Parties: Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Mortals beware! The invisible veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest on October 31. On this day of the year, when disturbed souls begin to lurk close by, invite the masses over for a hell-raising Halloween party that will scare the pants off any wandering ghosts. By Tania McCartney; photos by Luna Zhang

Invite your Little Monsters

For the bat invitation, trace a bat template onto black cardboard and cut it out. Fold two strips of 1cm x 19cm black paper into accordion-style "springs" and glue one end of each strip to the back of the bat. Affix the opposite ends of the paper strips to a piece of black cardboard measuring 15cm x 11cm. Glue in or handwrite the details of your party in silver pen on the front of the bat. Slide the bat card inside an envelope. When the recipient removes the card, the bat will pop out.

For the coffin invitation, fold an 18cm square of black cardboard into the shape of a coffin. Hand-write or print and glue your party details inside on different colored paper. Paste a colored cross on the front.

Setting the Scene

Turning the house into a haunted mansion is eerily easy to do.

Paper jack-o-lanterns: Cut orange paper into 15cm x 5 1/2 cm rectangles. Fold in half lengthways and make cuts into the folded edge of the card. Open out and curl around to form a cylinder, then staple or use double-sided tape to secure the ends. Stick a 1cm x 10cm strip of green paper to the outside rim to form a handle, then cut out eye and mouth shapes from black paper and glue onto the face.

If you have humidifiers that blow out steam, hide them under a table - ghostly white smoke will curl onto people's feet and give them the chills.

Dried branches look creepy in tall vases, especially with paper jack-o-lanterns hanging from them.

Place small plants under clear glass domes.

Cover your food table with orange fabric and feature a carved pumpkin as your centerpiece. Light a candle inside the pumpkin or use a small torch or cordless light (available at Yashow).

Make "pickled brains" by placing cauliflower in a jar full of water tinted with green food coloring.

Moody music: If you can't get your hands on creepy Halloween sound effects, play hauntingly beautiful traditional Chinese music - it works really well to create an unearthly ambiance.

Haunting ghosts: Blow up a white balloon and then tie fishing line or thread around the balloon neck knot. With the balloon neck facing up, drape 140cm x 140cm pieces of white organza over the balloon and run the thread through a small hole in the center of the organza. Cut out eye and mouth shapes from black cardboard and tape them to the fabric. Hang the ghost from the ceiling. Alternately, you can drape fabric over helium-filled balloons that are anchored to the floor.

Drape long lengths of orange and black organza everywhere you can.

Go online to find creepy family pictures (e.g. the Munsters and the Addams family); print them out and tape them over photos around the house for a temporary freaky family tree.

Cut out shapes of pumpkins, witches' hats and ghosts from colored paper, and stick them to walls and windows.

If you can't find packaged cobwebs at one of the big supermarket chains or places like Hongqiao or Alien Street markets, buy white organza and pull the threads off one end to make snatches of silky cobweb. Drape over furniture, lamps, candlesticks or other objects around the house.

Monster Munchies

Assemble these gruesome dishes on black, silver, glass or green food dishes. Garnish with plastic spiders or make small bats out of black cardboard, tape them to toothpicks and insert into food.

Witch Fingers

1 cup softened butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blanched almonds
Combine and beat together butter, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Gradually mix in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Next, roll heaped teaspoons of dough into finger shapes, making a squeeze in the center for knuckles. Press an almond firmly onto one end for the fingernail. With a knife, make slashes over the knuckles to create wrinkles. If dough gets too soft as you work, return it to the fridge briefly to firm it up. Bake in at 160°C (325°F) for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Allow three minutes to cool in pan before lifting onto cooling racks.

Meringue Bones

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Large zip-lock bag
Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt. Slowly add in sugar and vanilla, making sure all sugar dissolves. Pour mixture into bag and cut off one of the tips. Squeeze the bag to pipe out bone shapes (lines with two bulbs at each end) onto baking paper. Bake at 95°C (200°F) for one hour. Turn off oven and allow meringue to dry with door ajar for another hour, keeping watch so they don't brown.

Eyeball Eggs

12 eggs
6 olives
Red food coloring (optional)
Hard-boil a dozen eggs and cool them in cold water. Peel, dry, cut in half and place on a tray with the flat side down. Cut twelve stuffed olives in half and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut small, shallow holes at the top of each egg and gently push in the halved olive, flat side up. For added effect, paint veins on the whites of the "eyes" with a fine brush using red food coloring. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Creepy Cupcakes

Bake and ice large cupcakes with white or dark brown frosting. Use Tic-Tacs, M&Ms, silver balls, tiny chocolate chips, fruit strips, marshmallows or other candy to create facial features. Cut candy into smaller pieces if necessary. Sprinkle the top of each cake with slivered almonds, green jelly crystals or shredded coconut for a mummy or zombie-style look.

Jabberwocky Jelly

Fill clear plastic cups with green jelly and when set, drape lolly snakes or other creepy creatures on top.

Phantom Fizz
Add a few drops of red or green food coloring to Sprite and serve in clear glass jugs. Food coloring available at expat supermarkets, Pacific Century Place supermarket and Exquisite Bakery.

Moaning Milk
Using an indelible marker, draw ghostly eyes and a wailing mouth on the outside of clear plastic cups. Use to serve milk whizzed with vanilla ice cream and a dash of vanilla extract.

Ghostly Gateau

Bake or buy a round cake, preferably with a red jam filling, and smother it with two cans of white frosting, swirled high in ghostly curls. Dot with marshmallow ghosts or any other spooky (edible) treats you can find. Using black cardboard and a wooden skewer, make a large bat cut-out and insert into the top of the cake. Surround cake with slivered almonds or green jelly crystals.

Frightening Favors

Glue a frightful picture to the outside of a cellophane (or brown paper) bag, then stuff with candy, small toys, stickers, etc. For spooky ideas, hunt around local markets (try Laitai Flower Market or Tot to Teen). Tie the bags with raffia or ribbon.

Ghastly Games

Games fit for every kind of ghost or ghoul.

A Gift from Mummy
To prepare this game, carefully unravel a roll of toilet paper, then re-wrap it around the cardboard roll, fastening small prizes or wrapped candy every few meters. During the party, have the kids stand in a circle. Have one child wrap the head, arms, legs or torso of the person to his or her left with the toilet paper, stopping when a prize is reached. Then pass the roll on so that the next child in the circle can be "mummified."

Zombie Tag
Corral kids into a small area where breakable items have been removed. Randomly select one child to be the zombie and have them wear rubber gloves and a scary rubber mask (make sure they can't see through the mask). The zombie must walk around with his or her arms outstretched, groaning every once in a while. When the zombie groans, the other kids must put their arms out straight and groan too - this will help the zombie catch his or her victim and any kids who don't follow this rule are out. Whomever is touched by the zombie must then take over. A prize can be given to the child who spends the most time as the zombie.

Skeleton Relay
Divide kids evenly into teams. Cut out paper skeleton parts (Google "skeleton template" for printable parts) and give one entire skeleton set to each team. On "Go," one child has to take part of the skeleton, run to a wall and stick it up. He or she races back and another child on the team must run to stick the next skeleton part on the wall. The winning team is the first to correctly form a skeleton.

Mummy Wrap
Divide kids into teams of two; in each pair, one is the wrapper and the other will be the mummy. Hand each team a roll of toilet paper and ready, set, go! The wrapper has three minutes to wrap their partner from head to toe. Whoever has the most thoroughly wrapped mummy, wins.

First published in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website. Photographs by Luna Zhang.

Kids Parties A-Z

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