Forget trick or treat! 10 new ideas for Halloween family fun – from eerie origami to pumpkin spotting

While the kids enjoy exchanging Haribo with the neighbours once a year, trick or treat has never been a big event for us as a family. This year, we’re taking inspiration from the Pixar film Coco, which both my children love, and attempting our own version of the Mexican festival Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The idea of celebrating the lives of lost loved ones really appeals to me as I don’t think we’re great at dealing with death in British culture. My dad died last year, so we’ll be thinking of him, but we’ve also got lots of photos and items for our ofrenda (a sort of family altar), including my wife’s grandfather’s teddy bear, my uncle’s classy pink slip-on shoes, and various other keepsakes. We plan to tell some stories, eat some of their favourite foods, and basically have a party.

As an American, Halloween was a big part of my childhood, so I like to go way over the top, whether I am celebrating at home or with others. We are going to decorate the whole house outrageously, carve a bunch of pumpkins and throw ourselves a spooky, candlelit costume dinner party. Instead of them going trick or treating, my husband will send the kids on a twisty indoor treasure hunt to find a hidden candy stash. After the kids are in bed we will have a festive Halloween cocktail (the “eyeball highball” is a fave), and spook each other out with a Halloween-themed Scrabble game. Boo!

Our kids love trick or treating; I think it’s a combination of the walking around in the dark and the sugar rush. Sadly, this year they won’t be going out because we don’t want the trick to be a super-spreader event in the community. Instead, we are treating ourselves to an Addams Family freaky feast, which my partner and I will be hosting as Gomez and Morticia Adams. After the food, we plan to play games and we might even have time to take them round a local graveyard late at night.

We’ve got a group of 22 children together from 11 households and we plan for each family group to do a socially distanced treasure hunt. Our neighbours have kindly agreed to host pictures in their windows and the children will move clockwise around the street ticking off the different pictures on a chart as they go. Once they have found all 20 pictures they can collect a goodie bag from their own home. This way we can have a fun treasure hunt, waving and smiling at each other while staying socially distanced and, most importantly, everyone will get to eat a ton of sweets at the end!

Obviously, we won’t be going out for trick or treat. Instead, I am running an online Halloween origami session in collaboration with our local library in Oxfordshire. I have been learning to fold bats, cats, witches and created my own pumpkins out of paper.

We are in total lockdown in an old cul-de-sac in Dublin and the residents have agreed that there will be no trick or treating this year. However, we are doing a costumed parade on the evening itself, and I can’t wait to be spooked by the sight of the little ones in their scary costumes. We are also going to town on outdoor decorations and our front garden will be a dimly lit graveyard, complete with haunting tunes and a dry-ice machine.

We will be doing a scary movie marathon in the lounge with some frighteningly delicious homemade snacks. I am still busy finalising the screening shortlist, but The Exorcist will probably nab the hallowed 8pm spot. None of my housemates have seen it and I can’t imagine a better time to show it to them. My girlfriend hates horror, so to coax her into joining I am appealing to her appetite: burnt broccoli salad with marinated red peppers and fried pretzels, crispy tofu sliders with radish slaw and mango with sticky rice for dessert.

My son’s class will have a Zoom meeting during which the households will turn out the lights and light candles or jack o’lanterns and we will tell each other spooky stories; I have threatened to read the three witches scene from Macbeth. Everything else has moved online this year, so why not Halloween?

I’ll be taking my little people on a walk of the neighbourhood, them holding buckets and me with a pocketful of sweets. Every time we see a lit pumpkin in a window or garden, they will shout “Hello pumpkin!” and I will drop a sweet into their bucket. The day before Halloween, I will also get them to plant pumpkin seeds in the garden for the Pumpkin King and in the morning they’ll wake to find lollies stuck in the ground, as if they have grown from the seeds.

I will be running a crafting workshop on Zoom as a part of an exhibition I curated about the women’s right to vote. The workshop will focus on making quick and easy Ruth Bader Ginsburg costumes out of ordinary household materials. Frankly, we’ve got too many zombies and vampires in the US at the moment and I think it would be great to see young boys and girls dressed like RBG for Halloween. I will have some candy ready if treaters show, but I will keep a distance and wear gloves and a mask. Who knows, I may even use my gavel as an extension pole to hand out the treats safely.