Remember Halloween when you were a kid? Whether you were a young one in the 60s, 70s, 80s or another decade, or if you’re simply in love with all things retro (as far back as the 1920s and even earlier), you probably have your own idea of what constitutes vintage when it comes to Halloween.
And if you’ve read this far, it means you’re still loving the fabulous, frightening, fun and a little bit freaky October holiday.
If you do, you’re not alone — more and more adults are getting the “Halloween bug” and are creating parties for grown-ups only. Why should the kids have all the fun?
Here’s how to put together a great vintage Halloween party complete with die-cut decor, delicious dishes and memorable postcards for friends to treasure.
Vintage Halloween Party Invitations and Poems
Let’s start with the invitations. From about the turn of the last century through the 1930s, sending Halloween postcards was a popular activity. Luckily, reproductions of many of these treasures still survive and can be purchased or printed out to really add some style to your Halloween invitations. (Click the witchy pic at the top of this article for some fab choices.)
Making your own Halloween party invitations is even more special than buying pre-printed invites, and it’s easy: if you have a color printer, card stock and internet access, you’ve got everything you need! Choose a vintage Halloween postcard repro for the front of your card and add some authentic old-style text on the back.
These three cute rhymes were taken from postcards mailed in the 1920s and earlier:
We ghosts and goblins all invite you
If not afraid of sigh and moon,
We’re sure our antics will delight you.
Come to the home of: [your party information]
Where even the moon is shy
There’ll be goblins there to greet you
When you hear the black cat cry
Your presence is requested
and omens will be seen
And fortunes will be tested
You can always look a little more recently in history; for example, Scooby Doo was enormously popular in the 1960s and 1970s as a scary/silly show and makes an awesome retro party invitation (again, download your own images and make invitations). Or use vintage images of Biestle decorations; the company is still growing strong today, but it is very much associated with the 60s, 70s and 80s and will immediately be recognized by your friends.
Vintage Party Decor
Your choice of decor will really make your party. Having tons of vintage visuals will create an instant mood as guests walk in. Here are some ways to deck things out with retro flair:
- Use lots of crepe paper. Hang crepe paper streamers from the ceiling, from the party table and wind orange and black crepe paper together to make garlands.
- Make use of tissue paper. Crumple orange and black tissue paper and use to stuff centerpiece holders (make sure some pokes out of the top) and for wrapping take-home treats and gifts.
- Hang balloons. These will give a “throwback” feel to your party. Choose orange and black, of course.
- Tape die-cut decorations on the walls and use one or two as centerpiece decorations. Put a huge die-cut jointed skeleton on your front door. (Check out Amazon and ebay for sources.)
- Hang paper lantern pumpkins. These work for both outdoor and indoor Halloween parties.
- Look for deals on Ebay for blow-molded decor. Set up your winnings on the front porch…just like in the 70s!
- Buy a vintage children’s Halloween book or two and display them in the party area. Or print covers off the internet and place the covers over other books you already have.
A Taste of Old-Time Halloween: Party Foods
It’s been a long time since parents (and children!) were brave enough to accept anything hand-cooked on Halloween from a stranger. It’s not likely handmade goodies will ever be popular trick-or-treat handouts again, but you can bring some of the nostalgia back by putting yummy traditional favorites on your party table.
Put out bowls of nostalgic candy — the ones you remember and the ones you don’t! They’re nearly all good…and the packaging tends toward adorably retro. Guests will love digging into these sweet little pieces of the past.
Apple cider (including the “hard” kind) is the perfect choice for drinks. If you live in an area that gets cold by the end of October, other warm-me-ups like dark chocolate cocoa (drop in a few orange marshmallows) or yummy cinnamon spice tea are delicious choices.
You can also update old favorites with a little ingenuity. How about sliced fresh apples and caramel dip rather than caramel-coated apples, which are harder to handle and eat? And pumpkin bread squares make the perfect (and perfectly delicious) substitute for pumpkin pie or pumpkin custard.
Here are two fun recipes that are a snap:
Recipe #1: Old-Fashioned Popcorn Balls
Popcorn balls, by newwavegurly/Flickr
- 3 bags plain/non-buttered microwave popcorn, popped
- 3/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2.5 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 2 tsp. cold water
You will also need: disposable kitchen gloves; vegetable shortening; wax paper.
1. In a medium saucepan on low to medium heat, heat all ingredients except the popcorn and vegetable shortening, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil.
2. Add all the popcorn to the heated mixture and blend with a spoon.
3. Put on disposable kitchen gloves; coat gloves with vegetable shortening so the mixture won’t stick to your hands.
4. With your gloved hands, mold the coated popcorn into balls, squares or any fun shape. You will need to work quickly, as you want to mold the shapes before the candy mixture cools.
5. Place each completed popcorn ball on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. Allow to cool; these will harden quickly. Store in cellophane or plastic baggies.
Recipe #2: Spiced Pumpkin Bread Squares
- 3 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
- 4 c. sugar
- 1.5 c. vegetable oil
- 4.75 (4 3/4) c. flour
- 1/2 c. crushed pecans
- 1.5 tsp. baking powder
- 1.5 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1.5 tsp. ground clove
- 1.5 tsp. ground nutmeg
You will also need: 3 standard-size loaf pans; vegetable shortening.
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Grease the bottom and sides of each loaf pan with the vegetable shortening.
3. In the one bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Stir well; make sure the baking powder in particular is completely combined and the mixture isn’t lumpy.
4. Add the pecans to the dry mixture. Mix with a spoon.
5. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, sugar, oil and eggs. Blend well.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir well.
7. Divide the mixture among the 3 loaf pans and cook 45 minutes to 1 hour. Test after 45 minutes; the tops of the loaves should spring back once they’re done.
8. Cool completely. Cut into squares.
Should You Have Party Activities?
Activities can be fun at a grown-up party, but this one should hold its own just on the “wow” factor alone of your decor and the delicious foods. Play dance music from the 60s and 70s to add flavor to your party and invite guests to get out on the dance floor.
Also: You really MUST make this a costume party. (How can you not?) Be sure you note on the invitations that guests should come in costume. Then let the good times roll.