Open thread: Halloween

I think it was Chris Rock who said that Halloween is the one holiday that you can’t fake if you are a poor kid. A kid can lie their way through the other holidays (“I got a transformer for Christmas — it’s at home!”) but a child can’t really fake a costume.

At my school there is a uniform policy. It means that kids must wear white on top and dark on the bottom. It evens the playing field. Halloween is one of the few days they can get out of uniform. I feel for the kids who can’t dress up, although some might not dress up for religious reasons. I saw some kids with orange shirts and that was a good compromise. One kid from a big family was still in uniform yesterday at school and I’m sure the family can’t afford to get every child a costume.

There were a couple classes where the teacher took away the party due to bad classroom behavior (they had to earn it, but they didn’t). I felt really bad for those kids. They looked so depressed walking in the hallway and seeing all the other kids dressed up. I’m hoping those classrooms can earn a Thanksgiving party…

Aside from the costume, Halloween is a candy holiday. Other celebrations throughout the year can be geared away from junky snacks, but Halloween puts teachers in a tricky spot. I gave out pumpkin stickers, Halloween-themed pencils and Halloween-themed pencil erasers. They were a hit with my students. What was under my control was not candy-related.

After seeing the sad kids from the couple classrooms who didn’t “earn” a party, I don’t think it’s appropriate to deny them the party especially if the whole school is dressing up and each classroom is having some kind of event. It seems mean considering my school’s general attitude towards Halloween. Doing a Halloween-themed craft is a great way to make the holiday less about getting as much candy as possible. Teachers, how do you manage Halloween? How does your school handle it?


The internal debate I had was whether or not to let my son go trick or treating. We went last year but my son was so little that it was just cool to carry a plastic pumpkin and have people drop things into it. Now that he knows and remembers things, he will ask to eat the candy right away. Even if we take the goodies away overnight, he will ask us where they went.

I was leaning towards not doing it, but my husband wants to go. We really had fun going around the neighborhood last year: I like the community feel. It’s always freezing on Halloween though. But we’re going to give it a shot. Wish us well — we’re sure to have a tantrum or two on our hands! I’ll comment on Sunday night about what ended up transpiring. What are you doing for Halloween, if anything?

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79 thoughts on “Open thread: Halloween

  1. My son's kindergarten class did a morning party – they came to school with their costumes over their clothes, had donuts, fruit, and orange juice for their party, painted pumpkins, and then took off their costumes and were back to regular school things. It was about an hour total.
    My daughter's third grade class did a party at the end of the day, and they had to put their costumes on over their clothes. They had a deli tray – cheese, meat, and crackers, and a cookie.
    My seventh grader was allowed to wear a costume all day, but they did not have any parties.
    My one year old could care less about what is going on. 🙂
    With four kids, our costumes were thrift store/ and stuff we had around the house. I only spent around $30 to do all four. You can easily spend that on one costume if you don't watch yourself.

  2. Now with the trick or treat thing I always do a trunk or treat at a local church it is safer.

    That's an odd comment. What do you mean? How, exactly, is it safer?

  3. I sure don't like the idea of singling classrooms out for being naughty, not like that. I can see not getting something small. But something that big, and once a year? Kids love the opportunity to dress up- even if it is just a different tshirt. Our little school allows hats on Fridays, for a $1 donation. (we're still working on getting a building!) You wouldn't believe how popular this is. But I digress… I feel that there should be a different punishment. I, like you, feel bad for the left out ones.

    We do trick or treat every year, and we do pass out treats. When the kids were younger, and we lived in a very small, very tight knit community, I used to bake goodies to hand out. Not a good idea anymore. I miss that. Now, my husband takes them out, and I hand out treats. I dress up to do this… I guess I feel that it is a once a year get out of your own skin and be creative type of a thing- it is fun! 🙂 Broke or no. I made the kids' costumes this year, and I spent a total of $15 on supplies.

    Hopefully, then they are older, we can do parties.

    As far as the candy collected, we have a 2 treat per day rule, and it is typically still around after Christmas!

  4. Halloween celebrations are banned in some schools in my state (CT). We are not even in the Bible belt.

    Regarding what you said about celebrations at your school one solution to either poor kids not being able to afford costumes or some classes being punished from having parties it could be solved by not celebrating Halloween at school. This brings the whole notion of Halloween is something that is okay to be celebrated by Trick or Treating or whatever is done outside of school hours. Don't celebrate it and that takes care of that. Let the family celebrate Halloween or not celebrate it as they wish in their private lives.

