Our family went for our Friday night walk at Target last weekend.
Once we entered the store, I just couldn’t help but notice all the Halloween decorations displayed at the front.
I started to feel really warm and fuzzy inside.
Growing up in Vietnam, I didn’t know much about Halloween before coming to America in 2005.
When I was in college, Halloween meant lots of parties, drinking, and costumes on campus (for other people).
Halloween always rolled around the time when I had many mid-term exams and papers due.
I’m saying this at the risk of sounding like a hermit, but I have never gone to any Halloween parties.
The main reason is that I don’t want to spend money on a costume.
I remember at one point in my sophomore year, I got invited to a Halloween party by a guy I kind of liked.
Part of me wanted to go, but part of me was thinking about how I didn’t have any costumes and didn’t want to part with my money for one.
Although he insisted that a tiara or something simple would suffice. I just turned down his gesture.
I was also too shy to show up at a crowded party looking funny among a bunch of drunken college kids. As you can already guess, that story has no happy ending. But I don’t even know if I regret that decision.
As I’ve warmed up to the festivity in America, I’ve always wanted to buy some decorations for my own place.
When I was renting with other roommates, they’d usually get something really simple for the holiday. I always told myself I’d get lots of Halloween decorations and some pumpkins once I had my own home.
Mr. FAF and I have been talking about taking Baby FAF pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating.
I’m pretty sure our son has no idea what Halloween is since he barely talks and just came back from China four months ago.
He doesn’t have any favorite character since the only thing we let him watch is random ABC songs on YouTube.
He doesn’t eat candy and doesn’t even know candy exists because we don’t let him eat sweets.
The idea of having Baby FAF enjoying a happy Halloween is probably mainly for us.
We want our son to experience the American culture as many other American kids do.
We want him to grow up knowing what it’s like to be an American and to have the childhood memories that he can share with his friends.
When Baby FAF turned one, I bought him a tiger costume from Amazon for $13.96 (the price has since increased).
I put the costume on him, took a couple of photos to send to Mr. FAF and our family, and then put the costume away.
It was a bit cold at Halloween, so we didn’t go outside at all. I was afraid that our son would get sick.
The Mid-Autumn Festival
I’ve always associated Halloween with the Mid-Autumn festival, a harvest festival celebrated by the Vietnamese and Chinese.
The festival takes place on the 15th of the 8th month of the lunar calendar.
According to the Gregorian calendar, it’s usually at the end of September or early October when the moon is full, bright, and beautiful. This year (2017), it was on October 4th.
When I was in Vietnam, I grew up looking forward to the mid-autumn festival every year.
There would be one particular street in my city displaying and selling cartoon character masks, star lanterns, animal-shaped lanterns, and other other fun toys a kid can dream of.
Although my parents didn’t make a lot, they always took me out to those streets to celebrate the festival before I started first grade.
Even when I grew up, our whole family (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins) would usually get together and enjoy mooncake at the moon festival.
Those nice memories have stayed with me all those years. And now I want Baby FAF to have the same and even better experiences with a similar festival in America – Halloween.
The Mid-Autumn Festival street would look something like this. And no, this is not me.
We also eat mooncake to celebrate the Moon Festival.
I have been asking Mr. FAF what we will be doing for Halloween. On the one hand, I want to take Baby FAF to a pumpkin patch so we can take some nice photos of him.
I also want to buy a warm and cute costume for him so that we can take him trick-or-treating no matter how cold the weather is. I want to decorate our house with all the cute, pretty, and fancy-looking items I can find. Our house will be all orange for the holiday.
On the other hand, I don’t want to give in to the culture of commercialized holidays: buying stuff to celebrate festivity. In other words, I don’t want to drop $100 on a holiday that lasts one day.
In the weeks leading to Halloween, we would see all kinds of Halloween decorations, lights, and props, from ghosts, tombs, skeletons to beautifully carved pumpkins. Every time I looked at our neighbors’ houses, I felt a bit happier feeling the festivity floating around in the neighborhood.
There’s no rule in our community that we have to make our house look pretty for the occasion. And many families don’t do that, so I don’t feel too guilty about enjoying my neighbors’ creativity.
Sometime I also wonder how much my neighbors spent on their props and the electricity bill that month. According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, Americans were expected to spend $8.4 billion on Halloween candy and costumes in 2016 (or $82.93 per shopper).
If we had invested $82.93 in a 5% index fund at Vanguard for 10 years, it would be $1,178.17 in 10 years or $2,962.20 in 20 years. If course, sometimes we just need to live in the moment and enjoy what life has to offer. Converting all of our purchases into investment will not make us happy all the time.
However, this is to show that celebrating Halloween costs money. And despite all the joy it can bring to us and our kids, we need to budget carefully to not let the joy get in the way of our long-term goals.
Our Halloween purchases
Since this is our first year as a family and our first time celebrating Halloween with Baby FAF, Mr. FAF wanted to buy some new items from Target.
After a lot of back and forth, we ended up spending $25 on a lion costume for Baby FAF, $10 on a spider prop, and $15 on a pumpkin light ($50 in total).
I told Mr. FAF that I can try making a costume for Baby FAF (which I wasn’t even sure about since I’m not good at making handcrafts).
But Mr. FAF said that we can afford to buy something new for our son. After all, he was away from us for more than a year.
I eventually agreed. I will save the costume for our future children.
We can also use the prop spider and pumpkin light for the next Halloween. Those are one-time purchases that will provide value for years to come.
Also, about five months ago, I found a wooden ghost prop on the curbside and took it home. Now it’s also part of our Halloween decorations.
Halloween at work
After I started my first ever full-time job about two years ago, I’ve known what it’s like to enjoy the holiday together with my colleagues. Our office has a box of Halloween items that we use every year.
Something as simple as a fake spider or a straw-man can make the office look so cozy and festive. I usually get a couple of props to put at my desk and feel the festivity in the air. It just makes me smile.
I heard that before I started my job, my employer held a contest every year to see which team could decorate their corner the best. The winners would win a gift card (I’m not sure how much, but it was something!).
Last year, we had a costume contest for the most creative costume. A colleague with a hand-made dinosaur costume won the $50 prize. We also had some Halloween treats to enjoy during the show and judges’ deliberation. It was a fun experience.
If someone offered me $10,000 now but wanted to take away all the memories that I had about the Mid-Autumn Festival, I wouldn’t take it. If it were $100,000, I might rethink my decision. At the end of the day, the joy that we had during our childhood can be priceless.
My parents were struggling financially when I was little. But they still took the time to take me out to see the full moon and all the nice toys displayed on the street.
One time, I saw a neighbor make a lantern out of an empty Coke can for his daughter and asked my mom to make one for me. It was surprisingly one of my most favorite toys during my childhood.
It wasn’t as fancy as all the electric lanterns for sale. It didn’t play the nice music. It was lit up by a tiny candle. But it was made by my mom with love. And no one else would take the time to make a hand-made lantern for me. You can see the instructions here.
We might be debating whether to buy Baby FAF a costume now because he does’t know what Halloween is. But once he’s older, we will make sure to let him experience one of the festivals that any kid would enjoy and remember forever.
And next year, we will try to plan our celebration better by trying to find free and/or hand-me-down items. I will also try to use my limited art skills to make a Halloween costume for Baby FAF just like how my mom hand-made a lantern from a Coke can for me.
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