Our city of Newburyport is magical in October. The air is chilly and crisp. Leaves crunch against the brick sidewalks as you walk through the city streets. Crowds of people with hot beverages in hand pop into shops and restaurants.
Halloween is our favorite family holiday, mostly because of where we live. We trick-or-treated in Newburyport’s South End long before we lived here — even at the very house we live in now. With houses so close together, this city is the perfect place to trick-or-teat for kids of all ages. Little ones don’t have to walk far to fill up a bag of treats, not to mention it’s safe and beautiful.
My monkeys have learned over the years which houses are too scary and which houses give out extra special things. For example on Federal Street, there’s a woman who gives out balloons on Halloween night. As far as the monkeys are concerned, the house with the “Balloon Lady” is a permanent stop on their Halloween route.
What makes that balloon even more special is that you can’t eat it. My monkeys, like many others, have food allergies. They cannot touch, let alone eat, 99% of the candy they collect on Halloween because it could make them very sick or cause anaphylaxis. Bean has Celiac disease and a dairy sensitivity and Sweet Pea has a severe peanut allergy and a gluten intolerance. Between their different food allergies, we’ve never been able to let them eat candy from their Halloween treat bag.
You would think Halloween wouldn’t be much fun for a family with food allergies. I’m not going to sugar coat it; things were tough the first few years. But we’ve created our own Halloween traditions to make it safe and extra special for our little monkeys. I decorate the house almost as much as I do for Christmas. Our family takes a trip up to the White Mountains for some leaf peeping. We carve pumpkins, then bake pumpkin seeds and make muffins. On Halloween night, friends and neighbors come over to share a big pot of chili while the kids trick-or-treat and play in the yard together. It’s a simple celebration that makes these monkeys feel comfortable on a holiday that could be quite scary for them.
I’ve heard that people use the “Switch Witch” to trade Halloween candy for something else. Witches have always been a little too scary for my monkeys. Instead, I just trade them a party bag for their Halloween candy. This year, I’m filling the bag with natural allergy friendly candy, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, and some of the non-food items we give out.
Kids collect SO much candy on Halloween. Have you ever thought about giving out something different? We participate in the Teal Pumpkin project, which raises awareness for food allergies by encouraging people to give out non-food treats so that trick-or-treaters with food allergies can fully participate. There are tons of fun alternatives to candy like glow sticks, coins (mostly pennies), small water bottles, witch fingers, pencils, and erasers. Join me in providing a safer, happier Halloween for allergy kids by placing a teal pumpkin in front of your home and giving out non-food treats. There will be plenty of candy handed out on Halloween even if some of us decide to give out something different.
Get out there and enjoy the magical month of October! What are some of your family traditions this month?