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Baby PumpkinAre you like me? Does Halloween form the basis of many of your favorite childhood memories? It was absolutely magical for me as a child. Now that I’m a parent, I try to bring that level of excitement to my own munchkins. I’m no craft-happy homemaker (don’t I wish?!) but I do try to piece together some special times during the season. Traditions form the fabric which weaves the happiest, richest holiday memories. I know, I know. Life is insane. There’s so much to do and so little time in which to do it. Work. PTA. Household chores. Community functions. Volunteering. Same here. The key is to plan a few simple things that will stay in your little ones’ hearts forever. Here are a few ideas that we use in our household to make it a memorable Halloween holiday season:

Gather Leaves as a Family and Decorate your Home!

Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!
Hunt for that perfect pumpkin… and take pictures!

The first event every year is to go on a long walk and gather fall leaves. Do this as a family. The leaves become decorations and crafts in my house. I do the old “wax-paper-with-iron” trick and make sure the prettiest leaves are “preserved” for the whole autumn season. They decorate my mantle, some bookshelves, and our dining room table. We do this at the beginning of October when the leaves are starting to turn and, again, closer to Halloween. It gives the family a chance to get some fresh air and exercise together. We also have occasion to see the progression of the season in the most concrete of ways.

Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

We also make an event out of pumpkin picking. Whether you go to a local farmer’s market, a pumpkin patch, or even your neighborhood grocery store, make it a real event. I have pictures of this yearly undertaking and cherish them. My children wear autumn colors or actual Halloween-themed clothing. What a blast we have! Each child gets to pick out their favorite pumpkin, be it large or small, perfectly round or as crooked as a gourd. Take pictures! It’s fun to see how the childrens’ tastes change over the years. After, we come home, enjoy warm apple cider and hot cocoa, and place the pumpkins prominently as indoor decorations while awaiting Halloween-Eve carving.

The Halloween “Advent” Calendar

Every year in September, we make our annual Halloween “Advent” calendar. We make it together as a family (yes, even Dad gets drafted to make a few days’ add-ons to the calendar!) Our calendar-making ritual allows us to keep the anticipation of Halloween at the forefront every day of October. Because we start in September, the season stretches just a bit longer as well.

Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Bringing Home the Pumpkins!
Even Baby gets into the act!
Even Baby gets into the act!

Halloween Snacks and Meals

Because free time is sparse with the start of the school year and all that comes along with it, I buy round, ready-made sugar cookies. Add a touch of orange tint and some candies for the face — and you have precious pumpkin cookies that take no time to create! Finally, we always have the same kids-favorite meal on Halloween itself, before we head out for Trick or Treating fun. I make a homemade vegetable beef soup that’s warm and cozy (my delicious recipe is below.) You can make any dish your family particularly enjoys. The key is to have it be your annual tradition, much like ham at Easter or (gag me!) fruitcake at Christmas. With just a few events, you can turn a one-day holiday into a season of joy for your family. Plan just a few yearly rituals and you can ensure your children remember Halloween with a warm glow, too. Happy Halloween!

Bubble Bubble Goes the Cauldron: Vegetable Beef Soup

One package beef short ribs (4 or more ribs)

  • Six beef bouillon cubes
  • One large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 25 oz. can of diced tomatoes with 1/2 the juice
  • Tiny alphabet pasta – 3 oz.
  • 2 packages of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper

Place the ribs in a large soup pot with water, celery, half the onion, and the bouillon cubes. Boil gently for at least 3 hours. This brings out the flavor in the ribs. Remove ribs, allow to cool, and shred the meat off the bones. Discard the fat, and skim the soup base to remove the fat. I often put the soup pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes to allow the fat to congeal, making for easier removal. Return the pot to the stove and add the chopped meat. Add the remaining half of the onion, tomato with 1/2 the juice from the can, the frozen veggies, salt & pepper to taste, and the bay leaves. Cook together for an hour. Add the pasta during the last 15 minutes of cooking, bringing the soup to a boil to cook the pasta well. Enjoy!

The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!
The Author’s Happy Halloween memories!

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