Let's Change Halloween

Image of child laying on the floor looking at a huge pile of commercial candies.

OK. I know Halloween is a really fun holiday for the younger generation, teens included, but I, as a parent, can't stand it. It is the one holiday that promotes ill-health and practically every parent/adult I know goes along with it. It is not a holiday for our children; oh no, don't kid yourself. It is a holiday for the candy industry.  Do our children really benefit from a holiday where they are given junk that is bad for their health, their psychology, their emotions? Very few understand the serious consequences to our childrens' health from this.  And, they don't just have one treat, they go home with a huge stash of brain-damaging, cancer-causing junk that lasts for weeks or months.  

I don't get it--I do get all the propaganda about Halloween. Many corporations benefit from it, like Party City for example. What I don't get is the public going along with it. I buy small, inexpensive toys to give out and the kids love it. That makes me feel better. But I can't stand seeing the aisles and aisles of candy being sold in the supermarkets and in bowls in professional offices you visit. Our country, in promoting this junk food day is promoting ill-health and if there is one thing I know, the fattening of America is getting worse and worse.  Should we really be exploiting our children and sacrificing their future to benefit the junk food industry?  

Let's make Halloween treats healthy! Give out healthy treats or toys. I know raisins don't compare to a Snickers bar, but it may stop your child from having a sugar-high tantrum that night!  We need to start changing the way we act with our children, as a nation and individually, if we are really going to help them to a healthy future.

What are you doing with your family on Halloween?  Are you going along with this insanity or not?

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Comments (24) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jeane - October 27, 2009 5:23 PM

I have a son-in-law, who makes the fun about dressing up and getting the candy. When they get home they get to choose three pieces, one for then and two for later days. Then after they go to bed, he throws it all in the trash can . The children don't care. They had their fun. They know that being sick is really, really, boring.

Eco Mama - October 27, 2009 6:43 PM

I love your passion and I completely agree with you--only I have this feeling on a daily basis. There is very little in a regular American grocery store that my family will eat period.

Once a year, or a few times a year for a holiday is not a problem for me, especially if we all shift toward healthier options. If you really don't get it, just take a drive down any major American road. There are tons of restaurants, but very little real food if any at all. It's our entire culture. No sidewalks, polluted water, gmos...it goes on and on. So the fact that everyone is indulging on Halloween is no surprise at all, it's not much different from daily life in the US.

There has to be a paradigm shift, and I think the best way to help that along is to set a good example and offer alternatives. (and also remember that all of us can stand to improve on something) Sometimes in our passion for health, we can turn people off of the very thing we're trying to get them excited about.

xo
Eco Mama

anon - October 27, 2009 11:46 PM

Any other suggestions besides small toys and raisins. Many children I know have severe allegies to different nuts, so that won't work. I am looking for some other options.

Nicholina - October 28, 2009 12:08 AM

I totally agree that it's awful to pass out all this candy. My problem with alternatives are that to get cheap toys, they really are cheap and end up in the land fill. Sure, we can pass out packs of raisins and be that house that no one wants to go to. Several families we know go to a Halloween party put on by a local church where there is some candy, but not as much, which is a good alternative for them. However, my daughter loves, loves, loves the trick or treating. Not just the walking around the neighborhood, but also the passing out of things to trick or treaters that come to our house.

So, the best solution we've come up with is that she trick or treats, then we hand out her take to other trick or treaters. She doesn't care about the candy for herself.

However, I realize that doesn't solve the issue of the vast amounts of candy being handed out to other kids! I'd like a good, cost effect, non landfill clogging alternative if anyone has one.

Angela - October 28, 2009 12:59 AM

We love dressing up as a family (usually as some characters from books we are reading together.) We love attending Halloween parties - BUT, afterwards our daughters happily set out ALL their candy for the Candy Fairy. The Candy Fairy takes the candy and leaves a present behind. They also do this each time they attend a birthday party, or when a well meaning relative sends a package of junk food. Our daughters are young still (eldest is 8) but we will continue this tradition for as long as possible!

Beth - October 28, 2009 8:00 AM

I like the "candy fairy" idea! I just told my kids (7 and 4) that if they didn't eat ANY, I'd get them a toy instead. And that we'd give it away...probably put into the trash...because why would we give it to anyone else? I've usually let them eat whatever at birthday parties, etc., but I like the idea of trading in that candy as well. Typically, they start in on gift bags before even leaving the party (and after having pizza and cake). Totally unnecessary by that point.

Stefania - October 28, 2009 12:30 PM

My kids are going out for a bit on Halloween night. When we get back they can choose a couple of candies to enjoy and then the rest get put away.

I'm sending loot bags for my daughter's classmates at school. The bags contain some crayons, a notepad and stickers. We're handing out plain potato chips. The kids got non-food items from grandparents. So the kids are enjoying Halloween but the focus isn't food.

