According to Smithsonian Magazine, the tradition of Halloween costumes began with the Celts, who believed that at the transition from one year to the next, there was also a spiritual overlap in which demons roamed the earth with the living. In an attempt to “trick” the demons, people dressed up so that they would be mistaken for one of them. This disguise (the practice was also called “guising”) saved their souls, and so was taken quite seriously, and not seen as the fun activity it is today.
In the Middle Ages, guising was still enacted for spiritual reasons, but also for practical purposes. Young children and the poor would dress up and go door-to-door, literally begging for food in exchange for prayers.
Eventually the Catholic Church, in its attempt to convert various religious followers to Catholicism, created All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day. With its efforts to turn this costume practice into something more positive, they would dress up as angels or saints instead.
Then, Halloween festivities took a break during World War I, only to re-emerge in the late 1920s. By the 1930s, it was perfectly acceptable (and enjoyed) for children to knock on doors and ask for treats, which then included anything from coins to small toys or baked goods. By the 1950s, candy was the preferred treat, and in the 1970s, store bought, wrapped individual candy became the norm to which we have grown accustomed.
Have you ever met a child who doesn’t love Halloween? Even the shyest of little ones seem to muster the courage to ring a doorbell and open their goody bags expectantly. And for the fully-grown child in all of us, the magic of walking the streets flooded with cute and creatively clad little monsters and fairies is the best way to kick off the fall holiday season! As parents, the fun of dumping our children’s filled buckets on the floor and examining each piece for its value and safety has become part of the tradition as well (in addition to stealing a few chocolate bars for ourselves!)
Due to the necessity of checking each child’s candy basket, safety has become an important component to consider for Halloween treats. With this in mind, we can’t forget those who have special dietary needs or allergies. There has been a movement in the past decade to re-think the appropriateness of offering only candy to children as a treat. While that movement is controversial, with some seeing it as the step-child of political correctness, anyone who has a child with serious allergies would argue that we should keep the scary in the costumes and not in the hands of our kids. A growing number of families is realizing the need to provide safe alternatives on Halloween, and allow all our little goblins access to the fun of trick-or-treating.
Organizations like FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), a non-profit group that works to raise awareness of food allergies and prepare communities to meet the needs of those living locally with these issues, have valuable resources on their website on how to include those with special dietary needs in your trick-or-treating festivities. Each region served by FARE has in place a multi-year plan to meet three main goals for each community based on its unique needs: goals ranging from promoting knowledge for health care professionals to social events for teens with food allergies. Another organization committed to raising awareness and serving this community is FAACT (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Team). They support offering alternative treats on Halloween, and have suggestions for education and guidance as well, even offering peer-to-peer education programs.
SunButter is a strong proponent of offering safe food items to those with food sensitivities, and those who just want an alternative to sugar-laden snacks comprised of artificial ingredients. Having created a delicious sunflower spread packed with protein, they are clear advocates for those with special dietary needs. So take a page from SunButter’s book, and reconsider the best way to avoid the tricks, and instead offer a real treat to every ninja and princess who arrives at your doorstep this Halloween!
History.com website. Nix, Elizabeth (31 October 2014). The Haunted History of Halloween Candy. Accessed 20 October 2017.