The Holiday Train Has Left the Station

It has started. The cascade of one-day holidays that each seem to take a full week to celebrate and then linger for months. This was clear when my son was yelling the other day that he must have another piece of candy because, “It is Halloween!!!!” The only problem was that it was October 24. Operation “Hide Candy” has begun.

Please don’t get the impression that I’m a candy scrooge who only gives raisins to trick-or-treaters. I’m all for occasional sweets. The problem is that we have reached a point where we celebrate holidays like Halloween for weeks leading up to the actual day, and we have found ways of incorporating more candy into most holidays–even ones that traditionally don’t include candy. This is clearest in stores, where when one holiday passes, the next one is clearly in focus and the retailer is already profiting.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds / jaxzin / CC BY 2.0

If I’m not careful, we can have a steady stream of candy coming into our home from October through April. There is an obvious connection between trends like this and our childhood obesity problem. But for me, this is about more than sugar and calories. It is about normalizing and making available something that should not be part of our everyday lifestyle. We don’t want it to become part of our lives, but it already has. Remembering that candy and other sweets are a sometimes food is a big challenge when they are around all the time.

So how do we manage the influx of sweets? Begin by getting them out of sight. I know that for the few days following a holiday my children will likely ask for something if they see it. Find a far, far away place (ideally one that requires effort to get to…even for you) and store the candy there. I realize that at first your kids will ask for the bucket everyday… hopefully they won’t notice you hiding some as they eat it. Before you know it the bucket is empty! Stored candy will either be forgotten or can be enjoyed during a time of fewer sweets.

There are a couple of other ideas that I can offer too. For the very young, you can introduce a “Candy Fairy” who will visit during the night to take candy and leave a present behind. There are also several places that take candy donations for community centers or to send to our troops. If you’re looking for a place, call your school, fitness center or even your dentist and you can probably locate a donation location. This is what my children usually do, which allows for a greater conversation about how much is “too much” and sharing.

One last thing: let’s consider what we can do to lessen the impact. In other words, for school parties and other gatherings that accompany these holidays, please try to make it about being together and celebrating. Encourage teachers to plan parties that are about more than just food. As parents, we can also commit to bringing better-for-you options. Make lunch or breakfast the main event rather than sweets so that we don’t send the message to our kids that eating sweets is the only way to celebrate.

As for my son who was so focused on the Halloween candy, he has also found he really likes roasted pumpkin seeds and spiced apples mixed with his plain Greek yogurt. Luckily he hasn’t found my hiding spot yet.