Homestead holidays are so important to celebrate together with family and friends but sometimes we just don’t have time or inclination to follow all of the typical traditions for these special days. Either we’re weary of commercialism, don’t have time or funds to do the “normal” thing, or we object to the way holidays are celebrated in our culture, sometimes we just need a break! To help with that this October, here are five homestead alternatives to trick-or-treating!
Should You Let Your Kids Go Trick-or-Treating?
Whether to engage in this door-to-door Halloween tradition or not is entirely up to your best judgement of:
- Age appropriateness
- Health of your child
When I was young, my sister and I went around my grandmother’s neighborhood every Halloween night begging treats from people we were familiar with and saw every year. It was a safe, quiet street, and my mom and grandma always came along, reminding us to say thank you and not walk on the grass. It was simple and sweet.
These days, trick or treating in a neighborhood can be a different experience. Perhaps you have safety concerns regarding going to the doors of strangers. Or perhaps you have health concerns about overindulging in a night of high fructose corn syrup treats. Never fear, there are still ways you can enjoy this tradition; you simply need alternatives to trick-or-treating with your children!
5 Homestead Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
If you’ve decided not to participate, you will want some alternatives to trick-or-treating that can easily be done in your home and on your homestead. These ideas will work well for homeschool co-ops, church youth groups, and cool teenagers.
1) Guided Treasure/Treat Hunt
If you have a group of neighbors or friends who live relatively close to each other, you can plan a trick-or-treat treasure hunt, stopping by specific houses. This isn’t a willy-nilly candy expedition. Rather, this is a pre-arranged treat hunt that is mapped and executed only with people you know.
To do this:
- Draw a basic map and include clues that will help the children figure out where to go next. If your good neighbor down the street has agreed to play along and she has a stop sign in front of her house, give the kids that clue and head on down for them to collect their treat at her house.
- Do you have a good friend who lives just a bit further? Include their carved pumpkin display on your map as a clue to the next stop.
- Either your friends can hand out treasure/treats at every stop, or you can simply drop a treat in your child’s bag as you go from house to house. Not everyone enjoys staying up into the night to pass out candy to kids and that’s alright. You can take care of it yourself, if needed.
This treasure hunt is a highly adaptable alternative to trick-or-treating and is always exciting for the kids. Anything involving a map and clues is going to be fun. However, maybe because of cold weather or other adverse conditions, you don’t even want to leave home.
If that’s the case, you’ll need a few more alternatives to trick-or-treating. How about you try trick-or-treating in your own house?!
2) Trick-or-Treat in Your House
You can similarly devise a map or a scavenger hunt scenario and simply go from door to door in your home to collect treats. To do this:
- Pick a place for the children to enter and exit the hunt. A map will help them all flow in the right directions, or you could have a costumed guide (a parent or teenager).
- Give each child a bucket or bag to collect treats and treasures.
- Consider setting up games along the path, as well. (We have several game suggestions below in the party section).
- Decorate each door or stop along the path and consider giving each one a theme. For example, one door could be the entrance to a wizard’s den, another could have a pin-the-eyeball-on-the-mummy game attached to it.
- Walk the path to be sure it can be accomplished in ten to fifteen minutes. This will keep the attention of even the younger kids.
Since moving to the country with nary a neighbor in site, this alternative to trick-or-treating has become our favorite. Decorating each door in the house and even setting a scene for the room can be fun.
My favorite door decoration from this year was the “Mummy Door” made from two big hand-drawn eyes and a little white crepe paper strung across the door. He looked so friendly somehow, looking down on us from under his crepe paper bandages.
Our other favorite was the “Harry Potter” closet, which is, of course, under our stairs. My daughter set up a small scene where you had to reach in and find the Sorcerer’s Stone (a foil-wrapped, homemade chocolate frog). With a little effort, even a door can be a magical alternative to trick-or-treating!
3) Halloween Treat Hunt
Just like an egg hunt at Easter time, hide candies around the house and yard for the kids to find as a very familiar alternative to trick-or-treating. This takes way less organization that a trick-or-treat experience and can be just as fun.
Here are a few tips:
- Provide a small sack or bucket for each child.
- Have older children help the youngest children.
- Put a limit on how many candies each kid can find so everyone gets some and no one goes home ill having eaten the entire haul.
- Don’t forget to use all your space by hanging candy pieces from fake spider webs and leaving treats inside carved pumpkins.
You could have a few versions of the hunt, if they kids want to do it more than once. Here are some examples:
- The first hunt could be for kids under the eight; the next hunt could be for kids over eight.
- One hunt could have a rule that what you find must be shared with someone.
- You could also color code the hunt. Kids can only gather things with orange wrappers, etc.
- Another hunt should be for the parents with the kids hiding the treasures!
4) Movie Night
If you’ve got teenagers who are too cool to dress up and do all that candy stuff, you’re going to need an alternative to trick-or-treating anyway! Why not host a Halloween movie night?!
I don’t do anything super scary at my house, so my suggestions for this night are limited to classics like Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin or Hotel Transylvania.
Be sure to include your favorite popcorn balls and homemade drink like Cream “Soda” or Pumpkin Juice.
5) Make it a Small Halloween Party!
