healthy or sweet? which will you hand out this year?
I’m the first to admit that as a kid I trudged begrudgingly to the door of the neighbor who insisted on giving away boxes of raisins on Halloween. I wanted boxes of Milkduds and packets of miniature Sour Patch Kids, not something that already appeared regularly in my lunchbox. Halloween was a special treat. It was one night in the year when even if my sisters and I weren’t really breaking any rules, it felt like we were. We covered our faces in makeup, we swapped jeans for tutus and faux furs and fringe, and we raced around the neighborhood after dark soliciting treats that were usually forbidden, from neighbors we hardly knew. It felt like absolute freedom, even while our parents stood at the foot of the driveway.
And I guess that’s maybe the point. It seems to me like Halloween can be a night in a year to let children feel a little bit of freedom, while also offering them the kind of guidance and oversight that parenting’s all about.
My sisters and I didn’t get our candy taken away from us. Our parents didn’t send notes to the neighborhood requesting toys over treats. But they did corral us home before the weight in our sacks had reached disturbing levels. And they did do some mild Halloween night interventions. Jujubes and Now-and-Laters—am I dating myself?—were relegated to the cavity pile. Because it was the ’80s, apples and other homemade treats were tossed for fear of razor blades. But generally, we were left to our own devices. We sorted candy into piles according to value, we made trades, we bargained and bartered. One year, when two days after Halloween I had finished my bag of candy only to find that my older sister had embarked on a mission to make her bag last until the New Year, I realized that I’d made a foolish choice. Lessons learned.
All of this is not to say that I think copious amount of candy is healthy. Sadly, much of the pre-packaged Halloween fare is filled with the very ingredients that a nation facing an obesity epidemic should be worried about. But I’m suggesting that Halloween can be an exception to the rule. If children are taught healthy eating habits throughout the year, then Halloween serves as a raucous and ridiculous break from business as usual. While I’ll likely give away treats that don’t factor too high on the high-fructose corn syrup spectrum, I’ll also likely not worry too much about the isolated night of candy munching from kids who’ve been taught to eat healthfully every day of their lives. The problem isn’t one day a year of sugar rush, it’s what kids are taught to eat on the other 364 days. When I’m a parent, I’ll work on getting those other days right before worrying too much about Halloween. I’ll also steal all the bite-sized Snickers.