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.

  • It’s always a bit tricky isn’t it?

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  • We love it as a way to meet and catch up with our neighbours!

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  • It makes it difficult for children who can only have some types of lollies because of medical issues. For that reason some adults will be offering alternative treats including fruit

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  • yeah I’m a bit unsure, it fun to join in but it’s also not part of our Australian culture

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  • I have reluctantly taken my daughter once and it was a one off it’s too over the top and not for me

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  • Great post! My daughter is going to her friends house for same traditional “Irish” games and then going trick or treating it will be fun!

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  • I really liked your post and agree with it!

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  • Whatever the reason if kids and adults want to participate then go for it, Just don’t berate others if they aren’t into this celebration

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  • My daughter likes it and we have gone to the effort of dressing her up each year as our neighbourhood has a community notice Board if all the houses that participate. General rule in our neighbourhood is though, if the house isn’t decorated ‘don’t knock’.
    A lot of older kids get a bit greedy and don’t even bother dressing up which is sad, they are just in it for the treats

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  • It’s just a bit of fun. We don’t go over the top.

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  • My kids love dressing up for Halloween and it’s a bit of fun, a great way to meet some neighbours as well. We only ever knock on doors that have decorations up as well so we don’t annoy anyone

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  • I can give or take Halloween but Australia has obviously embraced it more over the years. I see it as a bit of harmless fun, a reason to celebrate dressing up or hanging out with friends.

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  • The etiquette idea is good. The idea of teaching kids to knock on strangers doors and asking for lollies is a bit uncomfortable, so I like the idea of organising with a few surrounding houses or friends houses and after prior organising with the, just visiting those houses and their kids could come to ours etc.

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  • yep the etiquette is a great way and even putting up a sign.

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  • I’m not into Halloween, won’t encourage it either. I do however like the Aussie etiquette, great to see.

    Reply

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