently), and in doing so, to build new traditions with our new people.
Whether this is your first Halloween in COS or your 30th, it is never too late to start a new tradition. If you, like me, are interested in throwing a pre-trick-or-treating block party here are a few simple steps.
How to Throw A Halloween Block Party
1. Decide on a location.
We live in a quiet cul-de-sac, so we decided to turn this gathering into a block party on our actual street. The food and drinks will be located in our driveway/garage. Guests will be welcome to sit or stand around our driveway, front yard, or the street. If meeting on the street isn’t appropriate for your location, you could use your driveway, front yard, or backyard.
2. The age-old question: What are we going to eat?
The next step is to come up with a plan for food. My motto: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Remember, this is about CONNECTING with your neighbors, not getting likes on social media. No cute trays of cookies made to look like spiders or drawing jack-o-lantern faces on 50 tangerines. My plan is to make a few crockpots (yes I have multiples—ha!) of chili or soup, and then ask my neighbors to bring a simple side to share. Examples: chips, store-bought fruit tray, Smuckers sandwiches for the kids.
Some other simple food ideas are: a “taco-in-bag-of-chips” bar (google it!), hot dogs on the grill, or the simplest of all: order pizza.
3. Notify your neighbors.
In the early stages of planning, I mentioned my idea to three of our neighbors and they each wanted to know the same things: How can I help? What can I bring? I imagine when you let your neighbors in on your plans, they will be asking the same questions.
After I mentioned my initial plans to our neighbors, this idea shifted from an individual family hosting a party to a community-planned event. And, honestly, that is exactly what I wanted.
If you aren’t yet on the texting/email level of communication with your neighbors, go and knock on their door. Post a sign. Make a flyer and drop it off on front porches. Do they need to bring a side to share or their own adult beverage? Do they need to bring a lawn chair? For our party, the answer is yes to all three.
As far as I’m concerned, this step is optional. As I previously mentioned, my only decor will be the best the Dollar Tree has to offer. But I share this step as well because my neighbor had a genius idea. She is planning to host a decorating play-date at her home about a week before Halloween. This will be an opportunity for the kids in the neighborhood to come together and make jack-o-lanterns that we will use to decorate our block party on Halloween. How sweet is that?
And that’s it!
If you are feeling lonely, homesick, or disconnected this holiday season, I challenge you: Build community right where you are. You CAN do it. Your efforts don’t have to be grand and Pinterest-worthy. It can look like a folding table on the street with a few boxes of pizza.