Five Christmas Traditions For People Who Prefer Halloween
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We all have that one annoying friend who starts putting up the Christmas decorations as soon as the first leaf turns red in the fall. While we're counting down the days until next Halloween (it's 317), this friend is planning her Christmas caroling route. We would love to share in our friend's enthusiasm, but the whole warm-and-fuzzy-Cindy-Lou-Who-routine can get grating. I mean, how many times are we going Jingle the Bells and Rock Around the (freakin'!) Christmas tree before someone loses an eye? And frankly, why does Halloween only get one, measly day, but Christmas is a whole, stinking SEASON?
For some of us, being festive is all well and good, but we'd like it to be a little less of the Jolly Old Elf and Ho! Ho! Ho! and a little more spiders and snakes.
For the latter, here are five crossover traditions that can save our sanity and keep us from becoming a Grinch and living in a cave on the mountain with our best (and only) friend, Max the dog.
Trick or Treat Bread (a.k.a. Wish Bread)
Holiday traditions are often food-centric. And we love to eat. July 4th is all about the cookouts. Thanksgiving is turkey and pumpkin pie. Christmas time is ripe with food traditions from mulled wine to mincemeat and Christmas goose.
One of my children's favorite winter holiday traditions is making “Wish Bread”, which is a pull-apart sweet bread with a treat baked into each piece.
In our family, a raw sweet bread dough is hand-rolled into golf ball-sized pieces. In the center of each piece, we put a nut, a piece of dried fruit, or a chocolate chip, and as we put the treat in the center of the dough ball, we make a wish for something good and happy. The dough balls are then, stacked together inside a loaf pan or a bundt cake pan, drizzled with melted butter mixed with cinnamon and sugar, and baked. Making wish bread is a wonderful cross-over tradition, especially if it becomes “Trick or Treat Wish Bread.” The treats could be nuts, fruit, and chocolate chips. The tricks are gummy worms and candy eyeballs or depending on one's family's tolerance for the strange and surprising, almost anything else.*
*Please be sure to take care of choking hazards if you choose to use non-food "tricks" - like plastic spiders or fake fortunes.
Be Creative with your Decorations
Decorating a tree is a time-honored Christmas tradition. The usual tree is decked out with all sorts of sparkly stuff, like glass balls in red, green, and gold, or cute, little teddy bear ornaments.
One doesn't have to be a Scrooge and refuse the tree decorating tradition. In fact, putting a Halloween spin on the tree decorating could be just the thing to get the bah humbug out. My daughter decorated her tree with skeletons and spiderwebs. I'm in awe.
Of course, then, there's the whole decorating the yard. I have a neighbor who has every blow-up decoration that has ever been on the market. It's a little garish with the lighted, ten-foot Frosty the Snowman balloon swaying beside the Grinch in his sleigh with a tongue-wagging Reindeer Max clinging to the front.
Instead of the Christmas-centric displays, My son and his wife gave their porch skeleton (whom they named Jerry Bones Peterson) a Christmas make-over. Isn't he cute?
Keep the Pumpkin The tradition of carving a pumpkin at Halloween goes way back. The first “jack-o-lanterns” weren't even pumpkins. They were turnips, and the reason for carving them was to be a talisman against bad luck or bad “spirits.”
That particular tradition can actually translate pretty well to the December holiday, but instead of carving a pumpkin as a protection against evil, one can use the pumpkin to draw good fortune.
In my family, one of our favorite winter traditions is our “Gratitude Pumpkin.” During the fall harvest season, I always look for the perfect, most round pumpkin I can find. Then, at least once a week, we each write something for which we are thankful.
Drawing good energy is as powerful as repelling bad, and a pumpkin is good for both.
Lighting a Bonfire
Interestingly, Halloween and Christmas actually seem to have a lot in common when it comes to lighting. Lighting candles inside of the aforementioned pumpkin is standard on October 31. Having candles (or these days, electric lights that look like candles) in windows and on the tree, or dangling from the eaves of one's house, is standard from December to January.
Likewise the use of a bonfire is a crossover tradition. On Halloween, perhaps, it's more associated with witches dancing around a secret bonfire out in the woods somewhere. At Yuletime, a bonfire is common in some traditions to ensure that the “sun” returns. On the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, a bonfire would be lit and tended the entire, very long, night in the hopes that the sun would return in the morning.
And hey, roasted marshmallows in hot cocoa with a graham-flavored cookie? I think even Santa would approve.
Put on Your Costume and Go Caroling
Halloween is all about putting on a costume and going house-to-house asking for treats. Dressing up is actually pretty time-honored. In the Celtic tradition, gifts of food and drink were left on the doorstep on Samhain in the hopes of placating the spirits. People started dressing up as otherworldly beings in exchange for these treats. In the Scottish tradition, dressing up and going house to house started with children and impoverished adults visiting neighbors' homes in disguise to get money or treats in exchange for the promise of prayers on All Souls' Day (which is traditional, November 1), and in the United States, it's speculated that the tradition started by having kids dress in costume, and if their neighbors couldn't figure out who was behind the mask, the kid got a treat.
Whatever the reason behind dressing up, the fact is that everyone loves to don a costume and pretend to be someone or something else for an evening. It's just a shame that it's only one night a year.
Luckily, for us, it doesn't have to be! Christmas time also has a house-to-house tradition. Why not combine the two? Put on your Gremlin's inspired costume and go caroling.
Your neighbors would probably get a kick out of your ingenuity. Or at the very least, they probably won't call the cops.
Holidays are all about family traditions and togetherness. If your family is more Addams than Who, it shouldn't stop you from enjoying all seasons, in season. It's easy to keep the “wonder of the holidays” by tailoring standard holiday traditions to your personal tastes.
What are your favorite cross-over traditions?