Halloween is almost here, and the excitement in my home is approaching fever pitch. My kids love this Holiday; depending on when you ask them, it’s either their favorite or second to Hannukah and Passover…OK, perhaps it’s not so very Jewish to celebrate Halloween, but its ancient roots have deep resonance with many souls, whatever their modern religion. Who doesn’t like to put on a (non-itchy and warm fabric) costume? Who isn’t afraid of monsters in the night, who doesn’t dream of the veil between life and death being permeable?
And who doesn’t dream of a Halloween Less Plastic? All right, maybe I’m not exactly speaking for all of America on this, but I do. I love Halloween, but I hate the proliferation of stupid plastic that’s become part and parcel of the celebration here. Plastic skeletons, plastic skulls, plastic bats, spiders, and cobwebs. Small bites of candy, each individually wrapped in plastic, then wrapped again in a larger plastic bag.
I want Halloween to be about real spiders on dew-spangled webs, the breathing bats that live in the bat box attached to our house, pumpkins that we’ve gutted by hand and carved so they can hold soy wax candles that scorch their lids, setting that eau de burnt raw pumpkin Halloween perfume free into the crisp air. I want my family happily clothed in non-commercial costumes cobbled together from our costume box, thrift stores, and whatever we can scrounge and reuse. I want home-made sticky popcorn balls, caramel apples and toffee, alongside mugs of steaming spiced cider. So that’s what I’m working to make our Halloween about.
We make at least one trip to our local pumpkin patch to pick out squash for carving and squash for cooking (ridiculously easy, delicious in pies and everything else, and entirely plastic and BPA-free). I love the pumpkin patch, with all its bright orange orbs popping out against the wet green grass and the chilly gray sky.
The main stumbling block in my plan is the nasty sugar-shot candy that the kids bring home from trick-or-treating. I was forbidden to trick-or-treat for candy when I was a kid; instead, I took around my orange UNICEF box and asked for coins to help other children around the world. While I liked the idea that I was doing some good, I really, really wanted some candy bars to go with my coins.
Instead of turning candy into forbidden fruit for my own kids, I keep my mouth shut and let them enjoy Halloween sugar and plastic from our neighbors. We have a Great Pumpkin program here – My kids pick out a set number of candy pieces to keep and set the rest of their loot out on our front porch before they go to bed on Halloween. Overnight, the Great Pumpkin flies by and picks up the candy. leaving behind a plastic-free book or bandanna or other small treat. What the G.P. does with the candy is anyone’s guess.
If I could hand out unwrapped candy from the bulk department or home-made popcorn balls to the costumed kids who knock on our door, I’d do that in a heartbeat. Sadly, despite the fact that poisoned candy from strangers is an urban myth, you just can’t hand out home-made treats to children any more. Instead, I dole out colored pencils, polished rocks, and other small bits and bobs. And my girls’ father, who comes to celebrate Halloween with us, always brings a big bag of mainstream individually plastic wrapped candy, too, because he feels for the kids who would visit us wanting candy only to find a pencil.
My kids’ father also decorates the front of our house with his collection of gravestones, skulls, cobwebs, creepy art, feathered plastic crows, and the jack-o-lanterns the girls and I pick at our local pumpkin patch. As a result, my home becomes both a bit of the plastic-free Halloween I long for and bit of the more common modern American Halloween.
You win some, you lose some.
But I can’t lie, we have fun. And every year we get a bit further along the plastic-free road.
What do you do for Halloween? Are there any single-use plastic items you can’t seem to get away from while you celebrate? Any Halloween less plastic tips you can share?