Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Karen the Grinchoween

So last week was Halloween. When I was little, I enjoyed trick-or-treating along with the rest of the kids in my neighborhood and school. I had a costume every year (although it wasn't anything elaborate like what we have nowadays), and I went out with my friends and went door to door in our neighborhoods. It was a careless time, and I didn't really think about it more than an excuse to get a lot of candy.

When our church started to put on alternative candy-centered events on the last day of October, I wasn't sure what to think of it. When I was in college it seemed like just another thing that would take my free time away. Of course who knows what else I'd be doing instead of that. Trick or treating? Hah! But it did get me to start thinking about the meaning of the holiday, and whether or not I wanted to encourage participation in it.

When we had kids, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the holiday either. We got costumes for the girls and took them around the neighborhood, but mostly just to show off how cute they were, especially in their costumes. Whether or not we got candy I could have cared less. Actually I think I would have preferred that the girls didn't get candy at all.

When Elizabeth got diagnosed with her tree nut allergy, it really changed candy and chocolate in our house. Suddenly I had to be careful with everything that she was about to eat. It got to be way too much to handle the first few years of elementary school, reading all the labels, looking up the candy manufacturers' websites, and calling them up and finding out whether or not the candy was made in what we call a "nutty facility."

So last year, we decided to go candy shopping and just do away with the whole Halloween idea. Sure, it's hard to get away from it because the elementary schools really seem to relish pushing the holiday on the kids. Many of the kindergarten homework assignments during the month of October involve costumes, jack-o-lanterns, etc. There's also a costume parade on the morning of the 31st, when all the kids, K thru 8, march around the school wearing their costumes.

But we were able to pull it off not only last year, but also this year.

Last year, we left for Hawaii on my mom's birthday, November 6. We decided to take my parents out for dinner to celebrate her birthday the week before, which happens to be October 31, which also happened to fall on a weekend. So we vacated the house, took my parents out to dinner, and then went to Target to buy candy for the kids. I told them to pick out whatever they wanted, and so they each picked a two-pack of ring pops and were so excited about how they could get whatever candy they wanted. We took it back to my parents' house, and I let the girls gorge on as much ring pops and M&Ms (courtesy of my parents) as they wanted that night. No complaints from anybody.

This year we didn't have to take my parents out on Halloween (we ended up doing it the day before her birthday this year), but we did end up running an errand right before dinner right next to one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. So we had sushi for dinner, and then went to Target to pick out candy, and then ToysRUs to use up a couple of gift cards the girls had received for their birthdays earlier this year. The girls picked out sugar free gum. No complaints from anybody again.

I think we've got a successful tradition going on. I've decided I've got a disdain for cheap candy, commercialized costumes and goblins and stuff. The girls told everyone what a fun evening they had the next day and I don’t think they felt deprived. We didnt have to deal with any candy we don’t like, and better yet, we don’t have to deal with any allergens.