The process of creating and carrying on traditions is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting for me, in part because my energies and interests don’t always match what the calendar and drugstore displays tell me it’s time to do. But I’m also a contrarian and want our traditions to be meaningful for some reason other than history. To evolve as our family evolves. And, of course, to have some fun.

My biggest score in the tradition department came one Halloween when Kid Two was a baby. Riding my bike along the beach promenade, past the row of parked RVs, I couldn’t help but see the vacationeers had completely decked out their motor homes for the occasion. I don’t even decorate my own home, so the idea of traveling with your holiday decor was astounding to me. It felt extraordinarily festive . . . decorations! At our beach! I took photos:

You can see there was quite a lot effort made. So when evening came I walked Kid One and his friends down to see the decorations – and now there was also candy! Twenty-four or so groups of people, previously unknown to each other, decorating and mingling, watching the waves, waiting for trick-or-treaters. I’ll say it again – at the beach!

It was the beginning of a new tradition: trick-or-treating at the beach. It’s a perfect length walk, always fun for an excuse to walk on the beach after sunset, and the kids have a finite number of “homes” to hit. It’s a tradition that doesn’t have to stop as the boys get too old to ask for candy, because you’re never too old walk on the beach.

Eighteen year in, and we don’t have any Halloween food traditions – yet. There are only things we’ve done. Sugar cookies cut into the shapes of brooms and ghosts. Sugar skulls decorated with feathers and beads in honor of Dia de los Muertos. Hot chocolate and pumpkin bread and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. None of those stuck, but I have hopes for a “haunted dinner” that has potential to be revisited. This was Kid Two’s brainstorm a couple years ago; he orchestrated the meal and made labels:

The Boo Chips were an actual pressed potato product we found.

Dill pickles became Frankenstein's fingers

I'm absolutely certain I did NOT rename the raspberries "swelled bat brains." I did put blue food coloring in lemonade to make it spookier, though.

Ghost-shaped cookie cutters turned grilled cheese into "haunted cheese."

Perhaps our only real tradition is that we try. Maybe that’s all we need.

What are the traditions – new or old – you and your families do at this time every year? I’d love to hear them.