    Maybe a little separation of "school is for learning and education" and "home life is where you celebrate X holiday (or not, per your family's beliefs) is in order? Or is saying that labeling me as a fuddy-duddy?

    We didn't have much money growing up and it is still a fact that Halloween costumes can be made cheaply or for almost nothing if a little creativity is used. You can't help it if the child or the parents don't want to make the effort to do a low budget costume. (This year I spent $8 on one son and the last 2 years I spent $0 on him). For the other son multiple years we used things we had at home and didn't spend a dime. Example: dress up in a football shirt we own and carry a football and wear sweatpants and be a football player. Wear camo shirt they own and jeans or green pants and a toy gun and be in the military. etc.

    A larger issue in my public schools is all the PTA driven fundraisers and after school events that cost the family money and put pressure on butying things. Wrapping paper sales, sales of school supplies, buying a $100 brick with your family's name on it, the father/daughter valentine's day dance, the mother/son whatever dance, the silent auction (where they ask you to both donate stuff and then to buy stuff), on and on.

  5. Everyone's comments have brought back such a flood of memories! I remember our Halloween party as always being the absolute best party of the entire school year because we got to wear our costumes to school that day. After lunch, each grade would take a turn parading through the other grades' classrooms. I loved seeing what other kids were wearing, especially the kids older than me. I lived in a very homogenous community from a socioeconomic standpoint and I don't remember any kids not having costumes for Halloween. Even my classmates who lived in the orphanage in my community always had costumes which I think must have been provided by members of the church that ran the orphanage. Most kids had stay-at-home moms so times were much different back then. Moms had plenty of time and resources to make or buy costumes.

    When the afternoon milk cart (white whole milk only) came around on party day, we usually got a Halloween cupcake or cookie that was brought in by our room mother. I drank the milk but usually brought the treat home because I just wasn't hungry. By the time I toted it home on the bus, it was typically reduced to a pile of crumbs and the icing had become one with the Halloween napkin I had wrapped it in. That didn't stop me from figuring out a way to eat at least some of it when I got home, though!

    I agree that taking away a party seems awfully harsh. It also seems unfair to the kids who behaved well. If all the kids in the class misbehaved, I don't think the kids are the problem.

  6. My husband and I made our own costumes this year and spent a grand total of $2 (we were Mario and Luigi). I feel so bad for children whose parents don't even try to use what they have laying around the house.

    When I was younger my parents would let us eat 2 or 3 pieces of candy the night of trick-or-treating and then take the rest. We would be allowed 1 or 2 (depending on size/type) of candy per day after that if we ate how we were suppose to during the day. We usually had candy still left into the next year. When we got older we were allowed to self regulate. Candy and other sweets were never forbidden in my house so they weren't a big deal. We were just taught to limit sugary items.

    When we have kids I will probably do what many of the other commenters do and replace the candy with a small toy. I would then leave the candy in the base dorms for the younger military members to enjoy.

  7. My kids were allowed one piece of their Halloween candy per day. After a couple of weeks, when they had forgotten about the candy, I tossed it. I'm not a big candy person, but I do like Tootsie Rolls, and my kids always offered me theirs, so that would be MY one piece of candy per day.

  8. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love Christmas, but Halloween makes me happy down to my toes.

    I am very happy that my daughter's school does a costume parade. They change into costumes at 1:30, have a parade, and then a little party. A few parents in each classroom bring treats. She also got a pencil, a couple silly bands, and a cute little toy from the teacher. She loved it.

    We went Trick-or-treating tonight, and the kids got good amounts of candy. My son is 4 and is Type 1 Diabetic, and I let him know that he can have his candy and treats, we just have to plan for it and give him insulin to cover it. He was ok with that.

    As a child, we went trick-or-treating. I never remember my parents taking our candy away after a certain amount of time or anything like that. We self-regulated. We had Halloween parades at school. Some of my favorite times were Halloween.

    And still are.

    Everything in moderation. Let kids be kids.

    (We eat quite heathily most of the time, but a little Halloween Candy … a-ok by me.)

