Seen on Facebook: Whoever decided that a one-inch Mars Bar should be called ‘fun size’ needs to seriously re-examine their standards for entertainment. I will go beyond that: A country that has decided to define “fun” based on how much sugar is consumed needs to seriously re-examine its standards of entertainment.
I, too, was a sugar-addicted kid. Heck, I was more sugar-addicted than most, seeing as that by my early teens I was stealing money from my parents’ wallets to support my habit. Yet when I think of Halloween, it’s not the huge pile of candy that makes me nostalgic. It’s the running around door-to-door, dressed in costume, and seeing what everyone else was wearing. It’s the leaves scrunching underfoot, the jack-o-lanterns everywhere, seeing all the decorations. It’s the families who all dressed up to meet us at the door to make the experience extra spooky.
Let’s not teach another generation that “candy” is synonymous with “fun.” Here are some ideas for stemming the tide of Halloween sugar:
- Create or gather costumes instead of buying them. Make it a family project. Makeup is inexpensive and fun, too. (Super-easy costume: Yellow hoodie, blue overalls, black boots and gloves, a pair of goggles. Maybe some black pipe-cleaner hair sewn on the hoodie. Voila! You’re a Minion!)
- Carve up a batch of pumpkins. Heck, have everyone’s friends over and have a pumpkin-carving contest.
- Consider pumpkin-picking. For years, my brother and his family drove to a pumpkin farm about 30 minutes away from their home, where they could fill their van with pumpkins for $60. They had pumpkins lining the driveway, all along their flowerbeds, up the front stairs – and a fun day in the country, topped off with a family lunch at a favorite restaurant.
- Decorate the yard! Styrofoam tombstones are super-easy to make: have a grown up cut them out with a serrated knife, then the whole family can come up with funny or spooky epitaphs to write on them with a marker. A couple of dowels stuck in the bottom of each, and down into the dirt, will hold them in place.
- Amazon has haunted house sound CDs for sale. Broadcast across your front yard!
- How about a horror-movie party? I’m not recommending a gore-fest unless your kids are in their teens, and into that. But old, classic horror movies still offer plenty of atmosphere while not completely terrorizing little kids. I, for one, am always up for another viewing of Bride of Frankenstein. You may well be able to stream these for free, or check your local library for free DVDs.
- There is no law requiring you to give out candy on Halloween night. My sister, a teacher, buys cheap, gimcrack toys and such at the teachers’ supply store and gives those away. Oriental Trading Company (www.orientaltrading.com) is a great source for this sort of thing. $9.99 buys you 48 little tubs of “witch’s brew” slime, while $5.99 gets you 48 glow-in-the-dark sticky skeletons. Lots more to choose from! A friend puts out a basket of pennies, and lets each little goblin grab a double handful. (Caution: Whatever you give away, make it fun. I grew up next door to my dentist (Hi, Dr. Sinclair!), who gave out toothbrushes every Halloween – and cleaned up toilet paper and egg shells every November 1st.)
- If you simply must give away candy, give away your least favorite kind. I could give away Twizzlers all night long and never eat a one – I didn’t like them even as a child. Whatever candy you don’t care for, that’s the candy you should be giving away.
- Your kids shouldn’t be eating a pile of sugar, either, especially given the chance they’ve inherited your carb problems. Going door to door in costume is the fun part! I saw a terrific suggestion the other day: One mother told her children about the Candy Witch. They each got to choose ten pieces of candy to keep, while the rest was put out for the Candy Witch, a la leaving a tooth for the Tooth Fairy. In the morning, the Candy Witch would have left each child a toy in return.
- Other parents let their children choose, say, five kinds of candy that are their favorites. (Specific kinds, not generic – i.e., “Butterfinger” or “Skittles” rather than “chocolate bars” or “taffy.”) The kids could keep those, but the rest went away. This could, of course, be combined with the Candy Witch.
- Freeze the candy they do keep, and dole it out a piece at a time, preferably after a good supper. There is no reason children (or anyone else) should have unlimited candy, even if it was free.
- And keep your big mitts off! That’s your kids’ candy, and stealing from your kids is still stealing.