Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Interested to know the history behind Halloween? This link gives a short video and intriguing article on the subject. Whatever it has been in the past, it is certainly something different now – and honestly, the more I learn about what fuels it now, the more I am torn about celebrating any part of it at all - even though Halloween has been a happily celebrated holiday around our home for many years (included the years of our own youth.) Let’s start with the virtues of Halloween, before I get into the vices, shall we?


Would you like to see pictures of my adorable family this Halloween? 

Hepworth Halloween 2016! Me: Peacock, Squire: Redneck, Atley: Princess, Jocelyn: Flamingo Jockey, Lincoln: Venus Fly Trap
He originally wanted to be an apple tree, but changed his mind when he saw a kid dressed up as a venus fly trap online.
This girl has been asking for princess dresses for months now. I'm happy to have been able to create a totally custom, unique dress for all her princess endeavors - and trademarked character free!
Jocelyn - the Flamingo Jockey. Just because! :)
I spent a considerable amount of time and effort to concoct these whimsical costumes. This was a true labor of love and I lost a few nights of sleep over them, but they were worth it – and my kids’ joyful expressions upon seeing them completed? Totally adequate payment. I don’t have many opportunities to really push my sewing abilities, but Halloween provides this opportunity for me every year and I like to take it on as a challenge. The costumes then go to the costume box and get to be treasured for years to come. 

It’s just plain good heart-warming fun seeing your facebook newsfeed and street filled with the faces of people in costume: newborn babies dressed up as old ladies or adorable creatures of one kind or another, little kids living it up dressed a favorite character or villain for the evening. The whit, effort, and execution of so many costumes provides surprise and enjoyment to my creative heart. Some of the ultra creepy stuff I could do without, but on the whole I view the costume element of this holiday a plus.

Along the same lines? Pumpkin carving/painting/decorating is part of the magic I love. (Except for that one Halloween I sliced the top of my hand between my thumb and pointer finger open and had to get 14 stitches . . . yeah, that wasn’t so cool.) But, the pumpkins. What an incredible creative outlet to behold! And a family-oriented activity at that.
Left: Bubbler Crab (Lincoln's pumpkin), Middle: Hillary Clinton (Squire's pumpkin), and Right: Atley's pumpkin with the requisite hearts, mean eyes, and pokey teeth.
In a society that turns a blind eye to the next door neighbors, Halloween does give a forum for connection with neighbors you may not normally see or reach out to. It can foster a kind of togetherness in a community.

This is probably a personal culture experience, here, but in my experience Trick-or-treating is more of a dad thing to do with the kids. I remember going out as a young girl in our neighborhood in Palmdale with my siblings, cousins, dad and my uncle Eddie. The moms would always stay home while we went out. And now as a mom myself, when I hosted Halloween Eve parties with my friends in Tucson, we tended to send the kids off with the dads, too. Perhaps it’s an important way for them to connect?

Trick-or-treating gets kids moving! I’m sure the walking doesn’t compensate for the hoards of candy they consume, but I’m just sayin’! There are some positives, here!


American culture has problems. I’m not sure which, but Halloween is either a reflection or fuel for many of them: debt, excess, waste, gluttony, consumerism, entitlement. . .

Now, while the costume element to Halloween is the best part of the holiday for me, I understand that not everyone has the resources or desire to sew or create a costume from scratch, and this pressure to come up with something can be seen mostly as just a drain on financial and other resources. And how many of these end up in the landfill eventually? Not to mention (I don’t know for certain – I just have a hunch) that most store-bought costumes (and the majority of clothing in general) are sewn by people in much more dire straights than most Americans would even like to discover.

Trick-or-treating in the traditional sense, I’m afraid, is the one most quickly fading away. Selective parties or “trunk-or-treat” get-togethers are on the rise - to the relief of many. These, however, limit the interaction amongst the neighborhood generally to people who already know each other. And many kids have their parents drive them to the wealthier neighborhoods in town, in order to get more bang for their buck (full-sized candy bars at every door, etc.) These actions mean less-walking, and less neighborhood interaction than trick-or-treating used to mean.

Then there’s the act of knocking on doors, late at night to ask for candy from strangers. It just reeks of entitlement to me and makes me uncomfortable, even as a one night kind of behavior.

Don’t get me started on all the waste!! The mountains of plastic trash from the candy, the drain on our bodies’ health, the time spent collecting candy, the tantrums, tears, and vomiting that inevitably come with all the candy consumption, the costumes in the landfill, and on and on. It is excessively wasteful in so many respects. 