All these suggested activities are far more fun when you invite friends! Have your treat activity and then set your guests to some simple games like these:
To set up Halloween Bowling, re-use tin cans by painting over their paper or adding your own to make them look like bats, pumpkins, or mummies. Use a small, sturdy pumpkin as a bowling ball and offer a prize to whoever knocks down all your tin-can pins.
DONUT ON A STRING
String up your favorite donut and have a race to see who can eat theirs first without using their hands or dropping it on the ground. This is a classic game that never gets old.
You can also try bobbing for apples (in individual bowls if you prefer) and/or the Face the Cookie game.
To play Face the Cookie:
- Each player puts one cookie on their forehead and, without touching it, must get it into their mouth without dropping it.
- The first one to manage it, wins.
To set up Mystery Box:
- Get an old tote box and cut a 6” hole in the lid.
- Paint the outside of the box and lid black or some other dark color.
- Place treats inside for players to find but also put in objects that have an odd texture and might be mistaken for “witch’s hair” or “monster tongue.”
When I was a kid, we always ended up with wet noodles in our mystery box—so gross! Other items that might feel like bugs or body parts include:
- sliced bananas
- grapes (peeled is best)
- canned corn
- canned peas
If you don’t want to use food, you can use slimy stuff like silly string but I don’t like all the chemicals and mystery ingredients in cans of that spray-on goo.
Don’t go crazy and waste tons of food on this game.
Be sure to give the remnants to the chickens or the compost bin instead of throwing them away.
MYSTERY BOX VARIATION
If you don’t want to put all the elements into one box with the candy, you can also place each gross item out on a table and see if the kids can identify them while blind-folded.
The most creative answer usually wins a prize at my house.
FYI, not every kid will think it’s fun to stick their hand in something they can’t see and/or to be blindfolded, so remember to be respectful if anyone doesn’t want to play along.
More Seasonal Family Fun
There’s so much to celebrate this time of year! Here are a few more fun activities that can be done simply with your family or school group.
How Do We Make a Cheap Halloween Party?
As alternatives to trick-or-treating go, a party can be a much bigger hassle. Even if there’s really no substitute for homegrown fun with your family and a few special friends.
Still, in our economy, you have to think about keeping things frugal!
The best way to make this party easy on the homestead pocketbook is to keep things simple and keep them homemade. A big part of why we do our own Halloween with friends and family at my house is so that we can control the amount and kinds of sugar we’re ingesting for this holiday.
To help you with that, I’ve included some simply homemade treats in our resources list below.
However, it helps to bear in mind that not all the prizes and treats need to be homemade! We only have the time and energy to make a certain number of candies and treats from scratch, so we take time to collect items throughout the year when we see them on sale.
Typically, we’re sure to hand out other prizes like:
- the occasional glow stick (not environmentally friendly, but so fun once a year)
What’s your favorite non-candy Halloween treat?
Is Halloween Against Certain Religions?
Just as a side note, although some religions like Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibit the celebration of Halloween, other sects leave that decision up to adherents. Many people often wonder if Christians are allowed to celebrate Halloween and to maybe help answer that question, I include a short snippet from our book Homestead Holidays.
Halloween can be quite a controversial holiday; did you know that holidays could be controversial? Apparently, they can! If you’ve had concerns about this holiday for religious or cultural reasons, let’s walk through some history together to see what we can find that might help you make an informed decision about whether to celebrate it.
Halloween is on October 31st because it is the eve of All Saints Day, which is November 1st (Hallow meaning holy; ‘een meaning eve). All Souls’ Day is on November 2nd. These three days taken together are the “Days of the Dead” observed by Catholics around the world (though, in the Eastern Orthodox Church, you would celebrate these days in the spring, closer to Lent).
These three feast days are also called Allhallowtide or Hallowmas (Again, hallow meaning holy; mas meaning Mass. For example, Christmas is the Christ Mass). Halloween is, therefore, the first day of the Allhallowtide celebrations…
All Hallows Eve is to All Saints Day what Christmas Eve is to Christmas, a time of commencement…
…as with most holidays, Halloween started out a holy day. Over time, All Hallows Eve was thought by some to be the one night of the year the spirits of the dead could walk the earth (based on pagan beliefs regarding the ancient celebration of Samhain). Traditions popped up in cultures around the world to scare off unsavory spirits or faeries by dressing in frightening costumes (a mix of French and English traditions) and carving turnips with frightening faces (an Irish tradition).
In our times, in the great melting pot of the United States at any rate, the holiday brought together all these aspects and to this day, it includes costumes, carving pumpkins (the American variation on the turnip), and a version of the English tradition of mumming, going door to door to beg treats in masks or costumes.
Though the spiritual aspects of Halloween have largely been lost in our modern culture, and though Christian and Pagan traditions may have mixed a bit, this remains a very popular holiday, especially for children.
While I repeat my assertion from the introduction that everyone has the inherent right not to celebrate what they don’t believe will have value for them, I hope that we can all at least embrace the challenge of learning more about each other’s beliefs and holy days.
Information allows us to act in wisdom when dealing with differences of opinion and even faith. Being part of the human family means we can find a place of respect and understanding, even in a holiday as potentially controversial as Halloween.
To learn more, be sure to pick up your own copy of Homestead Holidays!
Resources for Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating
You may need to substitute some ingredients in these recipes if you follow a specific diet. However, these are generally healthier versions of classic treats. The crafts included are simple and cheap to produce. Have so much fun!