Campus: CSU Nortridge -- October 11, 2002
CSUN Professors Offer Tips for Making Halloween
Memories Worth Keeping
A cool, crisp autumn night filled with the giggles of little goblins,
pirates and gypsies going door to door and calling out "trick or
treat." Those are the memories of Halloweens past.
Economists estimate Americans spend $6.9 billion annually on Halloween,
making it the country's second largest commercial holiday behind Christmas.
Three Cal State Northridge professors offer some tips to parents so
they don't lose the fun and creativity of the holiday in the mad rush
to have the latest costume and the best candy.
"As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays, right next
to Christmas," said Alyce Blackmon, chair of CSUN's Department
of Family Environmental Sciences.
Blackmon has fond memories of raiding her parents' closets to create
her own costume and of the local dads setting up a "haunted house"
in the elementary school using boiled eggs and cooked noodles spilled
out on the floor to "scare" the kids.
"Those are the memories of a childhood, not store bought costumes,"
Blackmon said. "Halloween should be about fun, not commercialism."
Barbara Hill, director of CSUN's Child and Family Studies Center, said
it's important that parents look back at their own childhood memories
of Halloween and use them as a base for building new ones with their
"Our parents didn't run out to the store and buy everything,"
Hill said. "They would open up their closets and say 'Okay, what
are you going to be this year?' Halloween is a perfect time to explore
creativity with your children and to stretch their imagination."
It's also a time to break down stereotypes — not all witches are
mean ugly women — and to let children be whatever they want to
be for the night.
"It's fun to pretend you're someone else for the evening,"
Hill said. Hill and Veda Ward, chair of CSUN's Department of Leisure
Studies and Recreation, said parents should take the opportunity to
learn along with their children the history of the holiday — its
origins are Celtic — and whether other cultures have similar celebrations.
"In this age of complex urban living, childhood holidays and celebrations
must be taken seriously," Ward said. "Not only do these represent
opportunities to have fun and disrupt the insanity of the over-scheduled
child, but holidays like Halloween can help children, families and communities
affirm values that will last a lifetime."
Ward said Halloween is a perfect time to introduce healthy new food
choices into your child's diet, including fall foods like apples, colorful
squashes and pumpkins. And as for that candy, Ward suggested collecting
it at the end of the evening and providing a "dessert" throughout
the coming weeks.
As middle schoolers and teenagers are contemplating their costumes,
Ward said, parents can talk about work and career opportunities such
as costume designer, make-up artist, foley artist, pastry chef and event
She said parents can get older siblings to help younger kids put "scary"
events and costumes that seem to go along with Halloween into perspective.
Parents might want to explore local community recreation centers for
free or low-cost family-oriented events instead of trick or treating.
And if they do go trick-or-treating, parents can use the opportunity
to talk about safety issues while they accompany younger children from
house to house, she said.
"Nurture creativity and healthful practices to keep Halloween safe
for all," Ward said. "Remember, you are creating traditions
for the future."