Saturday, September 25, 2010

Avoiding the Halloween headache of consumerism

Halloween is little more than a month away, yet I've already gotten a headache.

No, it's not from the rows upon rows of giant-size bags of chocolates. Nor from the cheap costumes for sale, which I largely avoid.

No, it's from the little green-eyed monster, who is basking in the glow of consumerism. Just one trip to Target the other day proved it. En route to grabbing bread and a few items for dinner, I was barraged with requests for Halloween headbands and chocolate and costumes. Nevermind that I've found ones for both kids at the resale shop, apparently I now need one too.

Yes, the green-eyed monster is in full swing.

Sadly, I don't know how to upend the cultural crap that is Halloween. Granted, when I was a child, we tricked and treated our way around the block, lugging handmade sacks or pillowcases. Today, it's a serious industry. Hundred-dollar Disney dresses plus accessories. Plastic containers with every character known to man on them (which of course will be pase' next year.) And decorations gallore.

Still, there are things we can do to reduce the wastefulness of the season, while still letting your kids enjoy the festivities. Here's a few:

Hit the closets. Some of the most imaginative costumes come from, well, your imagination. My favorite was a few years back, when my first communion dress came to life as part of a Mary Poppins ensemble. My second? When I was seven months pregnant with my son, and I cut out a while "M" to put on my belly.

Find a swap. Check out the National Costume Swap Day Web site for an organized swap, and trade in your outgrown costumes for something new to you. Or check out a moms group, trading site or resale shop for other options.

Make your own treat bags. Each Halloween, my brother and I would break out the crayons and decorate a paper grocery bag for trick or treating. Last year, I started the same with my kids, opting instead to buy two orange paper gift bags from the craft store. They were just right for little hands, and didn't get weighed down too much. And they're waiting to be broken out in a few weeks.

Take the emphasis off of candy. Get those Happy Meal toys out. Seriously. Instead of loading kids up with more candy (have you not seen childhood obesity rates lately?), I've been silently corraling extra toys that somehow make it in my home after parties or excursions with the grandparents. While the kids are trick or treating, a bowl of new to them toys and trinkets will sit outside for our visitors we miss. Or, instead of toys, consider giving out gently used books. It's an interesting idea.

Help others in the process. Consider doing a trick or treat for UNICEF or other organizations helping others in need.

And after the event, reuse your stash by hanging on to those chocolates for holiday baking. If you can resist.

Any other great ideas for lessening the Halloween headache?


Green Bean said...
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Green Bean said...

Oh I can't resist! I mean sneaking the kids candy to snack on but saving them for holiday baking is a grea idea.

We don't decorate our own bags - though I love that idea. When the boys were very little, I bought some fabric Halloween bags. I think at the Target $1 spot of all places. We've used those every year ever since.

Finally we always or almost always have the boys make their own costumes. Its one of those things I cherish - spending time brainstorming and creating with them. Those kinds of costumes are so much better than the cheesy store bought ones that fall apart after a couple wears.

Lynn said...

Thanks so much for mentioning National Costume Swap Day.

Believe it or not, there has started to be a real change in the approach to Halloween in the four years since we started Green Halloween.

Parents are more and more concerned about the impact this celebration has on their kids and their pocketbooks as well as the planet.

We're excited at the excitement around doing better. Thanks for being part of the solution!

Anonymous said...

Our house was owned by a dentist before us. She gave out toothbrushes.

Someone else down our street gave away her grown-up children's old picture books.

I have not been so brave although one year before I understood about these things (I'm British) I was surprised by three kids at the door who were clearly expecting something; I gave them each a tin of spaghetti...

Robbie said...

Love the tin of spaghetti!

It reminds me of the year we'd moved into a not-so-great apartment. I figured all what kids there were would be trick-or-treating at the nearby mall, and I was shocked at 6pm when a kid came to my door. I tossed him a pack of hot cocoa!

Nana Sadie said...

I made my daughter (some oh 25 years ago) a Wonder Woman costume. She wore it more than one year, and she adored it. She remembers it fondly!
I'm totally enamoured of your "gently used books" idea for treats - will be stopping by the book section of my Goodwill to look for some of the nicer Golden Books and hoping that will also encourage younger ones to my door, rather than the teens! And leaving them on the porch to be found sounds even better than having to answer the door!

Condo Blues said...

My Husband and I like going to those Halloween stores TO LOOK only because I don't like haunted houses :) I guess I'm strange because I like looking at the stuff in the store but I don't bring it all home with me. Some goes with the Halloween and fall decor at the thrift store.

My 4 year old nephew went with his dad for looking, Halloween is their favorite holiday and they make/ reuse most of their stuff and costumes from year to year. Apparently nephew went more times than his mom knew because he told his preschool that he watches movies with Jason, etc. with his dad and the mom had to explain t the teacher that her husband told him who the masks were at a Halloween store. The kid hasn't seen anything scarier than Scooby Doo.


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