How Halloween Became My Favorite Family Tradition

(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

I love Halloween. I love the fact that kids of all ages come from other neighborhoods to trick-or-treat. (This is also known as neighborhood hopping and I think it’s great.) I love sitting on the porch and handing out candy and talking to anyone who comes by. And I love that my friends come over to help me celebrate.

Every year we host a drop-in Halloween pumpkin chili party; it’s become something of a tradition. But it wasn’t always this way, and I have my mother-in-law to thank.

(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

Before I met my husband, the bare minimum (i.e., a few bowls of decent candy and a pleasant, if somewhat reserved, attitude) was enough for me.

But my mother-in-law’s birthday is on Halloween, which meant that I got used to going to a party every year. And then, once our kids were old enough to trick-or-treat and we felt guilty going out without them, we started hosting her party at our place.

Then there’s my husband: He doesn’t care where he celebrates, or what he celebrates, but he takes great pride in his costumes. (Yes, he will grow facial hair for a costume. See proof above.)

These two things, while somewhat unrelated, taught me to love the holiday and, in a roundabout way, led to our family’s Halloween chili tradition. You see, I so enjoyed hosting on Halloween that I started doing it even when my mother-in-law wasn’t the guest of honor. (She’s in high demand; it can’t always be our turn.) Of course, my husband was on board, because it gave him every reason to really ramp up his Halloween costume efforts.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

One Halloween, I decided I wanted to do more than throw a bunch of snacks on the table. It was a little colder than usual for South Carolina, and I decided pumpkin chili was the way to go. Never mind that I’d never made it before — that’s what the internet is for!

But y’all? The internet let me down.

All the pumpkin chili recipes called for puréed pumpkin, and I wanted delicious chunks of pumpkin along with the beans in my chili. Also, the majority of them also called for meat, and we had a few vegetarian friends coming over. How hard could it be to make vegetarian pumpkin chili?

Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my pumpkin chili and people kind of (okay, really) love it. I make a double recipe and it still doesn’t last. Regulars know that if you don’t get here early, you might miss out on the chili.

When my parents were alive, they’d shut down their own trick-or-treat early to come to our place. (They did leave a bowl of candy on the porch, because they were always gracious.) Some of our other guests come every year, too, and even invite themselves if we forget.

People who invite themselves are the best guests. Halloween always sneaks up on me, and nothing is more flattering than having someone tell you they’re looking forward to your party before you’ve even planned it! It’s an honor to be someone’s holiday tradition — even if Halloween at our place is really just one big crappy, happy dinner party.

It’s funny where life takes you. I would have been voted “Least Likely to Host a Halloween Party” in high school, but here we are. An accidentally good recipe, a holiday birthday, and really amazing friends made me love Halloween and gave us one of my favorite family traditions.

What tradition have you started by accident that you absolutely love?