I am a big fan of traditions, particularly ones that involve costumes or dressing up. Growing up, I have fond memories of trick-or-treating with my friends, followed by the elaborate trading process, and finally finding appropriate hiding places for it in my house, so that no one else in my family could steal it.
However, given what we know today about the impact of large amounts of sugar on the health of our children, I wonder whether we, as a community, should begin to de-emphasize or phase out the role of candy in our Halloween tradition.
Today, most kids get an obscene amount of treats on Halloween. This is added to a diet we know is already too high in sugar.
One of the things that I believe firmly in promoting healthy living, is that we must promote cultural and environmental habits that make the healthy choice the easy choice.
The problem with trick or treating is that the healthy choice (i.e. not going, or limiting the candy) is not, as a parent, the easy choice. You must deal with the whining and accusations of your children and feelings of guilt.
Now if we were, as a community, to embrace the many fun aspects of Halloween that can be celebrated without candy – dressing in costume, carving pumpkins, haunted houses, getting together with friends and family for a party, it would take the pressure off individual parents.
Salmon Arm hosts the Downtown Treat Trail, which is a great community event, but what if instead of making it a candy walk, it involved a parade, games, music or a haunted house?
Local businesses could operate activities (bobbing for apples, face painting…), or collect coins to buy a treat at one of the stores?
As a dietitian, theoretically, I think it is okay to binge on candy for one night or one week of the year. However, the reality of Halloween is that for most of us, it is a bingeing month that follows Thanksgiving and precedes Christmas.
In fact, Statistics Canada reports that Canadians spent $250 million on candy and confections in October, 2004. Imagine if we spent that money on something more useful?
I think candy can be part of the Halloween tradition, but I do not think it should be the focus of our Treat Trail, as it currently is in downtown Salmon Arm. What do you think?
I ask people with an opinion on this issue to share at www.saobserver.net or send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Select the article with this title and share your comments.
-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.