A Northwoods Halloween


It’s Halloween and as seems apt, this morning dawns dark and misty, with a mild threat of snow.

It doesn’t always snow up here on Halloween, but it’s a frequent enough occurrence that when we woke up to a good inch of wet snow on Thursday morning, I hummed “It’s beginning to look a lot like . . . Halloween” to myself and got on with my day.

It’s little wonder that I associate Halloween with snow. When I was six years old, the Halloween blizzard of ’91 dumped two + feet of snow over Minnesota and completely shut down my trick-or-treating plans. Although the Halloween blizzard was definitely an anomaly, with an average temperature of 39 degrees in Grand Marais and along the Gunflint Trail on October 31st, there’s an omnipresent threat of “inclement weather” each Halloween in the Northwoods.

Much to my parents’ amusement (bemusement?), I spent much of my trick-or-treating years steadfastly refusing to believe that the weather would be cold for Halloween. Yet each year, it was down to the low 30s, if not upper 20s, by the time we were out masquerading for candy on the dark streets of west Grand Marais. This was a problem, since I insisted on such practical Northwoods costumes as . . . hulu dancer or . . . ballerina. In turn, my parents insisted we bundle up for trick-or-treating. (I guess they figured if they were going to end up with tired, cranky, sugar-high children by the end of trick-or-treating, they could at least avoid cold, frostbitten children.)

When you’re dressed as a ballerina, you can’t really pull your tights over your snow pants. A bulky jacket covers up all of your leotard and is long enough that it pretty well disguises the frilly tutu you’ve managed to squeeze up and over your snow pants. By the time I was dressed for trick-or-treating, my tutu just barely visible, I looked like the kid who couldn’t bother to get a costume together and is just looking for free candy. I met with many a raised eyebrow when I knocked on homeowners’ doors – a candy bag in one hand, an orange cardboard UNICEF box in the other – snowflakes settling softly on the top of my stocking cap. “So . . .,” they said. “What are you dressed up as?”


By age 10, I’d given up. My Pierrot costume pictured above could easily accommodate a full snowsuit underneath. Unfortunately, in 1995, when you told your friends that you were going as Pierrot for Halloween, they expected me to arrive for trick-or-treating dressed as Ross Perot. So much for doing away with costume confusion!

But from those chilly, snowy Halloweens, come some of my warmest childhood memories. Even as I carved our pumpkin this Halloween, I can still feel the weight of my UNICEF box growing heavier as we collected spare change along with treats. I can feel the cold nip of the breeze against our cheeks as we trooped up and down the streets and cut across frosty lawns. I can definitely remember the excitement of dumping out our bags of fun-sized candy on the living room floor when we got home. And every once in a while, I still find my mind wandering to the topic of snowsuit appropriate costumes.

I doubt we’ll have any trick-or-treaters tonight, but if we do, there’re some full-sized Snickers and Milky Ways in the pantry, left over from this past summer’s outfitting food.

Happy Halloween!