Time for the upfront truth: Halloween is not my favourite celebration.
It was never a big thing for me growing up in 1970’s and 1980’s Australia (my childhood).
I remember going trick or treating once when I was about 8 years old along with a few neighbourhood kids. Mostly the people who answered the doors we knocked on had no idea what we were doing!
In more recent years as a dietitian and nutritionist I have viewed Halloween as an unnecessary celebration, driven by the retail industry trying to make an extra quick buck before Christmas. A night where kids load up on as many sweets and lollies as they can possibly manage, whilst they really have no idea what Halloween is all about.
On the other hand, I’ve seen the joy and fun that abounds at Halloween when my daughter and I joined with friends to celebrate last year. It is with these divided feelings that I decided to research Halloween and it’s pros and cons for Aussie kids. My Halloween dilemma…
Origins of Halloween
Many Aussies think of Halloween as a distinctly American celebration, however its origins are most likely a fusion of traditions of the western Christian celebration of All Saints (All Hallows) Day which falls on November 1st and an ancient celtic harvest festival called Samhain. All Hallows is dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers (thanks Wikipedia!). The festivities of Hallowe’en (All Hallows Eve) is celebrated on 31st October. It was arguably first celebrated in Gaelic Ireland and Scotland , but today is celebrated in many countries throughout the world that each have their own distinct Hallowe’en traditions. My cousin, who grew up in Scotland, tells me that children have to sing a song or tell a joke in order to get the “treat”. More a “trick FOR a treat” rather than the American idea of “trick or treat”. In Scotland, it’s not just a matter of knocking on someone’s door and diving into the sweet bowl!
What can Halloween teach kids?
- Good old fashioned fun – when else does the whole family get to dress up and look silly?
- History – teach your kids about the traditions and history of Halloween to create a richer experience for all
- Doing things together – Halloween an trick or treating can be a family event
- It’s a great opportunity to discuss how to stay safe
- Using manners with strangers – lots of opportunities to use please and thank you
- Sharing – teach children to take one item only from each house, not a handful!
- Support age-appropriate responsibility for kids to manage their sweets stash. Provide opportunity for children to enjoy their stash, while providing structure so that nutrition is not undermined. To my amazement, my Miss 5 ended up throwing away a considerable portion of lollies in her stash because she didn’t like the taste.
- Learning about sometimes food and how they can make us feel – the good and the bad
Aussie “trick or treat” etiquette
Having your porch light on is a sign that you’re participating in the celebrations. If you’d prefer not to partake, my tip is this: don’t have the front of your house lit up! If you’re trick or treating, never knock on doors that are shrouded in darkness.
Alternative ways to celebrate
Halloween doesn’t need to be just about trick or treating and sweets.
- Have a party with neighbours or family and use everyday food to celebrate in a really fun way. Lots of scary snacks here
- Get the kids to help you make some fabulous Halloween treats
- Pack some fabulous Halloween-themed snacks in your child’s lunchbox
- Decorate your house, carve out an enormous pumpkin and scare trick or treaters with your cool costumes as they arrive!
Whether you love Halloween or hate it, it seems to be here to stay. I’ve decided to embrace the good and turn the rest into an opportunity to teach my daughter some great lessons about food and life.