Winkyboy - October 28, 2009 1:04 PM

It's actually pretty easy to just not celebrate Halloween.

Analyze WHY you're doing it. Unless you're pagan, it can't be for religious reasons. It's definitely not for health reasons - everyone agrees on that. It probably just boils down to the fact that you think you have to - out of tradition, or so the kids will have fun.

Best answer: Pick some other fun activity to do as a family, and be done with it. No more candy, plastic toys, cheaply-made decorations, and so forth. Go rock climbing. Make some popcorn and have a family movie night if nothing else. Be creative as you save money, the environment, and your health.

shels - October 29, 2009 1:19 AM

Oh yes, I tried being that healthy family on the block that passed out raisins and found my house covered with at least four dozen raw eggs and toilet paper the next morning. My family also received several rude remarks from the trick-or-treaters that came to our door...over half refused the raisins and just walked away after giving us a dirty look. Better not pass out anything than have that mess to deal with the next day.

Emily Boller - October 29, 2009 10:14 AM

Oh my, the raw eggs and toilet paper is amazingly sad and insane! It just goes to prove how enslaved our culture has become to traditions; including unhealthy ones.

A couple of days ago I was at my local post office and the postal clerk informed me that I had time yet that day to ship candy off to my two older kids if I wanted them to receive their "treats" by Halloween. So guess what? I rushed to the store and purchased some candy, filled the "priority mail" box and bingo, my "good mother" deed was done. (And to make matters worse, these two kids are committed nutritarians!)

When I got home, this post on Halloween candy was up!

We all need to seriously evaluate our "traditions."

If a tradition promotes disease, why do it?

Good post Lisa.

Suz Stapler - October 29, 2009 1:22 PM

I understand exactly what you are saying about Halloween and ill health. Yet, today there are so many ways we can celebrate Halloween -- with a town party, with raw chocolate treats (homemade or from www.gnosischocolate.com or other raw candy company).

Participants just have to teach the children that the celebration is more important than the treat. An unhealthy treat from made by Nestle's is really not worth subjecting your body to.

Bionic Mom - October 29, 2009 1:48 PM

Just heard this idea today through the comic strip "Luann." Give out gently used or new children's books as treats. See the website: booksfortreats.org
So crazy it might work!

Eco Mama - October 29, 2009 6:32 PM

I want to share with you an idea for getting rid of the candy after your kids come home proudly with their loot. Here's what we do: my son gets to choose two or three pieces and the rest we put on the porch in a paper bag for the Great Pumpkin who takes the candy and leaves behind a small gift. The gift could be a toy, or jammies, or a healthy(er) treat your kid likes. Just not that mainstream candy filled with dyes and chemicals and refined sugar. This has worked great for us and it lets the kids have the fun of trick or treating. I agree it's a shame about the land fills. I heard today that a billion dollars are spent on Halloween candy. Mind boggling! I think there is a shift taking place though--I have hope!

holla - October 29, 2009 10:02 PM

you don't become unhealthy by eating candy. you become unhealthy and overweight by being lazy. i don't eat vegetables... ever. if parents of overweight children would actually parent their children properly, fat kids wouldn't be around. turn off the xbox or ps3 and make them play basketball, frisbee, bike, or something where they don't sit on their asses all day. honestly, if anyone thinks that halloween is promoting ill-health then wake up and smell the roses... wait a second, the children probably don't even know what a rose smells like due to the lack of moving.

i used to eat candy until my stomach hurt the few days after halloween, guess what, i am healthy and not overweight. most likely due to the fact that i played around outside every day. i attribute that to me not owning a gaming system. the author states that she can't stand seeing all the candy being sold. well, look at the back of a wal-mart or an gaming store, row after row of video games. that is what is making childern unhealty.

i might go eat a candy bar and go to the gym afterwards. that sounds like a great idea right now.

and then drink a beer...

LaurieInOklahoma - October 29, 2009 11:38 PM

We don't have children, but I love the Candy Fairy idea!!
I also loved Lisa's post.

I guess we're lucky, more and more kids each year say "mmmmmmm, raisins!".
We've never had any "retaliation", and the mmmmm, raisins comments far outnumber the "yuck, I hate raisins".

Jody - October 30, 2009 3:22 AM

Glow sticks are a hit whenever I pass them out. Target and Walmart have them for not too much $. Not sure how they rate on the trinket/landfill issue, though.

ron - October 30, 2009 10:18 AM

candy destroys the taste for natural foods. once a child or anybody acquires the taste for junk food it becomes extremely difficult to get them to get healthy food.
take the bears at Yosemite
Once a bear gets a taste for human food junk, they will come back night after night searching for it. The bear will be caught and transported 150 miles away. 3 to 4 days later the same bear will be back in the same campground in search of more junk food!

