Ghouls just want to have fun

mummy mommy lori welbourne jim hunt

As kids we dressed up for Halloween with whatever we could find from around the house. We’d raid the closets, drawers and even the attic to gather materials to transform us into gypsies, witches, cowboys and ghosts.

Never did it occur to my little brother and me to ask our parents for costumes from a store. If people were buying them back then, Jeremie and I had no idea, and none of our friends seemed to know that either. We were all do-it-yourselfers and we had a blast. Things seemed so much simpler, and it was a far less profitable industry than it is today.

Halloween has become the second-most commercially successful day of the year – after Christmas – expected to reach 6.9 billion dollars this year in the U.S. alone.

What’s caused such a huge spike in sales? People like me are part of the reason.

After many great years of celebrating October 31st, trick or treating in my homemade outfits as a child, I decided to complicate things when I got older. I started engaging in the buying of décor and creating unique costumes on my own with the money I earned myself. It became an artistic expression. And although I wasn’t out buying a costume off the rack exactly, I was still spending a bunch of money and time creating an awesome outfit I’d only ever wear once.


As the years went by and I got more and more interested in dressing up, I noticed I wasn’t alone. Tons of people were doing what I was doing, and at parties people were going all out with their creations, trying to outdo what they’d done the year before.

I participated in this activity for more than a decade, and it was a lot of fun. But once I became a mother to our second child, I stopped putting pressure on myself to dress up, and just made it about the kids. It’s all I could handle, or it’s all I wanted to handle. And I was grateful for the vast selection of affordable kid costumes so readily available in the stores. It was much easier to just select something off a hanger instead of having to hunt and peck around the house and create something unique. And it was far preferable to sewing on outfit from scratch, which I’d done so many times in the past.

But now that my children are 10 and 13, they suddenly want to create their own simple costumes out of stuff we already have. I’m not sure where they got that idea from, and I know it might end up being more work than just picking up something ready made, but I’m excited. Maybe because it brings back memories from my own childhood.

It also brings back memories of their younger years. When they were three and six, and sad because I didn’t have a costume, they decided to dress me up. They instructed me to sit on a stool as they gleefully ran circles around me with a roll of toilet paper each and made me into a “mummy mommy.” It was the funniest thing in the world to them and we all ended up laughing so hard we were crying.

Out of all the awesome costumes I’ve loved wearing over the years, the “mummy mommy” remains my favourite. And the price wasn’t scary at all.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at

We need a vacation from holidays

My American cartoonist, Jim Hunt, posted on Facebook his illustration you see here with this caption: “Why can’t the department stores let us enjoy each holiday like we used to? They’ve turned it into one big ‘Merry Hallowthanksmas!’”  Within days his funny cartoon was shared by 70,000 people.

To say Jim struck a nerve would be an understatement.

“It was still summer when all this Halloween stock was displayed,” my neighbor grumbled when I ran into her at the store. “Who would buy all this crap months ahead of time?”

Well, my nine-year-old daughter would if she could.

Eager to pick through the large assortment of get-ups and decorations, Daisy has been making a bee-line for this particular section of the store for the last couple of months. And since the Christmas merchandise is now on display as well, her attention has become divided between the two.

“It makes me mad the way these stores are always jumping ahead to the next holiday and selling it way too early,” my neighbor continued. “Sell, sell, sell, it’s all about money to them.”

How true. But if I owned one of these stores, I imagine I’d be doing the same.

The fact is, a lot of people tend to buy early. I think they’re called “organized” or “planners” or some other word that doesn’t apply to someone like me.

If a store doesn’t get their products out early enough, another one will, and that’s where the consumer will likely spend their money. This logic is the reason seasonal and holiday goods seem to come out earlier every year.

Yet if it weren’t for my kids, I doubt I’d even notice these displays at first. I’m one of those people who buys stuff on an as-needed basis, so unless Halloween’s in the next day or two, I’m not purchasing candies or costumes quite yet.

The downside to my strategy? The potential for a much smaller selection.

“What happened to you?” an old friend asked after finding out I had no idea what I was dressing up as, while she’d been ready for awhile. “You used to be Miss Halloween.”

I did. I even used to make my costumes from scratch. But I gave that up when I discovered how much easier it could be to just rent or buy one off the rack. They might not have been as fun or unique as my originals, but I sure liked the lesser commitment of time and money.

“Before kids I had all kinds of extra time,” I replied to my single, childless friend. “Now I’m lucky if I can find twenty minutes to vacuum out my car once a year.”

With pity in her eyes she offered me a creepy crawly spider bowl of mini chocolate bars that she’d bought for her trick or treaters.

“I’m going to have to buy more candies,” she said frowning down at it. “Everything I bought is almost gone.”

Another reason I don’t like to buy early.

The stores are obviously savvy to display their stock months in advance. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it. The only thing that would prevent them from this practice is if more people were procrastinating, disorganized types like me.

In the spirit of Halloween, that’s a scary prospect indeed. If you don’t believe me, take a peek in my car.

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Trick or treat

Before I became a mother I was the type of person who made a big deal out of Halloween. I’d go to significant lengths to create a fairly unique costume and then wear it to work regardless of the level of Halloween spirit at my workplace that particular year.

There were times I worked for companies with plenty of people in costume, and sometimes their offices were even decorated with cobwebs and other spooky paraphernalia. Dressing up for that environment was always a hoot.

And then there were other times when I was one of the few weirdos dressed up on the 31st of October. Like 17 years ago when I worked for a large conservative government agency and showed up at my new place of employment decked out like Madonna. With half of my eyebrows shaved off and drawn into an arch, a high Jeannie-style ponytail, and two pointy prominent cones poking through my pin-striped suit, I thought I looked good.

My boyfriend’s sister, who also worked there and was not in costume, called their mother immediately to report my attire.

The following year my future mother-in-law looked relieved when I showed up at her house trick-or-treating with her son as the less sexy Marge Simpson and Krusty the Klown.

Over the years I continued to assemble costumes for my friends and me that were fun and funny. Dressing up my reluctant husband in drag as Monica Lewinsky and Tinkerbell was particularly enjoyable.

But none of that compared to the fun of dressing up my children.

When we had our first baby 11 years ago I made a bumblebee costume for him as well as for us and we took our precious two month old to his first Halloween party as the baby in our Beatnik Bee Family.

When our second child arrived a few years later, our son Sam had his own ideas about how he and his sister should dress up.

“I’ll be Winnie the Pooh and Daisy can be Piglet,” he said the first Halloween she was walking. “Because we’re best friends – just like them.”

I made a beautiful discovery that year: the simplicity of store-bought costumes. Not only were they less expensive and saved me hours of time, but they were every bit as fun as the costumes I’d created from scratch. In fact, keeping it simple made it even better for all of us. And more flexible as well.

After finding her favourite had-to-have-costume and parading around the house for a couple days as the delightful Big Bird from Sesame Street, our eight year old daughter eventually altered it to a more haunting “Big Bird, dead bird Zombie” combination by adding some make-up and props. And, consistent with the past several years, the week before the big day arrived, she was begging to be something entirely different.

“I saw the cutest sock hop outfit ever!” she said after promising not to change her mind this time. “Seriously, Mom! It’s the cutest dress on Earth and it even has a sheep on it!”

Interesting. I hope it comes in her daddy’s size as well.

To see why other kids look forward to Halloween and to hear their costume picks this year, watch my son’s pumpkin patch interviews at