celebrating Halloween with less consumerism…

As with many other holidays, companies have managed to turn Halloween into a consumerist

Photo by Yaxzone

 product. Emphasis is placed on the purchase and distribution of mass amounts of candy, over-priced cheaply made costumes, and non-environmentally friendly packaging.

When we celebrate Halloween by taking our children trick-or-treating, it’s easy to fall into this mindset. In an attempt to place emphasis on other aspects of the holiday, many parents attempt to de-emphasize the candy. While it may seem that by donating a candy stash or trading in candy for other items we are avoiding mass consumerism, that is untrue. 
When we take our children trick-or-treating and then trade the candy or throw it away, we are not only supporting consumerism in a marketing sense, but we are also setting an example of consumerist living to our children. It shows them that it is acceptable to solicit items with no intent to use them. It can produce a “give me” attitude of entitlement. Throwing food in the trash, regardless of nutritional value, shows acceptability of wasting resources. Sending candy to charities can send the message that those who benefit from charity are only worthy of unwanted items. Accepting candy produced by companies with questionable ethics still supports those companies.
Our family trick-or-treats. Our children have complete control over their trick-or-treating. Not only do we not take away their candy or exert control over what they do with it, we also don’t limit how much they can collect. While other children are out from start to finish, gathering as much candy as they can, our children trick-or-treat for a little while, before telling us they are finished and asking us to drive them home. 
Instead, our focus on Halloween is not consumerism – paying exhorbitant amounts for cheaply made costumes or collecting mass amounts of candy for trick-or-treating. Trick-or-treating on Halloween night is only one small way we celebrate.
  • Each October, we head to a local old-fashioned pumpkin patch. While the local custom is to go to a pumpkin themed attempt at an amusement park (consumerism once again), we go to a family run pumpkin patch that has pumpkins and some bales of hay for kids to jump in.  We make a day of it, buying reasonably priced pumpkins and supporting a family run business. We buy some pumpkins for carving and stock up on pie pumpkins. Later in the month, we roast and puree the pie pumpkins, freezing some for later use and making various pumpkin recipes.
  • We decorate our home. We have a few items we pull out each year, but we make the rest, focusing on inexpensive handmade items, and giving a purpose to some of the many, many wonderful art projects created by our children. We pull many of our decorations from nature or nature inspired crafts.
  • We make costumes. My children spend quit a bit of time contemplating what they want to dress up as. We work together to design and make their costumes.
  •  We attend Halloween and Fall themed programs. Many of our local libraries have free programs, including music concerts, story times, craft activities, and more. Nature centers not only have Fall and themed programs but also jack-o’lantern lit walks, hayrides, and more. Any fees support the center and educational programs rather than executives in corporate America. Historical centers offer old-fashioned Halloween fun with requests of canned goods to support local charities.
  • We celebrate with friends with parties, pumpkin carving, homemade trunk-or-treats, and costume wearing get-togethers.
  • We read books, pulling out some of our favorites and checking out others from the library. We read and tell scary stories by candlelight while sipping hot cocoa or apple cider.
  • We prepare for winter and discuss the true meaning of Samhain.

And then, as a culmination of all of our Halloween celebrations, as opposed to a commercially focused one day celebration, we take the kids trick-or-treating.

trick or treat…

Photo by Liz West

Halloween is almost here, and the hot discussion among parents is how to deal with the anticipated candy from Halloween night. Is it better to let their kids pick out a few pieces and make the rest magically disappear, either by buying it from them or having a mythical Halloween goblin? Would it be better to get it over with all at once with a one night sugar rush? What should parents do with their children’s Halloween cache? I’ll leave the irony of that question where it is.

This wasn’t on our minds, as parents, until a couple of years ago. It wasn’t until then that we had kids old enough who really cared if there was candy in the house. However, that year, our oldest was almost six years old and candy had some appeal that it previously hadn’t.

Having embraced the fact that children are actually quite capable of regulating their own food  and our semi-radical unschooling beliefs, I decided to sit back and let my children prove my theory correct. We wouldn’t do anything about our children’s consumption of their own candy.

Day 1 of the candy came and went with sugar-laden laughter. Day 2 followed, and I have to admit that on day 3, I was beginning to waiver – just a bit, but I kept my mouth shut, accepting the offers of candy that they freely shared with us. Day 4 came and the kids each had one piece of candy. They were back to themselves, regulating their own food consumption.

That first year was the only year of true mass candy consumption. Last year came and went with just slightly increased consumption the days following Halloween. I need to remind my daughter that she may want to toss her remaining stash before we head out trick-or-treating this weekend (sometimes she really is like me).

When things are rare or forbidden, it tends to make them more appealing. Even by just saying that candy is bad for you gives an impression that we disapprove if our children make the choice to eat their Halloween candy, while we may be secretly scarfing down Twix’s and Kit-Kats from their stash when they aren’t looking. It would be more accurate that candy isn’t as nutritious for our bodies as other types of foods. The same can be said about other things, such as that wonderful homemade panini I would love to eat but choose not to because it has items that make me feel worse. It’s all a spectrum. Our view of it, and how we convey those beliefs,  greatly affects our reactions to it.