Josie - October 30, 2009 3:10 PM

I would like to pass out something "healthier", but this has failed every year. I am made the laughing stock on my neighborhood and kids make comments that they will avoid my house next year due to the fact that I passed out raisins and bananas. I had over 100 boxes of raisins left over and 50 bananas, so that was a lot for me to have to deal with afterward. This year, I am turning out the lights and not dealing with it. My other neighbor passed out small cans of Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, etc and that was the biggest hit in the neighborhood. He actually had to shut his lights out after passing out over 200 cans of soda. He didn't have to deal with having any left over.

Jo - October 30, 2009 3:18 PM

We have kids trick-or-treat at work. I think there is nothing wrong with the idea of an annual day for little kids to dress up in fun costumes and I like seeing all of my coworkers' children. However, I wish we could just do something for them that was fun but didn't involve having them trick or treat.

I almost always hand out toys - little containers of bubbles are a huge hit with the little kids, and small glow-in-the-dark bracelets are reusable unlike the glow sticks, which are more expensive and end up in the landfill after one use. One coworker gave out family bowling coupons, which I thought was a good idea. When we were kids we didn't trick-or-treat but went to a party in the school gym where there were costume contests and games, which I think was a great idea. Yeah, we came home with candy, but it would be very easy to put together such a party and have it be candy-free -- the kids would all still have fun and they wouldn't miss the candy.

Emily Boller - October 30, 2009 5:02 PM

Holla,

The truth of the matter is eating candy is very unhealthy; regardless of exerices habits and/or laziness.

Eating candy is very stressful on the body's delicate endocrinological system.

Sure, exercise can help rid the body of the stress and abuse caused by that high amount of glucose circulating in the bloodstream, but its not healthy.

I am not a physician, but I have a child with juvenile diabetes. I see first-hand what processed sugar does to blood sugar - it raises it RAPIDLY.

When processed sugar is in the blood stream, a high amount of insulin is required, and high amounts of insulin contributes to hardening of the arteries, among many other complicatons.

Translated: eat candy ---> spikes glucose ---> overproduces insulin ---> hardens the arteries ---> and produces a miriad of complications as a result!

The author has an excellent and highly educated reason why she can't stand seeing all that candy being sold at Halloween.

Being thin does not necessarily equate being healthy.

Thin + nutrients/phytochemicals + low blood sugars + low cholesterol = health!


Happy AND Healthy Halloween everyone!

Claire in CA, USA - October 30, 2009 9:16 PM

We gave up Halloween a few years ago after my kids did some research and decided it wasn't a holiday they wanted to observe anymore. Too much evil associated with it.

For years, when they were little, I just bought their candy for a lump sum of about $5. They could have a few pieces, but then rest went in the trash, and they were more than thrilled to have money in their pockets.

sophia - October 31, 2009 1:49 AM

I just had an idea, anyone try passing out a bag of pumpkin seeds instead? Maybe they would go over better than the raisins...hmmmm....am carving my pumpkins, may have to go roast the seeds and hand those out. Think my house will be covered in eggs/tp the next day? Not sure if I want to risk it, rather not do anything than contend with a huge mess to clean up.

Kate - November 1, 2009 9:57 PM

We haven't ever taken our children trick-or-treating. They've never tasted candy, and they don't miss it. We have always made birthday cakes with whole grains and fruit or date "frosting". They've never had a sugar melt-down (as I did as a child), neither have any cavities, and they don't whine mercilessly in the grocery store for candy, cookies, or sugar-laden cereals. They don't miss what they haven't had. In the interest of creating special family memories, we make events focus on fun things to do, instead of food to eat. For Halloween (a "holiday" I don't care for at all, truthfully), we carve a pumkin, dress our kids up and go play with friends from church at a Fall Festival. If candy is passed out, we trade them for a healthy treat, and send my husband into work with the candy. Our house lights are left off, and we don't contribute at all the the candy problem for neighbor's kids. One year I did leave a tray of mini raisin boxes out, and was surprised to find most of them were taken. No eggs, no toilet paper... But it looks like our house may have been the exception, rather than the rule :(

shasha - August 7, 2010 7:49 AM

I live in scotland and when i was young enough to go out trick or treating most of what we collected were copper coins from people, satsumas and apples and a few sweets, that was 18 years ago and now when my children come home on halloween they have pile upon pile of chocolate and sweets and a little dribble of coins and maybe an orange or two from the older neighbours (my grandad still hands out the loose change he's collected in a jar), im not sure what equivalent america has to copper coins (1 and 2 penny pieces)? nickle's and dime's i suspect? but i think its a good idea and at least the children can then buy what they or their parents deem suitable for them.

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