An empty halloween bucket on a chair.


Here’s Why We’re Ditching Trick-or-Treating This Year

Oct 24, 2018

Just in case you hadn’t heard, Halloween will soon be here. Maybe you’ve already stocked up on — and then (ahem) pre-eaten, and then restocked — your boxes of candy, ready to hand out to the kids tromping up and down neighbourhood streets.

This year, my kids won’t be among them.

My high-schooler has self-selected out of trick-or-treating — he decided last year he was too old and gave up his pillowcase in favour of an evening in front of the Xbox. As for my younger son who is 11, this year, we’re trying something new: we are opting out of the traditional neighbourhood quest for candy and instead heading out to a friend’s cottage with a couple of other families for the evening. There will be a potluck dinner, a bonfire, costumes, jack-o’-lanterns, a scavenger hunt and ghost stories, and some treats: my son has requested some Lindt dark chocolate and a Mars bar, and I’m pleased to oblige.

We’ll arrive home tired and maybe a bit wired, full and happy — and without a huge bag of candy to deal with for the next few weeks.

Yes, I understand that into every child’s life a little candy will likely fall, and that in moderation it’s not going to do much harm.

Why are we ditching trick-or-treating? Well, obviously, it’s because I’m a fun-killing helicopter mom who gets way too uptight over a little bit of sugar and hijinks and wants to ruin all the best parts of all the holidays for not only my child but all children, everywhere. (Oh, and also, I’m not here to make life magical for my children. In case you hadn’t heard.)

If that’s what you’re already thinking, fantastic. You can stop reading here, and I wish you and your kids the best, scariest, Halloween ever, with bags full of as many mini chocolate bars as your heart desires (I’m partial to Kit Kats, myself). Enjoy the buzz, and the neighbourhood kids and maybe the chance to peek inside the living rooms of your neighbours.

But if, like me, you’ve become increasingly conflicted about All Hallows' Eve, consider that there may just be more than one way to celebrate it.

Recommended Reading: 5 Things to Do with Halloween Candy Besides Eat It

The plans for our alternative Halloween were hatched on a backpacking trip this past August: me, my younger son, his best friend and his friend’s mom (who is a good friend of mine) spent three nights and four days hiking through the woods, swimming in rivers, making up new lyrics to old songs, Weird-Al-Yankovic-style. Every night, we'd sit around campfires, just talking. One evening, we got talking about Halloween, and the parts of it that we just couldn’t stomach any more.

Like the candy, of course. Yes, I understand that candy will fall into every child's life, and that in moderation it’s not going to do much harm. And I get that the occasional blowout happens. And I also know that Canadians are facing unprecedented levels of type 2 diabetes, childhood and adult obesity and other ailments directly related to how much sugar we consume. It seems hypocritical to, on the one hand, wring our hands about these health concerns and then buy boxes of the stuff to hand out to the neighbourhood kids so that they can gorge on it for the next three weeks, right in time for the Christmas sugar season to begin.

It seems hypocritical to on the one hand wring our hands about these health concerns and then buy boxes of the stuff to hand out to the neighbourhood kids.

And then there are the wrappers. With all the talk in the news about the environmental scourge of plastic, in particular single-use plastic, it recently occurred to me that trick-or-treating — and those bags upon bags of individually-plastic-wrapped candies — is a massive source of waste. As I try to reduce the levels of plastic in my life and the amount of waste my household produces, again, it feels hypocritical to not only invite mountains of plastic into my house but also send it out into the world.

Recommended Reading: How to Manage Halloween Treats for Candy-Obsessed Kids

My son and his friend, for the record, are fully on board. They’re excited about the party, about their costumes, about the treats that will be on hand. For the past couple of years, in any case, neither of them has actually eaten much of their Halloween haul — both have opted for versions of the Switch Witch strategy, trading in the bulk their candy for cash or movie gift certificates. Which is, I concur, better than having them eat the stuff, but seems, again, hypocritical: why am I encouraging my kid to go out and collect candy that I then encourage him not to eat? And why am I buying candy twice — first at the store and then via the Switch Witch — only to literally throw it in the garbage? Yes, I suppose I could give it away, but that just perpetuates the problem. No one actually needs the stuff — and no one I know actually wants it.

So, toilet-paper my house if you want, but we’re switch-witching it up. We’re taking what for us are the best parts of the holiday — friends, costumes, community, spookiness, games, a bit of chocolate — and ditching the parts that no longer work for our family. We’re going to have a blast — and I hope that you do, too, however you choose to celebrate.

Article Author Susan Goldberg
Susan Goldberg

Read more from Susan here.

Susan Goldberg is a freelance writer, essayist, editor and blogger. Her articles and essays have been featured in, among others, Ms., the Globe and Mail, Today’s Parent, Advisor’s Edge, Corporate Knights and Stealing Time magazines, as well as in several anthologies, a variety of parenting and lifestyle websites, and on the CBC. She is co-editor of the award-winning anthology And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents, and Our Unexpected Families. Susan is one of approximately 30 Jews in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where she lives with her sons and a changing cast of cats. Read more at

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