  9. cool i can't believe i never notice those kind of things(luch)…sumtimes i eat like the same food for the same day…LOL

  10. So, we went trick or treating with our little guy. He had a blast carrying around his little plastic pumpkin, saying "tick or teat" and then getting a little candy. We made sure he said "sank you" for the candy. He had no idea that he was getting candy — he didn't recognize it as candy, but he knew it was something important! He ate a hershey's kiss along the way. When we got home, I quickly made dinner and my husband hid the pumpkin on the washing machine. Our son didn't ask for any more candy and ate a good dinner. I'm really shocked that he forgot about it, but I don't think he recognized the candy as Candy with a capital C.

    We had a great night. The only bad part happened when he was carrying his pumpkin and tripped and fell down. He started crying because his loot spilled out of the pumpkin. Then he said his knee hurt, which we examined and it was just slightly pink. He didn't even skin it (he was dressed up as a fireman with lots of padding) — the potential loss of the contents of his pumpkin was very upsetting. Anyway, we put everything back into his pumpkin and he recovered. It was really pretty darling to see a pint-sized fireman cry over spilled candy. Fun, fun night!

  11. I take my son trick or treating every year, whether it be in a local neighborhood or at something like the mall. He never gets to eat all the candy he takes home since he tends to get super duper hyper from all the sugar. He's hyper already, don't need to add to it. I get rid of most of it after taking out the good stuff for myself (bad mommy, I know, don't care). This year I learned of the Halloween Candy Buyback program from a fellow blogger. I got my son excited that he could get money for the candy he brings home. We're going to exchange the money for some toys. I'd much rather deal with toys around the house than him bouncing all over the walls. How it works is that you take the candy to a participating dentist and they give you $1/lb. The candy then gets sent in care packages to the troops. Since my husband's family has been in the military for years, they love this idea!

  12. It looks like I am more lenient in the candy department. I let my kids eat a bunch for the first couple days. They eat all their favorites and are left with the junk they don't like that eventually gets thrown away. My train of thought is that it is better than giving them a set amount of pieces day after day, bathing their teeth in sugar endlessly. We don't have set food rules at school, other than no peanuts in the classrooms where children have nut allergies. My youngest son got a TON of junk, and the middle just made individual "monster" english muffun pizzas.

  13. I think it's funny that kids actually gorge on Halloween candy. I horded mine. I used to get maybe half a pillowcase full of candy in my neighborhood and I would eat off it for months–some of the candy would actually go bad before I'd eaten all of it. My parents and brothers would sneak into my bedroom and steal candy when I wasn't paying attention because I had it longer than anyone else in my family. I would also usually have a lot of chocolate still left over by Christmas, so my mom and I would melt it down and use it to make treats. Trick or treating is one of my favorite memories as a kid, so I wouldn't suggest taking that away from your child, despite the nastiness of a lot of the candy. All it took was my parents telling me that if I saved it it would last longer to stop the gorging and start the hording!

  14. I have to say what really bothers me about this post is that some classrooms didn't have a party. I would have no problem if it was a school-wide decision to not have a party, but just a couple classrooms who had to watch friends and siblings have a good time 🙁 That never happens at the school my kids currently go to, but it did happen at a school they previously went to. The class Valentine's Day party was canceled, and Mama was not happy. For one, we had already bought the valentines and assigned class treats, spending both money and time. For two, I think it is just mean. I talked to the teacher and she said that 19 of the 22 kids were "bad" and she was sorry that my son had to suffer for the other children's behavior, but she simply could not reward "bad" behavior. I have three boys, and we have had combined probably 20 teachers, so I am grateful we have only had one "bad" teacher.

  15. Surprised your school still allows Halloween parties. My son's school (in downstate IL) only allows "Fall Harvest" parties now, and there are definitely no costumes.

  16. My elementary school's halloween celebrations depend on grade level. The kids change into their costumes at lunch time, then we have a Halloween parade around the block, and classroom parties for the last hour of the day. The upper grades (we're K-6) have a somewhat normal normal morning, whereas the younger grades have halloween themed, somewhat academic activities (read alouds, reader's theater of halloween stories, etc)

    Our social worker always has a few costumes for students to choose from if they "forgot" their costumes. And we always have a few 5th and 6th graders that wear costumes that I can't believe their parents allowed. There are big differences in a kindergartener's dorothy from wizard of oz and a teenager/adult version.

    I also hate the day after halloween at school. When kids are either allowed or sneak in lots of candy into their school lunch. We have the post-lunch sugar rush and crash for at least a week following halloween every year.

