Halloween After Cancer: Give a Treat, Not Trick


Two-time cancer survivor and clutter-clearing expert offers tips for an easier Halloween for cancer survivors.

Simplify your Halloween. As a cancer survivor and clutter-clearing speaker-author, I suggest you do yourself a favor for Halloween. Halloween can be simplified and still be fun. Though this holiday manages to get bigger and more elaborate every year, it also struggles with getting squeezed out. Christmas decorations and merchandise come out before the Halloween and Thanksgiving stuff. I hear people complain every year, but it continues to happen earlier each year. If you are worn out by cancer, consider rebelling against the commercialism of all the holidays. I make my own small protest, and yet still participate in the spirit of these traditions. I deliberately do not decorate for Halloween until mid-October. I defiantly decorate for Thanksgiving only in November, and I hold off on Christmas stuff until it is December.

Celebrating this fall tradition may seem a little frivolous with everything else happening to you. I try to work toward normalcy for the sake of children and then discover that I enjoy it too—if I keep it a simple. Halloween can be a distraction. Consider celebrating Halloween simply. Check out these ideas:

Decorate simply. Try a few large Halloween decorations instead of the clutter created by many small Halloween knick-knacks. We had a Halloween tablecloth and a string of miniature orange twinkle lights around our dining room mirror or doorway or window. We have a large lighted plastic outdoor pumpkin by our front door. All three celebrate without creating “horizontal” clutter to dust around or pick up later.

Simplify costumes. Try simple, fun, inexpensive costumes by doing some creative make-up application and dated clothing (yes, I had some ‘70s clothing lingering in the back of a closet when my kids were little). Instead of buying expensive costumes of the latest cartoon personalities, show kids what you already have on hand for them to work with, and help them make their own creations. Mascara or eyeliner makes anything from scars, wrinkles and whiskers to sunken ghostly cheeks. Lipstick turns to blood. Eye shadows can be ghoulish or clown-like depending on how they are applied. Another easy activity: Let children each paint a Halloween face on an 89-cent miniature pumpkin from the grocery store.

Keep candy portions reasonable. Parents will thank you! I was grateful my neighbors turned on their outside lights, admired my children’s costumes, and participated in the neighborhood event. I just remember preferring that my generous neighbors would not try to keep my kids saturated in candy until it was time for Christmas cookies.

Try for fun, not overboard. Spare yourself. It is OK. Halloween can be a fun neighborly night for children to dress up, pretend and have a little candy. One mom I know doesn’t let her children wear their Halloween costumes until Halloween night. Instead of prolonging and de-mystifying Halloween magic for days, her children eagerly anticipate their one night of dressing up and pretending. For some, simple Halloween craft or baking or costume ideas, check out web sites that are age appropriate for your children.

I found that since cancer, I have a lot less interest in blood, gore or terror. We can have Halloween fun without buying the latest and greatest every year and without making it grim. My kids liked their dad’s 35-year-old electric pumpkin light that sat in our living room once per year. No scary music. No fiber optics. No moving parts. It was a simple family Halloween tradition that they wanted every year. Simplify Halloween for your family and for you. You deserve that for yourself!

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