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How to Survive a Halloween in Minnesota

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No matter what city you go to in the U.S., Halloween will generally be celebrated the same: costumes, candy, and ghosts. But Halloween in Minnesota is like Christmas on acid. Strands of ghost and pumpkin lights reflect on inches of snow, swirling and blurring together. The chilling wind howls louder than the any of the lame recordings house owners like to play from boom boxes when trick-or-treaters come to the door. And the ice-cold temperature alone is enough to make any Halloween a crazed experience.

An out-of-state trick-or-treater needs to know a few things before experiencing a Minnesota Halloween.

Plan a route beforehand. The starting and ending place, the length of the route, and what houses you go to are important to figure out, as they affect everything else you need to do for Halloween. Do your research so that you know what houses hand out the best candy. As I grew older and started to plan my own Halloween route, I took into consideration my past Halloweens by remembering what houses were the best. Map out the best route with the best houses. In addition, the October weather is harsh in Minnesota so you need to decide how long you want to stay outside walking. Your best bet would be the shortest route that covers the top-notch houses. And don’t forget: pick a good ending place so that when you finish you have hot chocolate and a blanket waiting for you. Trust me, you’ll need it.

Who you go with. Do you want a small group of friends or a larger group? Is your mom making you take your younger brother/sister out trick-or-treating? Deciding on who you want to spend your Halloween night with goes hand and hand with your planned route. If you like who you are going with, then chances are you will want to stay out longer and your night will be more fun. If you have to take your younger sibling out, you’ll want a short and easy route. Choose your fellow trick-or-treaters wisely, as they will greatly affect your Halloween night.

Your costume. The costume is the heart of Halloween. You should plan your costume after knowing the route and group you will be with because if you don’t, expect consequences. You want a comfortable, weather-smart costume that you won’t mind walking around in. Likewise, your friends may want to do themed costumes so take that into account as well. Think your costume all the way through. If you decide to be a strawberry, be sure you look like one so that people don’t mistake you for a pizza with leaves. If you want to be a princess and use your mom’s bridesmaid dress she wore for her sister’s wedding, make sure that the pins used to shorten the dress don’t unclip, causing you to stumble around on the sidewalk. Also, consider weather factors if you are going to use makeup. It isn’t uncommon for snow to be on the ground in October in Minnesota, and the wind will be blowing. Be sure your makeup isn’t going to smear or smudge, causing people to question your Halloween outfit. Also, keep in mind that you may want to layer clothes under your costume due to weather. Be smart about your costume choice.

Shoes. This goes hand in hand with the costume, but shoes must be emphasized separately. While you may want shoes that go with your costume, consider the fact that not only may you be walking but you may be walking in inches of snow. Now I’m not saying you should lace up some snow boots and prance around like you’ve never seen snow before, but don’t wear cute little heels and expect to have warm, non-blistered feet at the end of the night. I suggest sporty, but ordinary tennis shoes; at the very least, closed-toe shoes. If you’re worried about your shoes taking away from the full effect of your costume then obviously your costume isn’t as good as you thought, because shoes are a small portion of the overall effect.

Bundle up. This is perhaps is the most important thing to know when trick-or-treating in Minnesota. Leave room under your costume for at least five layers of warm clothing, and expect to look like a snow bunny by the time the night’s over. You may not be able to have the cutest costume ever, but I’ve experienced at least eight Halloweens in Minnesota and believe me when I say you want to be warm before you are cute. On the other hand, once in a while you will get lucky with a cool autumn night rather than a bitter cold one, so be sure you check the weather ahead of time. Maybe you will luck out and have a snow-free Halloween, but being prepared is key.

Preparin’ for the goodies. OK, so you’ve planned your route, friends, and costume, and you know what to expect weatherwise. Now you need to get ready for the candy. I’ve always enjoyed using a pillowcase. It’s large enough to hold adequate amounts of candy and easy to sling over your back if you get tired of holding it in front of you. Also, you can store any other necessities in it as well. Consider the pillowcase a sort of Halloween purse. You can store a flashlight in it, you can store one of those neat hand-warmers in there, your cell phone, keys, driver’s license, money… anything you might even remotely need can fit in your pillowcase alongside your candy. It’s a great choice when it comes to treat-or-treating.

Remember, as it gets darker it gets colder. This is nothing new, but important to remember if you spend Halloween in Minnesota. As soon as the sun starts to set, the coldness creeps in quickly. The wind feels colder, you begin to see your breath, and your feet, hands, and cheeks feel frozen. Now I’m not suggesting that you start your trick-or-treating at 5:30 PM with the toddlers, but don’t start too late either. You don’t want to be caught in the cold, desperately running up to each house as you struggle to stop your teeth from chattering while saying, “Trick-or-treat!” It won’t be pretty. Furthermore, the later your celebration of Halloween goes, the less likely people will have the good candy or even be up. So be a go-getter and get the good stuff while avoiding frostbitten limbs.

If you follow these easy steps for a Minnesota Halloween, your night of scary fun should be successful. You’ll be prepared, warm, and sporting a great costume. Ignore these rules and you may find yourself stuck in a snow bank, wondering why you didn’t wear snow boots and five layers of clothing.

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About sarahgray

  • This is great. The best line was easily “Christmas on acid”. Good stuff.

  • bliffle

    Gad! What is all this Minnesota chic stuff that keeps popping up the past few years?

    Now we have all kinds of people mumbling in faux Swede accents, even a popular movie, “Fargo” (which isn’t even in MN!).

    And this deranged frankenstein monster Keillor is staggering around terrorizing the airwaves with his warped stories and bad singing. Talk about bad singing, not only do we have Keillor on NPR saturday nights and sunday mornings, but he got invited (somehow) to the SF “City Arts And Lectures” program where he INSISTED on singing some MORE bad songs he’d made up!

  • Ha! This brought back memories, although I was in my 20s when I lived there. I made my own costumes, and there was plenty of room for layering underneath. Of course, the kids who grow up there are used to it, and go out with a vengeance despite the weather.

  • Great read, Sarah!

    When the kids were little and we lived in St. Paul (we live in Israel now) and we would take the kids out trick or treating in the neighborhood. We went with the family, nephews, nieces and sons in tow, dragging them to the various houses in the West Seventh nighborhood, trolling the streets between View and I35E just north of Randolph Ave. It was a blast (of cold air as well as fun) and we always came home to hot chocolate and oodles of candy.

    We never did Christmas or Easter – just too many crosses in view for our tastes, but Halloween is just on the line between a sorta Christian holiday and sorta pagan one, and trying to deprive the boys (and their parents) of all that free candy was not the wisest policy. Especially since we did it once. And all those (kosher) candy bars were delish, especially after walking around in sub-freezing weather ro collect them from our not-so-kosher neighbors!


  • Minnesota man

    Are you serious? Inches of snow? Frigid Temp’s? Ha it’s 60 friggin degree’s out? It’s absolutely beautiful. Tonight is going to be amazing. I remember in the last like 22 years we had snow maybe a total of like two or three times on halloween. Minnesota is not the same anymore as it was twenty something years ago. It’ll be November and you cans till wear t-shirts and jeans outside. Come on people get real!!! And those stupid accents are bullshit. Nobody talks like that here. Nobody.

  • bliffle

    60 degrees, eh? Enjoy it.

    I remember visiting a friend one fall evening many years ago in St. Paul, driving my new convertible. Beautiful fall football day about 70 degrees. I parked at his house, we had dinner, drinks, watched a late night movie, and by the time I came out at 1AM the temp had dropped to 20 below!

    I had to put the top up.