A lot can change in 2,000 years.
And in the case of Halloween, it has evolved from a time to honour the spirits of loved ones and welcome them home while keeping evil ghouls at bay, to a holiday of collecting and feasting on candy.
Lots of candy.
There’s more to it than that, of course. Increasingly, communities seem to be embracing the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve. People post skeleton sentinels at their front doors, hang ghosts and witches from trees, turn their lawns into graveyards, pipe creepy music into the night through hidden speakers and spook-ify their homes with fake cobwebs and strategic lighting.
The ancient Celtic festival of Samhain saw the period from the end of October to the beginning of November as the crossover from the light part of the year to the dark part of the year. Halloween was the night when the two worlds collided, thus opening a portal for members of the spirit world to get through.
These days, it’s become a weeks-long celebration of all things otherworldly, and creatures both friendly and frightening, with superheroes and fairy princesses sharing sidewalks with zombies and vampires on trick-or-treat night.
Grownups were kids once too, of course, and they recognize the allure of all the candy and chocolate that sets Halloween apart from other nights of the year. There’s something downright exhilarating about sitting on the living room floor surrounded by a pile of treats and trying to decide what to sample next.
But with obesity rates climbing in this country, with 20 per cent of Canadians expected to be obese by 2019 and a shocking 71 per cent of people in this province expected to be overweight or obese by that time, healthy living needs to be a priority, and who better to set an example with than children?
That’s why larger centres in this province might take a lesson from some cities in Canada, where they’re adding a twist to the typical Halloween fare of potato chips, mini chocolate bars and jellybeans.
The Canadian Press reported this week that cities like Cornwall, Ont. and Regina are promoting inexpensive ski, skate and swim passes as alternatives to sweets for Halloween night.
In Cornwall, you can get a booklet of 10 Halloween passes for public skates and swims at city facilities for $10, valid during November and December. The city’s aquatic co-ordinator says the passes are so popular, they’re offering 1,500 a year.
And they don’t just promote physical activity, they’re a safe treat to offer kids without having to worry about food allergies.
This is not to suggest that children should have to forsake their annual sugar rush for a plastic pumpkin full of all-things-good-for-you, but there’s nothing wrong with striving for a balance of fun and fitness.