Halloween party themes can be silly or spooky—and delicious—with unique tablescapes and a clever selection of seasonal desserts for the kid in all of us.
Fall is an amazing time in many parts of the country, when leaves turn beautiful hues of red, yellow and purple, apple and pumpkin harvests are in full swing, and corn mazes pop up in farmers’ fields. It should come as no surprise that Halloween ranks second next to Christmas in terms of holiday popularity. While Halloween isn’t as much of a gift occasion as the holidays that follow it, Halloween gifts can mean much more than the sweets handed out to neighborhood kids. And even though food doesn’t figure as prominently in a Halloween celebration, the right dessert can be the biggest treat of all for a Halloween party.
Like many holidays, the origin of Halloween dates back to ancient Celtic traditions. The seasonal transition that occurred between the last day of October and the first day of November was considered to be a bridge to the world of the dead. At that time, the festival of Samhain was celebrated; gifts were offered to the deceased and masks were worn in the hopes that crops for the next year would be plentiful. Turnips were even carved with faces to ward off evil spirits. With northern Europe’s conversion to Christianity in the early Middle Ages, November 1 became All Saints’ Day…and Samhain became Hallowe’en (“hallowed evening”)—the eve of All Saints’ Day.
These traditions ultimately transitioned to the modern-day Halloween after World War II, when mainstream children’s magazines featured articles on the centuries-old traditions that helped evolve ancient customs into popular culture. Today, we carve pumpkins instead of turnips and wear full costumes and go trick-or-treating for candy. Costume superstores spring up in unexpected places and Halloween party decorations line store shelves well before it seems time to stock up for the holiday.
Halloween Party Themes
Halloween parties are on the rise. According to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween predictions from 2014, one-third of Americans will throw or attend a party (33.4%), which was up from the previous year (30.9%). Chances are, you know someone who is a Halloween fanatic, going the extra mile to decorate their yard and house for Halloween and dressing up in elaborate costumes.
Halloween party themes can be over-the-top scary or just plain silly, especially for young kids. Throwing a party is always fun and helps to create memories. There are several excellent resources for developing Halloween party themes, such as the Better Homes & Gardens website or, of course, Pinterest.
To decorate for the occasion, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes can be jazzed up with paint. For a black-and-white party theme, use white pumpkins painted with black stripes, polka dots or bats. Stretchy “web” decorations draped over almost anything can make anything look spooky. Freeze little plastic bugs—especially black spiders—in ice cubes for a wickedly fun drink surprise.
For a playful kids party, create a monster theme with whimsical monsters. You can do a lot with pairs of “googly eyes” purchased at a craft store. You can glue them to unexpected items such as brightly colored plastic drink cups, mirrors, and even framed school photographs. Boo!
Found objects, like dried leaves and twigs, can embellish a buffet table. Add several long twigs to a vase, then hang Halloween decorations that match the party theme off of the “branches” for a dramatic effect. If you use a clear vase, fill it with layers of different Halloween candy like candy corn, candy pumpkins and black and orange jelly beans.
Halloween Dessert Ideas
Once you have your Halloween party theme picked out, it’s time to plan out the food and beverages to serve.
Wow guests with an amazing “tablescape” for the food and dessert display that will have them sharing party pictures on Instagram and Facebook. Vary the height of the foods served to add visual interest. To do that, find some sturdy boxes (like a shoe box) and place them under a dramatic or colorful tablecloth to raise up the items. Mini pumpkins hollowed out also make fantastic serving bowls for dips, and mini plastic black cauldrons add drama to serve up chips and crackers.
A showstopping beverage often involves a ghoulish-colored liquid enhanced with billowing “smoke” by placing dry ice in a large container, like a punch bowl. This video shows a foolproof way to use dry ice to great effect.
Everyone loves dessert, so give guests Halloween treats they’ll rave about:
- Witches Brooms. Simply turn mini peanut butter cups upside down and pierce the upturned end with a mini pretzel stick.
- Mummy Truffles. Purchase a dozen chocolate truffles pre-drizzled with chocolate stripes and add your own ‘eyes’ (either purchased candy eyes or use frosting) in between the stripes so they look like tiny mummies.
- Graveyard Stones. Make your own graveyard display by using a jelly roll pan and lining it with crushed chocolate cookies to make it look like dirt. Then, purchase Coconut Petits Fours. All you need to add is some lettering like RIP to the “headstones” using black gel frosting.
Another way to add Halloween humor into your food display is to create nametags for the items you serve. Give normal items clever names; for example, ketchup and mustard can be called Vampire Blood and Zombie Drool. Any dip can be named Monster Mash, and drinks can be aptly named Witches Brew.
Whether your party is crazy creepy or cleverly cute, have a blast scaring your friends and family with your Halloween-inspired creativity!