When you’re answering your own door to an assortment of miniature ghouls and goblins it’s a phrase that brings a smile to your face, or would if you weren’t trying so hard to look suitably terrified. Standing in the freezing cold on somebody else’s doorstep as the words trip from the tongues of your own band of little monsters it becomes positively cringe-worthy.
Standing begging on people’s doorsteps isn’t exactly my idea of a fun night out – but we were running late for the Halloween disco. So, I took the kids around the neighbours’ houses while my wife put the finishing touches to her own ghastly outfit (this is probably the only time of year I can describe what she’s wearing as ghastly and get away with it…).
The neighbours had been expecting us, and had all sorts of sweet goodies at the ready. By the time they’d finished, they’d managed to accrue a fairly impressive stash, despite the fact that we live in the middle of nowhere and have very few neighbours within walking distance.
I checked their bags to see what they’d got… sweets, crisps, bars, lollipops and, lurking near the bottom of each bag, a solitary apple… the only thing in the haul really worth eating.
Halloween is great fun for kids… but it’s a shame it’s become so synonymous with gorging on sweets, chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks. It’s yet another example of “US spin” warping traditional heritage and culture and turning it into so much less than the sum of its original parts. It’s like synergy, only in reverse: more is less, as opposed to less is more.
Image via Wikipedia
I can’t help wondering why
we’re always so eager to emulate elements of American culture, when in so many ways they’re patently flawed. But we do it time and again in all areas of life. Take childhood obesity, for example; America has a huge problem with overweight and obese children. Now… thanks largely to the fact we’re so quick to hop on the American bandwagon… so have we.
I’m not suggesting, of course, that the annual sweet-and-snack-fest that Halloween has become is the cause of rising levels of obesity in Irish children. That would be daft. The real problem is the lamentable fact that this rubbish has become a staple of Irish children’s diets.
The National Children’s Food Survey found that far from being an “occasional treat”, sweets, snacks and biscuits now account for a fifth of the average Irish child’s energy intake. That’s a staggering figure for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile, researchers in Dublin are beginning to uncover a correlation between obesity in childhood and the early onset of “adult” diseases like cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes in Irish children.
Studies, reports, think-tanks and government recommendations are all very well, but ultimately it’s parents who need to take a lead in tackling Ireland’s growing obesity problem. Looking after our children’s wellbeing is paramount for any parent, and their diet is a fundamental part of that responsibility. It’s our job to introduce children to good food and to instil healthy eating habits from an early age.
By all means let children have fun, go a bit OTT on the sweets and run riot on special occasions… just don’t let it become the bedrock on which they’ll build the eating habits of a lifetime.