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GIVE HALLOWEEN PARTY A BOOO-ST
Adults take (Halloween parties) so much more seriously than kids ever would or ever could.
Tracy Bloom of Creative Parties
Jeweled pumpkins, jack-o'-lantern chandeliers and tables set with holiday-themed china and crystal.
Instead of a kids' night out, Halloween has turned into a ghostly gala for grownups.
Oh, sure the little ghosts and goblins are still dressing up and trick-or-treating, but it's the baby boomer generation that's having the most fun, says Mary Helen Sprecher of the Halloween Association, a U.S. -based retail trade group.
"Baby boomers were the first generation after World War II to grow up with money to spend on costumes, and they had a great era of innocence when it came to trick-or-treating. And now that their children are grown, they simply aren't willing to stand around and answer the door bell on Halloween night," Sprecher explains.
"Adults take (Halloween parties) so much more seriously than kids ever would or ever could," adds Tracy Bloom of Creative Parties in Bethesda, Md.
Past clients have asked her for a real coffin in their living room, with a "course" that sat up periodically. She has decorated a dinner table with a chafing dish that, when a guest lifts the lid, revealed the head of someone sitting under the table with his head poking through a hole.
Even if you don't have a professional event planner to set things up, and you wouldn't go quite that far if you did, you can have a blast throwing a Halloween bash - without spending a lot of money.
Most important say the party people, is to know your audience and plan accordingly. Are your friends creative and a little crazy? Or will you have a hard time persuading them to wear a costume, let alone participate in silly games?
Figuring that out will help you decide what sort of Halloween party you want to throw; a free-for-all night, the wilder and less structured the better, or a get-together with a definite theme.
"Think of a theme to focus your guests," says Lesley Bannatyne, who is writing a how-to-book on Halloween for adults.
She suggests a "come as you were" party or one with an Edgar Allen Poe theme; or have all the guests dress up as vampires or aliens or mummies. If you're inviting married folks, you might have them come as famous couples like Antony and Cleopatra or Jackie and John Kennedy.
One of the hottest Halloween themes at the moment, says Wendy Moyle of the Internet party site Shindigz, is retro '60's and '70's. Guests who have too much dignity to dress as Dracula may be more willing to come in simple costumes such as love children, hippies or Brady Bunch clones.
A thoughtful host, Moyle says, will have a few props to offer guests at the door if they don't come in a costume - a funny hat, a mask, a bandanna - so they won't feel out of place.
Halloween décor was almost unknown a decade ago. Now you can find plenty of seasonal decorations for your party. You can spend as little as a few cents for a creepy plastic spider to put in the bathroom soap dish or spider confetti to sprinkle on the table, or significantly more for a fog machine.
But you can also create some pretty spooky effects from items you have around the house,
"People sometimes make decorations too complicated," says Linda Sadler, author of 101 Spooktacular Party Ideas (creative Kids Products, 2000). "You can do simple, inexpensive things to make a house look Halloweeny."
She suggests getting dead flowers from florists for your vases and placing them around the house. Throw sheets over your living room furniture as if the house hasn't been lived in recently. Buy inexpensive cotton spider webs; to make them look more realistic, stretch them out into long strands. Hang orange and black balloons everywhere around the house.
If you have a yard, make a haunted graveyard with several guests' names on tombstones cut out of plastic foam. Use fresh soil or mulch (on a black plastic
bag for easy clean up) to create the look of a freshly dug grave. Have an old garden glove stuffed with paper coming out of it.
The best Halloween parties take place after dark, of course, so you won't have to serve dinner unless you want to.
If you do, event planners recommend normal seasonal food; people may shy away from anything too creepy. (You could serve black bean soup in a hollowed-out pumpkin, for instance). You can add atmosphere by giving the food spooky names on a written menu.
Anything made with apples, pumpkins or nuts seems appropriate; and, of course, there should be candy - this is Halloween.
"It's more in the display than any specific food, "Moyle says. She likes having dry ice in the punch bowl, for instance. (Use a tea ball or small bowl within the bowl to hold the ice so it doesn't get in anyone's punch cup..)
If you don't want to serve punch, Bloody Mary's and strawberry daiquiris are alcoholic drink possibilities. And, of course, you'll want to have cranberry juice as a non-alcoholic alternative.
Your guests are probably expecting a sort of glorified cocktail party in costume, but Halloween is the time to get a little wild and crazy. The best way to loosen things up is to have parlour games and other activities.
"It depends on the crowd, but getting people to do things gets them out of the norm', Moyle says, "It livens things up".
A contest for the best costume is a natural but have lots of prizes; for the scariest, the dumbest, the funniest, the most creative. Again, you have to know your audience; but if your friends are good sports, they'll bob for apples, play charades or do the limbo to the "Monster Mash."
Tomb with a view: Transferring your front yard into a spooky cemetery can help create a delightfully scary tone. There's nothing like the living dead to liven a Halloween bash.