I have to admit that I don’t really like Halloween. I think that my years as a teacher of 4-5 year old children sort of ruined it for me. Halloween basically took over the kids’ lives starting October 1st, and culminated in a truly horrifying day where everyone (including me, usually) cried. The problems were many and varied, including: costume rips, inability to undo/redo costumes during bathroom breaks, other kids making fun of their costumes, costume regret upon seeing another child’s (clearly better) costume, and total emotional meltdown that usually came as a result of too much candy. Needless to say, it was never my favorite day in the classroom!
Growing up, I LOVED Halloween. I loved coming up with costume ideas. My mom hand made all of our costumes, including: a nun, Pippi Longstocking, and Cinderella (serious props, Mom. I don’t think my sewing skills will ever be quite that advanced). I loved wearing my costume to school (who knew I would later be on the other side of this equation?), and I obviously loved trick-or-treating and getting candy. Every year, my sister and my best friend would go out trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, regardless of the weather (one year we had our friend’s dad drive us because there was 4′ of snow!) Afterwards, we would all dump all of our candy into piles on the basement floor and begin our “trading.” My favorites were Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Twix bars. I always made my candy last as long as possible (or was forced to do so by my mom….) and ate one or two pieces a day.
As an adult, before I was a teacher and before I had kids, it was easy to ignore Halloween. Hubs and I actually used to plan on being out of the house on Halloween night in order to avoid trick-or-treaters. I KNOW! We are such kill joys. We used to go out to dinner and a movie and leave our porch light off, hoping that no one would egg us for our lack of participation. Of course now that I have my OWN little one, I have to renew my Halloween spirit for his sake. I would hate to deny FVB or his little brother the joy that is dressing up and getting candy. Obviously as vegans, we struggle a bit with the whole non-vegan candy thing. So far though, FVB has not gone trick-or-treating. Last year he LOVED passing out candy, and that is our plan for this year as well, so we’ve avoided the whole issue of non-vegan candy coming into our home so far.
I have thought a lot about this though, and know that it is a struggle for many vegan parents. Here are some thoughts/ideas for those of you out there looking to make Halloween just a little more vegan-friendly!
- There is always the option of NOT participating in trick-or-treating, and doing something else instead. Especially if you have young kids (like I do), it’s easy to create a new tradition that doesn’t involve trick-or-treating at all. You could host a kid-friendly Halloween party (with tons of yummy vegan treats!) and enjoy passing out candy together, you could stay in and have a fun family night, or you could forgo it all together and plan to be out of the house on Halloween evening doing something else entirely!
- If you choose to give out goodies on Halloween, you can always give out non-food items to trick-or-treaters. I know, I know, I didn’t like this as a kid, but it IS an option. Stickers, pencils, or dollar store toys are all good choices. You could also give out healthier “treats” that are naturally vegan (pretzels, raisins, etc). I KNOW! I didn’t like this as a kid either. But it’s an option.
- If you really want to give out candy, there are many “accidentally” vegan candies out there that are easily purchased in the grocery store. This link has a pretty good list of inexpensive, easy to purchase candy. Our favorites to hand out: Airheads, Smarties, and Dum-Dums. There are obviously other, more delicious options, but speciality vegan chocolate is expensive and probably shouldn’t be wasted on little trick-or-treaters who will most likely not appreciate it! Also, Oreos are vegan! Snack packs of those would be perfect for handing out.
So what to do about all of the NON-vegan candy coming into your house if your little one does participate in trick-or-treating? Some ideas:
- I know many parents use the concept of the “switch witch.” Essentially, this is a “witch” that switches out your kids’ candy for either vegan candy, or a special toy. The kids leave their candy overnight, and the witch comes and leaves something in its place in the morning. You can actually buy a book and doll here, or you can just do it yourself. A lot of non-vegan parents use this idea just to keep the candy under control!
- You could do this same concept without using a witch, you could just set up a system of exchanging candy with your kids ahead of time. It would be fun to shop with your kids for their favorite vegan friendly candy! OR, if you want to ditch the concept of candy all together, you could figure out a good dollar amount as an exchange and have you child pick a fun new toy in that price range. Or depending on their age, CASH!
- Once you’ve managed to get the non-vegan candy switched out, you still have to deal with it! This is a hard one, because as a vegan, you obviously don’t really like the idea of putting more non-vegan food out into the world. So, do you throw it out? I personally have a problem with waste….so this one sort of irks me. I get it, it’s junk, but still. I don’t love the idea of just chucking it in the trash. It’s definitely an option though! If you don’t want to do that, you could:
- participate in Operation Gratitude, which sends candy to troops overseas.
- turn your candy into a dentist. Many dentists participate in the candy buy back program. I’m not sure what you actually get in exchange for your candy….but worth looking into!
- donate your candy to your local food bank or shelter.
- take your candy into your or your spouse’s work place.
Whatever you do, enjoy this fun season with your family! I really enjoyed Halloween last year, and I’m actually looking forward to it this year (something I never thought I’d say!) Not saying I’ll dress up… but there are some pretty creative ideas for pregnant mom costumes. Stay tuned!