Down the Rabbit Hole; A Country Halloween Primer

This Halloween has a different feel to it. With all of the pandemic drama and sadness, I decided to focus on the positive: the traditions of the harvest. When BYU Radio contacted me with a request to share information about interior and exterior decorating I dug into my A Harvest and Halloween Handbook for ideas. Here are new projects and some old favorites.

Ancient and modern Israel enjoyed and still have a harvest celebration every year called Sukkot. Families construct sukkahs or temporary outdoor structures on their property where they dine, enjoy family time and a remembrance of their spiritual and cultural history.

Our celebration will be less elaborate but still handmade. This year we will have a family celebration with a Full Moon Country Fair theme. This moon from Pinterest was the inspiration.

I’m adding a scarecrow and country girl, lots of baskets, a bunch of silk cornstalks and our favorite games. I’ll share photos as I take them. In the meantime here are a few favorites to spark your imagination.

We needed a few games for our family Halloween party. I didn’t want to spend too much money so I recycled 4 boxes, and used half a can of leftover black spray paint and some black paper. The children will throw beanbags to knock over the monsters (recycled aluminum cans and the $ 1 pumpkin from Target. We still need to add a few details.
A group of noisy old cats gathered on a fence waiting to be scattered with beanbags.

One of my favorite themes for children’s carnivals and parties is the pumpkin patch. My daughter, son, spouses and grandchildren and I go to a pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins on the years we don’t grow our own, it is so much fun hunting for the perfect pumpkin – big -or small, round or tall, we love them all! Here are photos of game set-ups you might be interested in trying.

Here are prizes from a fishing pond game.
Pumpkin golf – cut the mouth out of plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins for golf goals.
A Penny pitch game could also use cotton balls or peanuts
Donut munching contest – no hands!
Candy jar guessing game, in case you need more candy 🙂
Win the lollipop you ring with glow-in-the-dark bracelets

This exterior decor was created the year I contributed to an article on economic outdoor decorating in US News and World Report. I couldn’t have a naked yard. This is a Wonderland tea party with invisible guests.

A Wonderland Halloween tea party
Alice at the tea party
The Mad Hatter
Autumn picnic in Wonderland

Stepping out of Wonderland, here are some creative country looks.

Country decor doesn’t have to be blah – use lights and the texture of natural materials to spice it up.

I wanted a rustic look to dress up my room, so I bought a Buffalo check throw and sewed on a torn rag garland and sheer ruffle.

Fine art can be dressed up or down and is always a good choice.

Warts and All is one of my favorite oil paintings from art school
paper crafts add bright and inexpensive pops of color

Haunted gingerbread house
A Halloween themed fabric bordered with coordinating prints make a colorful wall hanging.
The family tree – nestle sticks in an urn, copy Halloween photos and hang them with ribbons

Here are a few favorites from Pinterest:

This seems apropos for a pandemic. Doctors during the Black Plagues in Europe used protective gear that looked like those pictured above.
Brainstorming a roll up pirate ship.-2014-10-18-18.22.12.jpg Painted canvas over cardboard frame!
Halloween Window Decorations halloween halloween decorations halloween ideas halloween home decor

This is the script I had written for the BYU Lisa Show. With time constraints and friendly banter, we didn’t cover all of the information so I’m including it for you, My aesthetic as a designer is influenced by my experience as a mom and grandmother. I have degree in fine art and don’t like gory, super-scary Halloween décor, I focus instead on fun, bright and happy decorations. I love having smiling orange Jack-o-lanterns all over the house. I like black cats and bats, avoid snakes and spiders and look for ways to create comfort and welcoming environment. The idea from ancient Israel that the harvest is a time of Thanksgiving, rest and reconnection with family is important and I think can play a role in guiding our autumn activities and even decorating. If you do it right a lot of Halloween décor can transition to Thanksgiving.

So I was invited to share ideas for decorating inside and out. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Have a welcoming entry; it sets the stage for other good things that are going on. One of the reasons Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth” is their extensive use of themed décor. Experiencing novelty (something new) and humor causes our brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives us good feelings. Which is why shopping and travel also are mood boosters.

Let’s explore some alternatives to spider webs and scary front porch décor.

