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 children.

"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 planner.

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."

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