Halloween trick-or-treating has ancient roots but is a fairly recent phenomenon in America, only having been widely practiced since the 1930s. And while children in some other countries now do American-style trick-or-treating, others have similar traditions tied to other holidays. For instance,
In Sweden children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) while Danish children dress up in various attires and go trick-or-treating on Fastelavn (or the next day, Shrove Monday) and In Norway kids go trick-or-treating between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The Easter witch tradition is done on Palm Sunday in Finland. In parts of Flanders and some parts of the Netherlands and most areas of Germany and Austria, children go to houses with home made beet lanterns or with paper lanterns (which can hold a candle or electronic light), singing songs about St. Martin on St. Martin’s Day (the 11th of November), in return for treats.
The two constants, of course, are the costumes and the treats, which are most commonly sweets of some kind. Here in the US, 80% of households typically plan to give candy. It’s certainly the easiest thing to do – just grab a few bags from the massive Halloween displays that greet us upon entering a grocery, drug or discount store. And, of course, we make sure to get more than enough – because you don’t want to risk running out. And, of course, we make sure to get candy we, ourselves, like – you know, in case there are leftovers.
But candy isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for a person (especially a young, growing person), and we think it should be a once-in-a-while treat at best. But as we’ve noted, Halloween kicks off a months-long sweets season, lasting through Thanksgiving, into the winter holidays and on through New Year’s Day. So providing some alternatives to reducing the sugar glut can be very helpful and even welcome – especially considering the ongoing health problems we’re generating in this country through our passion for sugar.
What are some alternatives? Here are just a few ideas:
- Wax teeth or lips
- Sugar-free gum
- Sugar-free candies or suckers
- Low-sugar granola bars
- Trail mix
- Cheese & crackers packs
Of course, we’re not restricted to giving out food items only. In fact, there are plenty of inexpensive non-food items we can give out – things like stickers, temporary tattoos, pencils or pencil toppers, bubbles and small novelty toys.
The Corporation for National and Community Service provides a really nice list of non-food Halloween treats. Many of the kinds of novelty items mentioned can be bought cheaply in bulk from businesses such as Oriental Trading.
What are some of your favorite ideas for healthy or non-food Halloween treats? What do you give the kids when they come to your door? Let us know in the comments.