Make a door greeter with a welcome sign. I like the original illustrations from the Wizard of Oz. Jack Pumpkinhead is one of my favorites.

A few years ago, I contributed to an article in US News and World Reports about economical decorating. I built a scene in my front yard from Alice Through the Looking Glass. It was a tea party with Alice, the Mad Hatter, a character in a pumpkin costume and a Cheshire Cat grin up in a tree. The twist was that they were all invisible. So I grabbed my grandkids’ table, hit a couple of thrift stores and  set the table for tea, it was surrounded by small chairs and in each chair was a 3-D costume with no head, face, arms or legs. There were hats and gloves and shoes arranged as if they were being worn but the people were invisible.  Children came into the yard and were so enthralled they forgot to come to the door for treats!

I think one of the biggest “bang for your decorating bucks” is outdoor lighting. Just putting colored lights around the yard elevates it to something special. You can make an up light or spotlight with a #10 can, a light socket with an extension cord.

  • Don’t use flames or candles where children will be walking in costume, put away hoses and secure cords with tape
  • Make luminarias with jars – add sand, candy corn, popcorn, dried black beans and candles
  • Trees – hang mini pumpkins, strips of fabric, ribbon or mylar
  • Cut eyeholes in tp rolls, insert light sticks and hide in bushes
  • Re purpose a dollhouse for a scavenger hunt

In US News and World Report I described making a Wild West scene with “stuffed cowboys” around a fake campfire. Play sad cowboy songs, the sound of crickets, coyotes and night sounds.

Dig through your Christmas lights and find the flickering candle type, you can use green garlands with autumn leaves added, a cauldron from St Patrick’s Day. Make costumes for dolls, stuffed animals, use princess décor like magic wands, crowns, glass shoes, dragons, medieval and Wizard of Oz characters.

This year, Halloween night will have a full moon, a “blue moon” or Hunter’s moon. So I decided to theme my décor around the harvest and full moon. This Halloween will also be a little tricky because of the pandemic. The CDC has suggested that most public activities be cancelled or scaled back, so we are planning a family party in our yard.

MY BFF Mary discovered a world of crafters with you-tube channels that love dollar stores. So we went shopping and found wooden stars that we painted with glow-in-the dark paint and a cauldron of sparkly bats with ruby eyes! At a craft store I bought a giant wreath and covered it with fabric and painted a smiling moon face on.

A few more tips for Halloweenizing your home:

  • Make a FAMILY TREE – urn, pot or bucket with branches stuck in rocks or sand. Copy photos of your kids in their costumes from past Halloweens and make into paper ornaments. Hang on the branches with Halloween ribbons, string and other Halloween objects.
  • Fine art – grab some charcoal sticks and do a study of a skull, owl or other subject. I even have an old chair sketch that is one of my favorite drawings.
  • Make an oil painting of a pumpkin (you can hang it until Thanksgiving)
  • Autumn or vintage quilt. I made a quilt with large autumn print blocks and gathered some leaves outside. I traced the leaves onto brown paper and made templates that I dropped on the quilt and outlined where they landed with chalk and stitched them as part of the quilt.
  • Bundles of wheat, dried grasses, sticks
  • Lots of pumpkins, save one or two for Thanksgiving décor
  • Cover pillows with autumn fabric, pin on or sew slipcovers.
  • Make costumes
  • Alter books – carve out center of the page and make a Halloween scene in the hollow part
  • Pumpkin diorama, I’d use a fake pumpkin so I could keep it, glue Spanish moss around the opening, make a scene inside – use dollhouse pieces, fairy village or make items with bakeable clay
  • Make sunflowers out of crepe paper, paper plates and paint or pipe cleaners
  • Draw Jack-o-Lantern faces on tangerines and oranges with Sharpies.
  • Paint rocks and put them around outside
  • Make games for your Halloween party
  • Make a wall hanging or mini quilt with a panel of Halloween fabric
  • Fill a basket with scented pinecones and a string of lights to make a fragrant nightlight
  • Children’s art
  • Paper pennants and banners
  • Brown paper tree
  • Make spider web with black plastic trash bags
  • Make a basket of silly old cats


  • Halloween gingerbread house
  • Popcorn balls
  • Decorate cookies and cupcakes

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