I have always loved Halloween. As a little girl, I would dress up in the prettiest costume I could imagine and hit the streets with my younger sister, with empty pillowcases (yes, that’s plural because we usually had more than one) and prepare to knock on every door in our neighborhood.
As each door opened, we’d enthusiastically shout, “Trick or Treat!”
I would quietly observe what kind of candy of was being dropped into those pillowcases that always filled up quickly. I paid close attention to what was in my sister’s bag, especially, and not for the reason you may think…
We would get home, sit down with our brothers and dump out our pillowcases until we were all swimming in a sea of candy. Then the sorting would begin. You see, my sister had (and still has) a severe allergy to peanuts. Allergic reactions often landed her in the hospital, so we worked together to make sure she didn’t get anything with even ‘trace amounts of nuts’ in it.
While my Mother established a rule early on that we were to trade our candy and not just take all of hers, she would inevitably end up with much less than the rest of us. My brothers and I tried not to appear too overjoyed to pawn our toothbrushes and raisins off on her in exchange for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Snickers. And as we got older, she just gave me all of her chocolatey-peanut candy without expecting anything in return.
My sister was a tough cookie (and still is!) and never seemed to mind the candy sorting and trading on Halloween night. (And I know that she always had a secret stash of peanut-free candy somewhere hidden in our room anyway!) While her food allergy could be considered scary, we just adapted to it, like a lot of families do, especially these days.
Now as adults, we take our own children trick-or-treating every Halloween and gratefully, none of them have inherited her severe peanut allergy. But according to the CDC, food allergies are more prevalent these days. In fact, there was about a 50% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2011 alone.
But, I don’t need to see the stats to know that food allergies are more common now than when I was young.
My sons ask me to send them with something-other-than-a-peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich, just so they can sit at the allergy-free table with their friends at school. At every birthday party we attend, there is at least one child who needs gluten-free cake. I see my cousin’s Facebook posts spreading awareness for the severe dairy allergies that her young boys suffer from. In fact, she is the one who shared this article about the teal pumpkin project that caught my eye.
I had toyed with the idea of not passing out candy on Halloween for years. But I had always made a mad dash to the store at the last minute to buy bags of candy for the little princesses and pirates that would be knocking on the door come Halloween night. Last November when I happened upon a 75% off Halloween merchandise clearance sale at my local drug store, I decided to stock up on temporary tattoos and stickers and all kinds of creepy little toys. They were the same kind of thing my boys would get in a party favor bag, except Halloween-themed. I told myself, THIS is how will we be doing Halloween from now on.
Times are changing and let’s face it. There is nothing wholesome or good about the popular candy that so often fills those trick-or-treaters’ bags up to the brim!
It’s no secret that I live a vegan lifestyle now. And while there is such a thing as dairy-free (vegan) candy, the whole idea of not purchasing candy at all makes my life a whole lot easier! (Plus, I’m moving toward less and less processed food and sugar altogether anyway.)
My youngest son, who is 7, is already asking if he can have something from that stash of non-candy treats, so I know it will go over well. And I feel good knowing that our treats will be safe for his friends who, like my sister, live with food allergies or those who have Celiac Disease. This year our treats will be safe and fun for ALL of his friends!
Let’s move in the direction of a healthier, safer and brighter future for this next generation of ours. I’m doing my part to create a cruelty-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly experience for the munchkins this Halloween. How about you?