The way you think of Halloween depends a great deal on your outlook on life. If you’re a party animal, then it’s the chance to get dressed up, perhaps in costume, and let your wild side out again. If you’re a cynic, then it’s a bunch of people dressed as sexy vampires, sigh. If you’re a professor of mythology, it’s a chance to explain to people that actually, “Dracula” was a nickname. And, of course, for some delicious punch. Even mythology professors like to cut loose sometimes.
If there is one problem with Halloween, it’s that conveying the feel of the day with your celebrations gets harder. Because we’re expected to “go extreme“, the challenge is outdoing everyone else. And the you of last year. Which, in the age of cloning, would be an excellent theme for a party, actually. Remember where you read it first!
But there you go. How do you go one better on a holiday that is designed to take things to the extreme? The logical end to that strategy is holding a party at which you kill someone and drink their blood. And despite what TV may have taught you, it won’t give you eternal life and super-strength. It will give you “life”, but only in the sense of a prison sentence. People won’t return your calls.
Halloween isn’t just about scaring people silly, which is the good news. It is as important to be weird and wonderful – especially wonderful – these days. So instead of upping the gore and guts, which as anyone who has seen Hostel and Hostel 2 can tell you doesn’t make things better, go another way.
“You there! What day is this?”
(Yes, I know, that’s Scrooge, and that’s Christmas…)
If you’re someone who likes to put a bit of thought and a new spin on a special occasion, forget about ghosts for a minute. Think about the day of the year. It’s October 31st. Now, there are some things not a lot of people know about October 31st, and they make for excellent inspiration for a Halloween celebration.
They may seem a bit obscure, but you can outline them briefly in a Facebook party invite. It saves explaining it to everyone when they turn up asking awkward questions about the theme.
October 31st, 1892
Always one for a mystery and a spooky explanation of something or other, Sherlock Holmes is also a popular fancy dress costume. And on Halloween of 1892, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was first published. There’s a good chance your friends don’t know this, so you may have to explain that part. But that being known, there’s a lot you can do with it as a party theme.
You can dress as characters from the series of novels by Arthur Conan Doyle; hopefully, not everyone will come as Holmes. You can open it up to other characters, or all fictional detectives. Point out that you’ll know who’s just recycled their Starsky from that 70s party you went to. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even turn it into a Murder Mystery party.
October 31st, 1981
We all remember what we were doing when we heard Lily and James Potter had been killed. We were reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Like Harry, we hadn’t really had time to get to know them at all. But Voldemort’s murder of Harry’s parents is the origin of his hero story, and drives the narrative of the seven books (eight movies).
What better way to commemorate their brave sacrifice than a Potter-themed Halloween party?
It pretty much organizes itself, doesn’t it? Recreate Hogwarts in your house. Party food in the Great Hall (your kitchen). Entrance via the Whomping Willow (your door, vamped up a bit). Find a recipe for Butterbeer online. Decorate the spooky, darkened home with fireflies. They’re LED lights; no-one needs to know.
Just don’t get carried away and tell your kids they’re the house elves and need to tidy everything away at the end of the night. That’s years of therapy, right there.
October 31, 1941
On Halloween 75 years ago, the final carving was completed on Mount Rushmore. America’s finest presidential monument was dedicated, and history was both honored and made. The faces of four of America’s greatest presidents up to that point, all carved out of stone.
Now, once again you may have to bring this fact to the attention of your guests, but it does make for a left-field party idea. “Come As Your Favorite President” may not be hugely spooky. Until you bear in mind that most of the presidents there have been, and all of the ones on Mount Rushmore, are dead.
It doesn’t have to be your favorite president, of course. It’s easier to dress up as someone who looked particularly distinctive. Very few costumes will really capture the concept of fiscal responsibility and tactical filibustering. Bear in mind that this Halloween, we’ll be just under a week away from a new president being elected.
It’s up to you how strict you are with who people can dress as. Obviously, up to this Halloween there will never have been a female president. So ladies can perhaps dress as First Ladies. They don’t have to, though. It’s Halloween – if you can pretend to be a vampire one year, your sister-in-law can be Abe Lincoln the next.
This idea may be best limited to groups of friends who can talk about politics without fighting.
Which is most of us, I hope.
Bear in mind if you are having a party based on the above, or on anything else connected to the day, to make sure everyone knows. America has, up to this point, never been governed by a sexy werewolf. There are no recorded instances of Sherlock Holmes being on the trail of Frankenstein’s monster. So ensuring that everyone gets the memo as far as themes and costumes go is essential. If you’re going to do Halloween, do it right – and that means your theme has to be watertight.
If none of these themes spark an interest in your halloween party planning, don’t forget to check out my post about creating a halloween night in, either way – as long as you’re with good company any halloween night you plan will always be a great one!