    Oh and we do have a few kids that stay home due to being Joviah Witnesses.

    The holiday has been so focuses on costumes and candy that it is mostly secular now, but it was actually a pagan holiday that the Catholics usurped way back when.

  17. I am starting to feel a bit like a Halloween Grinch. I have read multiple stories of well-meaning moms and dads who allow their kids to trick-or-treat and collect multiple pounds of candy and then give them only a few pieces. I live in a neighborhood that gets heavily trick-or-treated every year (300+ kids) and end up spending a fair amount to get the "good" candy. I enjoy doing this for the local kiddo's cause I really believe that Halloween is about community. However, I don't like the idea that so much of that candy is going to the parents and their co-workers. If you think your child should only get 5 pieces of candy, then go to 5 houses. If you feel that shortens the experience for them, track down a local carnival event, haunted house, etc. for them to participate in after you make your trip around the neighborhood. I don't want to feel grinchy about this, but it seems like a great opportunity to me for teaching our children about not being greedy and taking only your share.
    On a less cranky note and more positive note, I noticed some comments by parents who are trying to make the holiday work for kids with allergies and food sensitivities. A couple years ago I read an article about how Halloween is a hard holiday for these families. Since then I have made sure to have some non-food items in my bowl and have encouraged friends and family to do the same. Last year it was mini-decks of cards and this year play-doh. So for the gal who is nervous about handling the holiday with her child as they grow, take comfort in the fact that at least some of your neighbors are already thinking of children like yours. 🙂
    As a final note, I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. Halloween is an awesome (and uniquely American) holiday where our communities come together to do something nice and fun for our children. Everyone should celebrate (or not, as the case may be) in the way that works for their family. Just wanted to give you some food for thought. (Pun totally intended)

  18. My parents didn't have a lot of money when I was a kid either, but it didn't stop my brother and I from dressing up for Halloween. It just meant we had the best homemade costumes around!

    I feel sad for kids who's parents can't go that extra mile to make up for not having a lot of money by using their imaginations and stuff around the house to come up with a costume so the kids don't have to feel left out.

    I also think it's crazy that you would want to deny your child the joy of binging on Halloween candy. It's one time a year! You really think it's going to do any harm?

  19. another few tips for teachers with kids who may not be able to afford costumes:

    1) have a craft the day before where students can decorate masks (using construction paper or paper plates, string, markers, feathers, beads, etc. most of that stuff can be purchased on the cheap at a dollar store). That way, those who want to can wear their mask in the parade.

    2) dollar store costume supplements include things like face paint, princess crowns, cowboy hats/bandannas, capes and animal ears (cat ears, dog ears, rabbit ears, mouse ears etc). My mom always kept a big box of old halloween costume supplies on hand, and she'd drag it out every year around Halloween, letting our friends from the neighborhood help themselves to assemble their own costumes (most items were returned, but we never kept track). Sometimes a pair of $1 cat ears and whiskers drawn with eye-liner is all it takes to make a kid feel like they're in costume and part of the fun.

    And just think, a $10 "animal ears" investment could costume 10 kids a year for years to come.

  20. i'm glad there wasn't a candy fairy when i was growing up. 🙂
    i haven't seen this in the comments, but my mom would always freeze our candy bars and other chocolate candy. she'd do this at easter, too. from what i remember, my sister and i were each allowed to pick out a handful of candy to eat that night, then the rest went into clearly-labeled freezer bags. we could only get 1 or 2 pieces of candy from our bag at a time. often, the halloween candy would last until spring, then we'd have easter candy that would last until fall.

  21. This year the switch witch came for the first time. It worked well for us, as we deal with food allergies and I end us throwing a lot of it away each year. The kids were really excited about it (ages 6 and 8). We didn't think of it in time this year, but next year she will be switching other things in the house, like the outfits they have out for school the next year and other things in the house. We will see who can find the most. We are going to an event that will have a pinata in a couple of weeks, so I am donating all the candy to that cause.

  22. I say let the kids trick or treat and have the candy. When I was kid we never had our candy taken away and we were free to eat it as we please. As I recall I never even ate everything I got. I ate the candy I really wanted and gave the rest to other people or I threw it away. Kids are remarkable. They will self regulate if they are given the opportunity to do so. Setting an amount they can eat does not foster self regulation and sets them up for problems later in life. Sure, I understand that parents want their children to eat healthy and consuming hoards of candy is probably not the best diet but really, Halloween comes once a year. In the grand scheme of things it won't make or break their health.

