Witches and goblins and ghouls, oh my. Costumes and candy and kids, oh my.
The spine-tingling thrill of watching people wandering around dressed up as monsters and villains makes me happy.
What makes me less tingly is the rampant consumerism around Halloween.
Last year’s pagan holiday spending was predicted to top $5.7 billion, according to the National Retail Foundation. And that was during a recession. While Halloween might be a bright spot for retailers, I personally would like to see more fun for less money and less disposable stuff, such as candy wrappers.
Halloween celebrants spend their cash on costumes, candy, decorations and greeting cards, in that order, says the NRF.
I had no clue that people send Halloween greeting cards. Do they say, “Have a terrifying day”? or, “I hope you’re eaten by a werewolf tonight”? If the ancient Celts could see what we’ve done with their Samhain, they’d be pissed.
In honor of full disclosure, I admit to having already purchased a couple bags of uber-wrapped, corn-syrup-infused sweets. As we live on the edge of respectability (behind Kimberly Ave.), we tend to attract massive numbers of trick or treaters. While many costumed superheroes are bold enough to wander off the beaten track and into my hood, they’ve probably been warned by their parents not to accept treats that aren’t wrapped and sterilized. Although, I must say, it’s illogical to think a treat created in a factory is better for kids than one made in a neighbor’s kitchen. The recent number and frequency of food-product recalls suggest that there’s a higher probability of finding rat poop in a candy bar than a razor blade in a homemade brownie. So what’s a wannabe-green mom to do?
Some moms in Seattle started a green Halloween movement in 2007. Now Green Halloween is a registered nonprofit complete with corporate sponsors such as Whole Foods Market and satellite groups around the country. On their Web site, the Green Halloween moms offer ideas for healthy treats and treasures (nonfood items) instead of the more typical Halloween offerings. Usually nonfood treats are plastic junk, but the Green Halloween folks recommend “gifts” such as beads, soap, adhesive bandages and acorns.
Yes, acorns. The Green Halloweeners admit that some children might be disappointed by the treat of an acorn. Really? Give a kid something he can pick up off the ground himself, and he might be bummed out? Seems to me that’s more of a trick than a treat.
If you don’t live under an oak tree, these folks recommend healthy food items such as fruit leather, honey sticks or organic juice boxes. Of course, this stuff still tends to be individually wrapped and produces trash. Plus, can we talk expensive? Can you afford to buy 300 organic juice boxes to give out on Halloween? I can’t. Or at least I won’t.
So what’s the answer when it comes to greening treats for trick-or-treaters? Perhaps we should make treats to give to the kids we know (if we recognize them) and add a note saying, “From the Jones family — safe, but from a kitchen that uses nuts.” Then give all the other kids acorns.
Now, let’s discuss greening costumes and decorations. Did you or anyone you know ever buy a Halloween get-up when you were a kid? If the answer is “No,” you’re probably my age or older. Yeah, I sound like a cranky old witch, but we always made our costumes or created them from whatever we could round up in the attic (with help from Mom). The same went for decorations. When I was a kid, our only Halloween extravagance was badly carved pumpkins (my Dad’s good at lots of stuff, but using a knife to cut patterns on large gourds isn’t high on the list).
Thus, an easy way to be greener this Halloween is to make or find our own costumes and those of our kids. Good doggies for purchasing costumes second-hand or from consignment stores as well. Let’s get creative with decorations too — make them with stuff already around the house — use twine to build a huge spider web and make spiders from painted egg cartons with pipe cleaners jammed through them. You can even grow your own pumpkins.
And if you have good ideas for decreasing the candy wrapper refuse, let me know.
Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.