October Family Culture

What does your family do for their October Culture? Car trips to see the leaves changing colors? Corn mazes? Haunted houses? We did those things but mostly we found those things  that got the heart racing with a fun spattering of laughter. October is more than just Halloween – but, like it or not,  that very last day of the month is something to consider in developing family traditions.

Do you love or do you hate Halloween? Some people feel it is anti-Christian and others find it fun. While it is a part of our culture, I seriously hated the idea of costumes because I am not – repeat – NOT a mother who sews or does crafty things, so my initial reaction was to cancel Halloween. This made it easy to consider the anti-Christian aspect, however, among the people we associate with on a daily and weekly basis that really wasn’t a true concern for me. I do, however, believe in building fun family traditions. So, I purposely set about creating my own style of Halloween, and of course, parts of it spilled over into school time.

I didn’t make costumes. I left that up to my children. They – and their friends – and, yes, sometimes their friends’ mothers helped – made their own. I had one rule and that was that they couldn’t be a “bad or evil or gruesome or masked”. I would help with make-up but that was the end of my costume assistance. They started thinking and planning and talking about their costumes as soon as October hit. The last week before the big day, they would spend their Personal Interest time (see Don’t Overwork the Teacher) totally immersed in costuming. They loved it – and still do love the dress-up fun.

When they were young, we’d take them out and when they were less young, they went in groups. They would come home laden with candy and sit on the floor and go through it. Yes, I let them eat candy – I believe in picking our battles and since my children didn’t “bounce” after sugar intake, I didn’t worry about it. However, the next day, or the day after, I took everybody’s remaining candy, put it in a large bowl, and we shared – when and only when Neil or I said. Eventually, all grew to the point where they kept their candy but by then, they had developed a natural ability to share. This was a pretty awesome and unexpected outcome.

The very best thing we did – and was a very real part of our October school time – was watching classic movies – traditional and family classics. Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant, Scared Stiff with Jerry Lewis, Clue, Signs with Mel Gibson, Abbot and Costello Meet…, Godzilla with Matthew Broderick, Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn (1963, long before movie ratings but that is a totally different subject), Topper with Cary Grant, Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost, Wonder Man with Danny Kaye, The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts, and the Harry Potter films – just to name more than a few.

There is another list, the movies we watched from time to time or want to watch some October. These include: Gaslight, The Trouble with Harry, The Birds, Wait Until Dark, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and yes, I’ll shamefully admit to the 1990 Tremors with Kevin Bacon and Meet Joe Black.

I once had my children watch the original The Blob with Steve McQueen. They weren’t impressed, but when I was a kid, it was the scariest movie I remember. There is just something universal among children – it is called Lava – and without being taught, it seems to spring to mind fully formed among kids play – don’t touch the floor because it is hot lava! Well, The Blob was like lava. Last year, Chrystal and I watched the Birds. She was 14 and the only one of my children (that I remember) to have seen it. She still talks about wanting to show it to her friends.

This is a good time to introduce the cinematic genus, Alfred Hitchcock, or a reading of an Edgar Allen Poe story and toss in a few favorite episodes of various television series and over a couple decades of raising children, you can have well-formed and selective October Family Culture.  That means that every October, your adult children will remember their childhood, smile and say “We need to have a movie night – Arsenic and Old Lace or Scared Stiff?”

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