  23. My kids are not in school, but at 4 and 2 years old, they certainly understood the process of getting candy this year.
    We did this year what we have done in years' past: there is an all-out candy day the day after Halloween. On this day, they can eat as much of their candy as they can ask for, providing they are still eating family meals. Then, at the end of the day, all of the Halloween candy "goes away" for the year. They may not ask for it anymore and, if it makes any sort of re-appearance, we use it as a dessert for regular meals for the next few months.
    In respect to the 2 yo this year, he got to pick a piece every time the 4 yo asked for a piece of candy. They got to pick a piece out of their bowls (big, stainless steel kitchen bowls with flared sides so they can dig around, see, touch, and choose). After choices were made, they had to sit at the table to eat them, and the 4 yo could not ask for more candy until she had finished, got down from the table, and went to play. Then she could ask.
    In essence, they maybe each ate a third of their treats yesterday (which ended up being about 11 to 14 pieces for each of them), and they haven't seen any more of it today. They haven't asked, and I think I will keep doing this each year.

    FYI, this idea to have one, big candy day and put it all away was something I read that was recommended from pediatric dentists as it was easier to control tooth decay. Yes, they were bathing their teeth in sugar, but we don't do it every 40-60 minutes for a week, we just do it for one day.

  24. I find the whole no "home baked" goods rule kind of strange and sad, when the commercially prepared foods featured on this blog are the ones loaded with HCFS and other junk ingredients. I understand no cupcakes but there's no way I'd eat a grocery store cupcake over a homemade one. And what a sad comment it is that we trust commercial food preparers over people making goods at home. Ugh.

  25. I am happy to report that the pencils were well received, and I saw in their treat bags that I wasn't the only one giving out school supplies. I didn't think of it, but my pencils were pre-sharpened and some kids had plastic grocery bags so I hope none were damaged. I'll consider that better next year. We had a couple children visit our doorstep that were not wearing costumes. They also left with pencils.

    We did not get any high school students this year, so I didn't hand out any of the Raise the Bar Hershey flyers. For me, this is the main reason I'm not keen on allowing my daughter to trick or treat in the future when she's old enough. Maybe sweatshops and child labor are gray areas in social acceptability, but I definitely draw the line at human trafficking (in this case, children bought and sold into forced labor, away from their families).

    If it was just about sugary foods (hopefully some day), I think I'd let her keep her treats, but I'm also thinking she'd be willing to use some for gingerbread decorations. I mostly look forward to hearing what she "wants to be" each year.

    Also, I suppose the point could be made that I could give out fair trade candy and I agree. However, our neighborhood school is 90% reduced and free lunch, so that's where the health factor is for both me and my husband in why we decided to give out school supplies instead. Our school district also uses a central kitchen system.

  26. I feel sad for kids whose parents can't go that extra mile to make up for not having a lot of money by using their imaginations and stuff around the house to come up with a costume so the kids don't have to feel left out.

    That assumes the parents a. have the time and energy to help their children make costumes (and to deal with daily-changing opinions as to what the costume should be! b. have "stuff around the house" to make a costume with c. consider costumes for Halloween a priority (if they never wore costumes in school growing up, or if they come from a culture that doesn't do Halloween, or if they live in a neighborhood that's dangerous enough to actually put the kibbosh on trick-or-treating, they might not agree with their children or you on this point) and also have children who will tell them that they're left out and excluded because of the lack of costumes (many children wouldn't because they wouldn't want to worry their parents, nor upset them with what really is frivolous).

  27. We bring our girls trick or treating and let them load up on the candy…which they love. We let them eat a few pieces and then keep a few. They then leave the rest for the 'sugar sprite' – a fairie who loves sugar. She visits the house while they are sleeping and takes the candy and then leaves a trail of glitter and a toy to thank each one for sharing their candy with her. When they get older and the magic starts to disappear, they can be visited by the 'hobgoblin' who beats the sugar sprite to the candy and takes it before she can get it. The hobgoblin can make the kids sweat it out for a few days and then leave a map that leads to a buried treasure. They can then dig it up and find a buried treasure (gold coins, whatever). This has worked wonderfully in our house and our kids enjoy it as much as the trick or treating!

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