OPINION: Relatively new to New Zealand, celebrating Halloween is still a foreign, and frowned upon, concept for many. But it is becoming more popular each year and I'm totally on-board.
Here's why we should embrace Halloween.
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1. Get off devices and get creative
Decorations for the house, costumes and fun food - getting prepared for Halloween can mean fun activities for parents to do with their children in the lead up and on the day. I know shops are cashing in on the Halloween craze - offering all sorts of decorations and costumes - but it is fun to make your own.
2. Teach your kids about healthy eating
I realise many people are anti-Halloween because it involves children coming home with loot bags full of lollies. Bear in mind that, as the parent, you can insist your kids don't scoff the lot in one sitting.
Stash the lollies in the top of the cupboard, and ration them out. Teach your kids that junk food is not for everyday eating, and that treats are fine if we eat them in moderation. From my experience, kids are far more interested in the act of trick or treating with their friends, than guzzling the lollies - they'll soon forget about the stash in the top of the cupboard.
3. Get neighbourly
When we moved to a new neighbourhood, we used Halloween as an occasion to get to know our neighbours. Our children met up with the other children in the street and had a blast trick or treating - they now have some firm friends who they go biking around the block with at weekends. I got to hang out with other caregivers, chaperoning, and met some of our neighbours. It was a fun evening.
I know a nay-sayers' favourite anti-Halloween sentiment is "Why do we teach our kids not to take lollies from strangers, then encourage it on one day of the year?"
Firstly, these aren't random strangers driving up to your children in white vans. These are your neighbours, who you probably already know, or who you could get to know on Halloween. Also, why is it acceptable to force our little ones to sit on some bearded stranger's knee for a photo at Christmas, but meeting your neighbours is not?
4. Make some memories
Just because your parents were never into Halloween, and you never went trick-or-treating, doesn't mean you can't start new traditions with your kids.
One year, when my children were toddlers, our coffee group got together for pizza on the pavement and trick or treating. Another year, we dressed up the family dog and took him along for the trick or treating. Our Halloween celebrations have been fun, positive events that my children look forward to, and talk about afterwards.
5. You always have free choice
Don't want kids banging on your door for lollies? Put up a sign saying 'No trick or treating'. Don't like that Halloween involves skeletons, spiders and zombies? Wear angel, fairy or Bob the Builder costumes. Is Halloween too pagan for you? Churches and schools are now hosting light festivals and alternatives to Halloween which could be fun to take part in.
I can't see Halloween diminishing in popularity over time - it's only going to become more popular. Why not use the event as a way to have some fun with your family and community?