We don’t really celebrate Halloween in our home.  It just doesn’t jive with our beliefs and our ethos as a family.  But I’m not here to talk about that today, that’s another conversation for another time and likely a conversation we should have in person.

Today I want to talk to you about the Halloween industry, not the holiday itself.

You see, each year, the Halloween industry grosses some 6 Billion-ish dollars.  That’s billion, with a “B”. This 6 billion is split somewhat evenly over cost of costumes, candy and decorations – around 2 billion on each.

Think about that for a second.

6 BILLION dollars.

You want to know what else you can do with 6 billion dollars?

  • provide 600,000 communities with wells of fresh, safe drinking water around the globe
  • provide micro-finance loans to 6 million (or more) small business owners in the developing world to empower them to make a better life for themselves, their families and their communities.
  • provide 4 million laptops and the tools needed for translators to work on bringing the Bible to people groups who do not have access to Scripture in their language.
  • provide life saving medication for LIFE to 1,500,000 AIDS victims in Uganda
  • provide 20 billion nutritious meals for people around the globe

and that’s just a couple of ideas that crossed my radar.

As the holiday approaches if you choose to celebrate, please consider choosing options that contribute to a less ridiculous figure of consumption and consuming in a way that minimizes the exploitation of people around the world.

For example:

  • Get Creative with your Costume.
    Buy articles of clothing (or better yet – raid your closets!) for costumes that may be repurposed and worn as daily attire throughout the year.  Like wearing skinny jeans, neon and poofing your hair and going as one of the many pop singers from the 80’s.  Pinterest is chock full of DIY costume ideas many of which you probably have the materials for in your home right now!
    In addition to not creating waste by wearing a costume once and discarding – because really, when are you going to dress up as a sexy pirate or a giant banana again? – many of the costumes available are made in dangerous factories overseas.  Just this past week another eight workers were killed in a fire in a garment factory.  What we choose to buy or not to buy speaks to whether we believe that this is a matter of our concern or not.  Please send the message loud and clear this year that having that cute/funny/sexy/scary costume for one night is not worth anyone risking their life to make it.
  • Consider your candy.  
    Those addictive mini Reese’s cups?  M&M’s?  Savory Snickers?  The “healthy” Dove dark chocolate?
    All of it was likely picked and harvested by a child in West Africa.  Yep.  Not in school, working in dangerous conditions, for long hours with little or no pay.  Your Halloween sweets have been brought to you by slave children.  Please choose candy to distribute responsibly.  Ask questions.  Look for the black and white “fair trade” symbol.
    fair-trade-logo
    Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan has put together an awesome list of ethical candies.  You can check it out here.
    Please share this information and help make others aware of the injustice in our candy industry, and then contact the maker of your favorite indulgence (Reese’s Pieces….) and let them know that you are concerned about the exploitation of children in their supply chain. Let the industry hear you. Your voice matters.  Children are being harmed and dying to satisfy our sweet teeth, let’s change that, shall we?
  • Simplify your decor.
    The U.S. spends almost as much on Halloween decorations as we do Halloween candy.  Consider choosing simple decorations that could pull double duty at Thanksgiving as well!  Pumpkins, leaves, and pinecones all are useful beyond October 31st.  Maybe even think about leaving your pumpkins intact and painting rather than carving them so that after the holiday you eat it!  No waste decorations!
  • Party with a Purpose
    If you’re throwing a Halloween party, consider using your celebration as a platform to help others.  Maybe you could encourage your guests to chip in to help dig a well in the Sudan or get in touch with a local organization and help package food or sort clothing or serve food together before hitting the town.  If your guests are pint-sized perhaps you could consider giving a chicken or a goat to a family through World Vision instead of doing treat bags.   Let your kids help pick a project or animal to sponsor!  Then make sure you build into your party a time to talk with your guests about why there are no treats and what has been given in their honor instead.

This Halloween season, should you choose to celebrate, stay safe but also preserve the safety of others around the world and in your own backyard.

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9 thoughts on “What’s really scary about the Halloween Industry

  1. You want me to eat PAINT?!

    Robyn Vining

    “Artful Storytelling” Beloved | By Robyn Vining & Ticklebugs Photography Robynviningphotography.com Robynviningphotographyblog.com 414-581-0700

  2. I think that this “holiday”, I don’t even like to call it that has become more for the adults than for the children. It seems that most of the women’s costumes now are pretty much just lingerie and I don’t think that is a good image to be promoting to our little girls. I agree with you decorate for the season, not for Halloween, and make it about good, not evil.

  3. My kids LOVE costumes so we buy them at thrift stores and garage sales all year long–they dress up in them constantly and so we don’t buy specific Halloween costumes; we just pick from what we have. In our area there’s a “Hallelujah Party” that we took them to last year, where they can play games and get prizes…but all those prizes? Junk. I almost think going to that is worse than trick-or-treating in our neighborhood!

    • i loved costumes as a kid as well. heck, i would still totally rock a power ranger costume at least once a week if i could get away with it.

  4. This is fabulous. I love Halloween because I love costumes! But you’ve highlighted some very important issues of ethics here. Thank you for speaking out AND offering some practical alternatives to Halloween consumerism at the expense of unjust labor around the world.

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