Halloween is traditionally one of the most active programming holidays in residence halls. It has lots of fun community applications and for many of us, it is a chance to re-capture some great childhood memories and to be a kid again, even if it’s only for one night. I have put together some of the different Halloween programming ideas that I have used over the years for you to consider. You may have seen or heard of many of these before but you can always take an old idea and make it new. I would also invite you to share your own ideas and thoughts on Halloween programming on our bulletin board.
“It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” – Pick up a copy of the classic “Charlie Brown” Halloween TV Special and invite the floor or building to attend a viewing. You can spice it up with a “Peanuts” costume contest and other traditional Halloween party activities like bobbing for apples etc….
Trick or Treat for Neighborhood or Faculty/Staff Children – Great for community outreach. Coordinate with a local elementary school or community center. Have each floor or wing in your building set up a lounge or designated room that you can decorate and let the neighborhood children “trick or treat” in your building. Each floor or wing can purchase and give out the treats to the visitors. You can cap it off with a Halloween Party in the building lounge for the kids.
Traditional Costume Party – No matter how old you get most people still like dressing up in costume for a party. There are lots of ways to liven up this old idea. Pick a theme for costumes. Come up with different contests and activities for the event.
Haunted House – The toughest part of this idea is finding a place on campus where it is safe to set up a haunted house that meets all fire code regulations. Residence Hall corridors and lounges may not be the best locations. Once you have found a location, you can get different floors or wings in your building to put together the various rooms of your haunted house. It may be a lot of work but it is also a lot of fun and a great way to build teamwork and community in a building or on a floor.
Secret Spooks – Similar to the concept of “Secret Santa” or “Kris Kringles”. Residents on your floor pick a random name of someone else that lives on the floor and send them treats & notes (at least one per day) for the week before Halloween. Then on Halloween the whole group comes together for a social and for the unveiling of the “Secret Spooks”.
Halloween A-grams – Great idea for hall government as a fund-raiser or just to get their name out. Residents can send a Halloween greeting along with some type of treat to other friends in the building. Members of the hall government dressed up as ghosts or goblins or whatever can deliver the messages.
Scary Movie Night – Pretty basic idea but still fun. Pick out your favorite scary movies and have a Halloween movie marathon.
Ghost Stories – Get your favorite English professor or some other popular figure on campus to come and read ghost stories. Another idea is to have a ghost story contest and let folks come up and tell their own original ghost story and have a vote to decide which is scariest.
Haunted Hayrides – This used to be an idea that only rural schools could take advantage of but now these places are popping up all over the place. It’s a great floor outing and usually includes some type of refreshment and a bonfire.
Pumpkin Carving/Decorating Contests – Another old favorite that can be done at any level from the floor/wing to the whole building. One possible twist on this is to pick up a supply of the really small mini-pumpkins and get your floor together to decorate them to represent each resident on the floor. They can be decorated with markers and paint or construction paper. You don’t have to carve them and they will last longer. The fun is in doing it together as a group and sharing the experience.
Halloween Origins – Great educational and fun program. Find someone on your campus or in the local community that can give a presentation on the origins of Halloween and the different traditions and ways that it is celebrated. Afterwards, you can share stories on your floor of the various Halloween traditions that your residents have experienced. You might even find some folks that don’t celebrate Halloween and it will also be an opportunity for cultural sharing to see how different cultures view Halloween.
Submitted by Tim Johnson, Director of Housing & Residence Life, Rutgers University Newark. He is a founding members and owner of the website www.reslife.net and the company Reslife.Net.