Bitter Truth about Halloween

I might as well start with a confession: I am a Halloween Grinch.  I’m not proud of it but it does feel a little better to own up to it. Where do I start admitting all the reasons why I wish we skipped from the last glorious celebration of summer, Labor Day, right through all the desiccating and dying of autumn, to my very favorite holiday, Thanksgiving?

The most acute phase of my problem probably began when the boys were little. With apologies to all the amazing women out there who know I’m talking about them, it was those super crafty, bubbly and uber-talented moms who made me truly hate Halloween. They spent months making incredibly creative costumes for their little darlings, my sons’ classmates in preschool and elementary school. All those hand-dyed witches’ robes, meticulously sequined fairy skirts, and six-foot long papier mache dragon’s tails that required a parent to carry them, following along behind like a royal attendant? They made we want to hurl with humiliation. I’m the last thing from crafty/creative/patient enough to pull that kind of costume off. Also, my boys were famous for changing their minds at the last minute. With my way of doing Halloween, an hour before the start of trick-or-treating, we had a flimsy Target Superman costume that stayed in the box and a linen closet minus a sheet that was frantically and miraculously transformed into an acceptable version of a Storm Trooper. I also adopted the conveniently high road position that a Halloween costume should display the child’s, or occasionally an older sibling’s, cleverness and creativity, not mine. The results were usually quite adorable.

But it doesn’t stop there. Sharp knives, slimy innards, candles dripping hot wax and excited little children never seemed like a good combination to me. I’m not a fan of the flavor of pumpkin and can’t wait for all that ubiquitous October pumpkin-ness – lattes, muffins, ice cream, soup – to just get over itself already. I don’t even mind the early start of Christmas decorations and TV ads because they remind me that Halloween’s days are numbered. I love going to movies but I can’t wait for this month’s batch of schlock to rotate off into DVDs and Netflix. Why would people pay good money to go sit in a dark theater and watch unspeakable gore and horror for two hours? And please don’t invite me to an adult costume party, see above.

Then there’s the candy. No matter how hard I try to buy candy that I don’t like very much, I always fail and am left with decimated bags long before October 31st. The stresses of election season just make the temptation worse. As Anne Lamott recently posted on Facebook, “My grandson Jax asked where so many of our candy corn packets had gone, just in the last 4 days, and I told him Dick Cheney had taken them.” I love candy corn as much as she does but chocolate is truly my sweet drug of choice. A little devil sits on my shoulder as I stand in the candy aisle and makes the irresistible case that ALL KIDS LOVE CHOCOLATE! I’m filled with dread that I’ll be that despised little old lady who gives out boxes of raisins or even toothbrushes for crissakes! So I load up with those yummy little bars of deliciousness, vowing once again that they’re just for the children. Lucy and Charlie Brown’s annual ritual with the football is classic because it’s so true. Once again I fall for the temptation, right onto my enlarging bum.

OK, fun is fun or not so much, in this case. Please don’t get whiplash but I have to get serious for a moment. I’ve just discovered a devastating issue about Halloween chocolate treats that is the actual reason for this post. Did you know that child labor and child slavery are huge problems in the chocolate-producing countries in West Africa? Maybe I’m the last to find out about this but the BBC produced a documentary about it  (!) and a mommy blog I’ve discovered, Rage Against the Minivan, posted an excellent summary of the issue ( I’ve been to Ghana and am familiar with an extraordinary NGO there that rescues child slaves from the fishing industry, as well as the US non-profit that was started by Semester at Sea students to support it: It makes perfect sense to me that child labor and child slaves are also prevalent in a Ghanian industry that is the world’s second largest supplier of cocoa. Neighboring Ivory Coast is the largest. The much more impoverished and rural Burkina Faso, just north of both these countries, is the source for many of the trafficked children.

The takeaway message is this: If you are concerned about this issue and haven’t bought your Halloween treats yet, please choose chocolates made by Mars (Snickers, Three Musketeers, Mars, Milky Way, Twix ) or Kraft (Cadbury, Green & Black’s, Toblerone) because, according to the sources I’ve checked, these companies are taking beginning steps to start using more sustainable, ethical cocoa in their products. Don’t choose chocolates by Hershey’s and Nestle because they are currently the worst offenders. You can look for fair trade chocolate at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s or you can skip chocolate altogether and buy those candy corn packets. Just make sure not to invite Annie Lamott or me over to your house before next Wednesday.

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3 Responses to Bitter Truth about Halloween

  1. Sigrid Freese says:

    I didn’t know about the link between child labor and chocolate…one more reason to avoid Halloween. I think it is the most overblown holiday we’ve got…fun for young children, but how can adults go so crazy over it? I don’t get it!


  2. Duncan says:

    Laughed, laughed, laughed. Thanks for that Ma. You’ve earned the chance to take the girls trick or treating. By the by, how are their costumes coming? I’m sure they’ll love ’em.


  3. susannadonato says:

    I am behind on blogs and just saw this, but thank you for the chuckle! What a funny post … With a point. I inadvertently bought the less-harmful chocolates (on Halloween morning, so some were left that night. Let’s not talk about the year I was pregnant and had to leave the candy in the car trunk in the garage so I wouldn’t eat it all. And I still ate quite a bit, one trip to the garage at a time.). I’m totally with you on the Halloween grinchness.


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