I love holiday traditions, but I’m a bit of a classical traditionalist. (For example, I hate that creepy spying elf on a shelf character.) For me, parenting in 2015, there are two newish Halloween traditions which result in diametrically opposite feelings.
Candy Fairy/Candy Witch/Halloween Witch
This new myth was designed by the parents who follow Jamie Oliver and his kin as their lord and savior. These parents find candy to be evil, sugar to be evil, food coloring to be evil, and seek to end the cavity causing, upset stomach Halloween tradition. They are the parents who blithely tell their children that they can have “just one” piece of candy Halloween night. If these children are lucky they may get to pick out a few pieces of candy Halloween night to enjoy after the holiday is over, but if they aren’t lucky, that one piece of candy (plus the 82 they snuck when their parents weren’t looking) is the only candy they will get. Why?!?! Because the Halloween Witch comes the night of Halloween and takes away all their candy and leaves them a present like a toy, or a toothbrush, or a vegan cookbook. What kid doesn’t love waking up November 1st to no candy and some lame present from a witch/fairy?
Am I exaggerating? Maybe a bit, but here’s my real issue with this idea, and it’s the same issue I have with the elf. (Well, I have LOTS of issues about the elf, but this is a big one.) The childhood myths are tenuous. There is a short period of time when our children believe with all their hearts that a big guy in a red suit brings them presents, a giant bunny hides eggs, and a tiny fairy takes their teeth and leaves them coins. These childhood beliefs are interconnected. The first time the tooth fairy forgets to take a tooth it calls all of the beliefs into question. One misstep and childhood innocence ends. Randomly creating new myths that other kids don’t believe in creates that kind of doubt event in a child’s mind. When two of your friends have candy witches and you don’t it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Also, the candy witch is a selfish construct. Parents don’t want to be the bad guy and tell their kids things like, “In our family we believe our bodies are a temple and we don’t eat candy.” They don’t want to teach messages like, “We are going to give all of our candy away because we would rather make the people at mommy and daddy’s office get diabetes so we can move up the career ladder.” So I say end the ridiculousness of the Candy Witch. Own up to your family’s values. Tell your kids that you are getting rid of the candy. Don’t create new constructs that damage the kids myth systems too early. In time they’ll learn it was all a farce, but don’t ruin it because you don’t like your kid eating candy and you are afraid that if you own up to it your kids won’t like you anymore.
The process of Booing is similar to may baskets on May Day or Secret Santas. The weeks prior to Halloween, one family starts the Booing by making a treat for two sets of friends. The treats aren’t anything big. Our Booing gifts this year had an 8 pack of crayons, a ring pop (that you could give to the Candy Witch later if you wanted), some plastic fangs and a jeweled spider ring. You also provide a sign that says “We’ve been Booed” and Booing instructions. The instructions tell you how to move the Boo along:
- Enjoy your gift
- Copy the Boo instructions and “We’ve been Booed” sign
- Put the “We’ve been Booed” sign on your door, so you don’t get Booed again
- Make a gift for two other friends
- Put copies of the sign and instructions in their gifts
- Sneak to two front doors and leave your Boo on the doorstep
I love this tradition. It is a fun way to surprise your friends. It builds a great sense of community with the families in your neighborhood. It teaches kids that sometimes when you do nice things, they come back to you. My daughter was floored when we got Booed this year and the instructions were exactly the same as the ones we sent out. We had a great discussion about how that didn’t mean that the people we Booed were the same people who Booed us, but that every Boo in the chain had copied our instructions. We had no way of knowing how far our Boo traveled before it came back to us. It’s also fun to see the Boo signs appear on doors throughout the neighborhood as the weeks go by.
Is there a downside of Booing? Of course. Some kids don’t get Booed, and that hurts. Some families don’t like the junk on their doorstep and they end the cycle. But I love how it teaches values I believe in to my kid. I was so proud of her when she picked two kids to Boo who weren’t her best friends, but were kids she thought would really appreciate it. It’s a good life lesson to really think about where to best spend your time and effort when giving gifts or making a special effort. I love how it builds a sense of community with my daughter. I love how she sees how good things can travel, and I even like how she can see that sometimes your good deeds don’t get returned. Those are all real life lessons taught in a way a kid can understand.
I’m waiting for the Candy Witch questions to start after my daughter goes back to school and I hope this round isn’t the one that makes her question Santa, because I really want at least one more pure magical Christmas at the Afthead house with total and complete belief in the myths of childhood. Hopefully when the belief ends the lessons of creating wonder and surprise through Booing will help her understand that the magic can continue in a real person-to-person way, even when the myths evaporate.