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Blog: No More Trick or (Candy-Free) Treats

I went 13 years without handing out Halloween candy. Here’s what I gave instead.

When you’re a kid, it’s all about the candy. It’s Sweetarts for Valentine’s Day, chocolate bunnies and jelly beans for Easter, candy canes for Christmas, and goody bags and sweets-filled piñatas at birthday parties… all inevitably followed by the dreaded tummy ache and crossed fingers during the next dentist checkup.

And then there’s the Granddaddy Candy Holiday of them all: Halloween.

People who grow up outside the boundaries of the Land of Good & Plenty must think it an odd custom for Americans to ring the doorbell of a neighbor they’ve never met while their little precious dons a tiara or a muscle-laden costume (or a tiara and a muscle-laden costume if they live in West Hollywood) who hurls an opened pillowcase into the resident’s face and yells “Trick or Treat?” The neighbor repays this intrusion by plopping a piece of machine-wrapped candy into the overflowing bag, then the little tyke trots off to beg at the doors of the rest of the neighborhood.

When I was a kid, elderly neighbors used to hand out pennies or apples. We were told not to eat the apples, just in case that kindly octogenarian was really a mass murderer who snuck razor blades into the core. Forget that no kid would actually choose to eat the apple. With the choice of a piece of fruit or a Baby Ruth Bar, is there ever a dilemma? Also, you’d think the FBI could track down the homes of such sinister culprits, even without the use of fingerprinting or the more modern DNA test.

But the cold hard fact is – kids don’t want apples or pennies. They want the candy.

So why is it that for the past 13 years we have not offered such cavity contributors?

On August 12, 1999, my daughter Emily went to the pediatrician’s office for her 3-year checkup and instead was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This is not the same diabetes you rampantly hear about on the airwaves where you are kept in check if you just eat right, exercise and take a pill, nor part of the epidemic among lower-income children who eat the majority of their meals under the Golden Arches. Roughly ten percent of all diabetics are type 1 (insulin-dependant), rather than type 2 (adult onset).  Most people are unaware that they are two completely different diseases, and at least for the type 1’s, it is contracted through absolutely no fault of their own.

Any food Emily eats with carbohydrates requires an insulin injection. Without the shot, in a matter of days Emily would be dead.

I don’t mean to be a downer. It’s just the truth.

It was hard on me and Emily’s dad, and of course even harder on Emily. So after two and a half months of counting carbs and turning our little toddler into a human pincushion, we were faced with the horrors of Halloween.

We decided to ix-nay the andy-kay and instead purchased our Halloween treats from the biggest overseas cheap trinket organization of them all – Oriental Trading Company. You don’t just buy one or two items from this website. The objects are often ordered by the gross, which means 144, which in of itself is mighty gross.

We purchased every cheesy Halloween novelty they offered – stickers, pencils, temporary tattoos, spider rings, squishy pumpkins, glow-in-the-dark balls, bendable skeletons, plastic vampire teeth, sticky eyeballs, skull keychains, rubber fingers, orange slinkies, bubbles in black mini bottles, gooey worms, spinning tops with witches and black cats, and monster finger puppets.

We bought a ton of these toys. Well, maybe not literally a ton, but certainly dozens of gross which weighed tens of pounds. For Halloween 1999 we handed those cheap toys out in lieu of candy, and for the most part, the kids didn’t seem to mind. Then unlike the leftover candy assortment that’s usually just eaten and transformed into resentful gross tonnage that becomes fodder for New Year’s resolutions, we just boxed up the leftover toys until the next Halloween.

And the next.

And the next.

Today, a week after Halloween 2012, I’m packing up our holiday decorations and this is all that’s left of that original 1999 Halloween toy collection.

Oh, Oriental Trading Company – you have served us much longer than Nestle’s, Hershey’s, and anything the Dollar Tree could have offered. We had no diabetic comas, no rotten teeth, and we have not contributed to the carbon footprint of our planet.

Forget the last one. I meant carb, not carbon.

And unlike Nestle’s or Hershey’s, nothing expired. As for the Dollar Tree candy – that would outlast the Apocalypse. There’s nothing natural in that stuff, so there’s no ingredients that could ever expire.

Even with the terrors of Halloween, that’s kinda scary… isn’t it?

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Joel Robbins November 10, 2012 at 05:06 AM
I, too have not given out candy in over 20 years. I started with Halloween pencils, also from Oriental Trading Company (or one of its competitors). Most of the kids liked them, and the parents loved them. Then I switched to 100 calorie bags of popcorn.. Kids love it because it is different, and parents love it because it is not chocolate. A win-win all the way around.

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