Haunted houses and scary films are a large part of the holiday, especially for the Teen/Young Adult crowd. I used to enjoy the feeling of being afraid for the thrill it would bring, but now I avoid them and tend to stick only to movies I'd feel comfortable with my kids watching. From a personal spiritual perspective, I believe participating in things that bring fear attracts evil spirits. Um, no thanks. In addition -  a friend of mine mentioned on facebook a problem with haunted houses I hadn't considered until this year - they use images of mentally ill to incite fear. Sad, and problematic on many levels.

While you can definitely sense death as a theme, the focus is more on the fear of death than connection with those who have passed on as the holiday has historically meant. (Watch this video if you haven't already!) What do we have left of the original intent? Essentially NONE of the interesting elements of the original holiday and its connections with those who have passed on, and all the consumerism. Our version is pretty shallow if you asked me. All cheap thrills and mischief with no nod to ancestors or religious beliefs of any kind.   


The Problem with the Candy:


Just a few days before Halloween this year, I learned some disturbing information about much of the chocolate industry and have decided to never eat chocolate from these companies ever again. (Check out “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and “Slavery: A Global Investigation” for a more personal look at what is going on.) Knowing that child slaves harvested the cocoa beans used to make my cheap indulgence doesn’t make it appetizing to me, somehow. . .


And let’s say we cut out all the non-Fair-trade chocolate consumption. What’s left, generally speaking, is pumped up with artificial dyes. A reality needing more research, but not coming up with happy results, either.


And then there’s the ethical issue of some candy’s flavoring having been developed using HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney cell line.) This chart has a list of products using some such aborted fetal products in their development.) It must be noted that Kraft and Cadbury Adams have ended their contract with Senomyx (see updated list in link above), but I cannot in good conscience consume any of these products, knowing they were originally developed using these technologies:

• Black Jack chewing gum
• Bubbaloo bubble gum
• Bubblicious bubble gum
• Chiclets
• Clorets
• Dentyne
• Freshen Up Gum
• Sour Cherry Gum (Limited)
• Sour Apple Gum (Limited)
• Stride
• Trident

• Sour Cherry Blasters
• Fruit Mania
• Bassett's Liquorice All sorts
• Maynards Wine Gum
• Swedish Fish
• Swedish Berries
• Juicy Squirts
• Original Gummies
• Fuzzy Peach
• Sour Chillers
• Sour Patch Kids
• Mini Fruit Gums
• Certs breath mints
• Halls Cough Drops

You can find more on that at this link.


And then there’s just - all the sugar! Sugar, not fat is the real culprit of heart disease, it seems. (That said, I don't think one night of splurging will be the end of us!)


This year, we talked about the problems with the Cocoa Bean industry with our kids. We showed them pictures of the children harvesting the beans and told them of their conditions. We all unanimously decided that we didn’t want to support the companies doing this business. (If you’re curious to know what we handed out this year to trick-or-treaters, now you know!)

While not trick-or-treating or indulging in sweets at all would definitely be one solution, we chose a more moderate direction this year. Squire took the kids trick-or-treating in order to connect with the neighbors. I made a large batch of my “witch finger” pretzels to pass out to the neighbors for good will. At the end of the night, all the chocolate was “cashed” in and we went to the store and let them each pick out a Fair Trade chocolate bar as substitute (or in Lincoln’s case – some sea salt sea weed instead. Haha! That kid.)

We are still trying to decide what to do with the chocolate candy. So far, we are leaning towards sharing it with homeless people needing a pick-me-up (which would match one of the original traditions more closely) or mailing it to Troops. I like the idea of making an effort at this time each year, to donate to micro-loan programs in Africa to help with the root of this problem – poverty. Maybe even fund-raising with YumEarth lollipops to raise awareness and money for such programs? As you can see, solutions are still very much in the works.


There is an element to engaging in the cultural celebrations of my country and childhood, I don’t want to give up entirely. But maybe there are better ways to do it? I think holiday's original theme theme of death and connection with ancestors could actually be a great opportunity for doing family history research and sharing old family stories throughout the month? For LDS, perhaps an extra visit to a local temple - a place where we believe we connect our ancestors to ourselves through sacred ordinances - is in order. Not everyone is religious, but everyone has to face death in some form or another. Some reflection on that in some capacity within each of our own religious/non-religious paradigms seems in order. Or maybe a time to visit an old folk’s home and talk with the residents about the wisdom they have collected over the course of their lives?

While trick-or-treating declines, it’s never too late to invite the neighbors over for a home-baked treat, open-house style on All Hallows Eve.

Halloween traditions in our future have yet to be decided, but we're considering a variety of changes in light of this new information.

I want to hear what you think! Did you already know about these problems I have shared about the candy industry? How do you feel about Halloween? Favorite traditions? Things you’d like to abandon about the holiday? Tell me in the comments section!


  1. What most family like to do is to dress up as characters from the same money or cartoon, but i love that youre actually letting the children decide what they want to be

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