Is the subject of Halloween candy a sweet or sour subject in your household?
I have to admit I kind of have a problem with it.
For the record, I eat the candy. Oh, I eat the candy and if you are worrying, my children are not deprived. They get to partake in moderation.
But, I have a hard time embracing for one month of the year something I am loathe to do the other 11 months just because it’s the thing to do. It strikes me as a mixed message.
Do as I say, except for Halloween.
Although I’m not crazy about it, I couldn’t entirely rid my house of Halloween sweets. I’m outvoted by nearly three quarters of my household. (Well, the baby’s swing vote might be able to be bought off with a good bribe, but his voting record is somewhat fickle.)
I am aware that to suggest an alternative to candy loot (full candy bars preferred) is to invite a lot of mockery, from children and adults alike.
There is almost a sense of entitlement to it.
I can virtually hear some off you through my laptop, whom I imagine growling over your stash of miniature Snickers, “Lady this is the one month of the year we are allowed to go whole hog on the sugar and nugget train, so climb off your anti-sugar high horse and back off!”
The annual rite of gathering as much of the sugary stuff as possible seems so expected that it’s hard to believe that the tradition of trick-or-treating didn’t start until the late 1930s.
Even then, giving out candy such as we do today didn’t begin until the pre-packaged convenience crazy, late 1950s era.
According to Samira Kawash, “Kids ringing a stranger’s doorbell in 1948 or 1952 received all sorts of tribute: coins, nuts, fruit, cookies, cakes and toys were as likely as candy.”
Kawash, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the cultural and social history of candy in 20th century America, says it didn’t really get going until the 1970s.
It solidified in the paranoia of the 1970s and 1980s, when parents combed through the Halloween haul in search of treats that had been tampered with, and pre-packaged candy from known sources gained preference.
Although, there was only one incident of premeditated tampering discovered, the fear persisted, and those kids, now parents, are still largely uncomfortable accepting anything homemade.
Candy companies also realized they could bolster their fall sales slump leading into the Christmas holidays by staking a marketing claim to Halloween as well.
Today it is a $2 billion business. That’s “b,” as in “billion,” not as in “boo.”
You might be tempted to simply sigh in defeat and blame it on those Baby Boomer grandparents, but then go look in a mirror because very few modern parents are willing to rock this particular candy boat.
Go ahead and try to suggest alternatives in a group of mothers. I double dare you.
You will usually get some strained and frozen smiles, and another conversation with someone else will become quite pressing. I know this from experience.
Who wants pretzels, granola bars, pencils or stickers, they scoff to one another. Hand over the good stuff, or get ready to be treated to a trick, and it’s just not worth the fight with my kids.
On that point, I completely agree. It really seems to be not worth the fight, but not with my kids.
My kids I know will get over it and at this stage really are just happy for any little thing a complete stranger gifts them with just because they dressed up and asked.
Really, why even swim against the stream for the sake of a silly holiday? It’s really only one month of the year.
It’s certainly better for your social life.
This year I'll take the compromise position, and allow people to choose for themselves, providing both sweets and alternatives. What will you do?
In the meantime, since (like it or not) most of us are likely to still be awash in the sugary stuff, here are a few local options to redistribute the wealth:
- Get cash for it. San Ramon dentist Dr. Sandy Bigman will hold her 15th annual candy buy back program, and pay cash for your kid's Halloween candy and donate the candy to the Blue Star Moms. The dentist will pay $2 per pound, with $1 going to you, and $1 donated to a local school of your choice. Visit Dr. Bigman’s website for the details.
- Donate it directly to the local Blue Star Moms. The Blue Star Moms is an organization of moms who have children deployed with the military. They regularly accept items, including wrapped candy, to send in care packages to troops overseas. They will be shipping off their holiday care packages very soon.
- Send it to work. Share the wealth with co-workers, and watch it disappear around 3 p.m. when afternoon fatigue sets in. This only works well if you send it to the spouse's office instead of yours. If you work with the public, place a bowl of the sweet stuff out for them to take.
- Save it for holiday care packages. Unless it is decorated with a Halloween motif, stash it to add some sweetness to holiday gifts. Just remember where you stashed it.
- Post it on sharing boards, like Freecycle and Craigslist. Organizations and individuals who can use the extra candy can snap it up.
- Call the Halloween Fairy. A particularly kid friendly option, many families have established a tradition where Halloween candy is left for the "Halloween Fairy," and a nice (non-sweets) gift is left in its place in the morning. Then follow one of the previous suggestions to help the Halloween Fairy redistribute the wealth.