Transforming Halloween from Getting to Giving and from Toxic to Green

By Naomi Aldort

 “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

When I first heard of the “trick or treat” phenomenon as a young adult newcomer to the USA, I was feeling uncomfortable, to say the least. Once I had children of my own, as a family, we either left home or turned off all the lights in the front, and hid in the back bedroom not wanting to deal with this, to us, unpleasant and backward ordeal and not wanting our children to be exposed to it or eat candy.

Then one year it was clear that our three children were too old to hide.  I turned all lights on, and on a whiteboard in the entrance put a sign, inviting children to come in and give and receive in a sharing of talent; act, sing, dance or do a cartwheel. I sang and played the piano, and so did our older son; that was our treat, and we asked the children to share their talents. We offered no candy.

After reading the sign, most of the children who came that night never knocked on the door, especially those who came with adults. It was a few kids who came without adults got excited and came in to share their acts. They sang for us and it was indeed a lot of fun for them and for us.

Isn’t it high time that we re-examine our children’s learning experience when they go door to door to demand and to get, or (for those who understand the wording) threaten people with a trick if not given a treat? Is blackmail the experience we want them to immerse in?

What is the message we are sending to our young as a culture when we endorse a custom of getting and tricking rather than giving and connecting? Even without the threat of a “trick” wouldn’t a “go give” be by far a more desirable experience and concept to implement in children as a way of celebrating? And, would we consider a kinder way to celebrate in terms of the children’s and the planet’s health? I much rather celebrate in a way that focuses on caring, giving, and nurturing, both our bodies and the planet.

There are many cultures with holidays that include costumes yet are not about “go get” but, “go give:”  In the Jewish tradition, for example, children go dressed in costumes and bring homemade baking goods to friends and neighbors. Their costumes are homemade, and rather than being scary, commercial, or violent, they aim at creativity and humor.

I recall someone who came to a costume party as a garbage can. Every step he took opened and closed the top of the can that he was inside. He won first prize and generated a lot of laughter. I remember myself, at age 12 or so, dressing as a man in a suit, with a pipe and a beard. When invited to improvise our characters in front of our school, I went on stage and imitated our principal, using the opportunity to criticize education to the sound of roaring laughter. Another boy created a costume from toilet paper rolls and a six-year old-girl used paper bags with holes, and many scarves, to be what she called an “Octopus Ballerina.”

As for the “treat”; commercial candy and sugar of all kinds is extremely unhealthy and leaves the immune system so compromised that Halloween essentially initiates the cold season. (There are studies to prove how sugar dramatically depresses the immune system, including in the American Journal of Medicine, in books like Common Cold and Common sense and more). Celebrating with fruit and homemade healthy desserts is more enjoyable than shopping and can be completely healthy.

The harm to the planet cannot be underestimated either. The production, materials, delivery, and packaging of this unhealthy candy are destructive to our planet. Likewise, the production, material, storage, packing, and transportation associated with costumes are just as destructive.

Children absorb whatever tradition we introduce to them. Let’s engage them in celebrating more, giving more, and harming less. Old traditions must alter to fit our growing awareness and evolution. If we want children to have a livable planet, we must stop the consumption, the toxins, and the focus on getting, and, replace it with a focus on giving, connecting, and nurturing our bodies and our planet. We can start right here with our own children, by transforming Halloween from a “go get” to a “go give” and from consumerism based to a creative and sustainable celebration.

To turn this into action, I have joined Clara Bellar in creating a petition. Please sign the petition, and/or spread the word far and wide by sharing it with friends and on social media. Thank you:

HalloGreen Invitation to sign and/or share

©Copyright Naomi Aldort 2008