Beware the Season of Excess

Halloween in America – October 31 – is the beginning of our Season of Excess.

Don't get me wrong.  Halloween is a fun evening.  It's fun to carve jack-o-lanterns.  Fun to make or thrift a creative costume.  Fun to go out after dark (even if it's cold) to trick-or-treat through your neighborhood.  No tricks, really, unless it's trying to scare your little brother by sneaking up behind him and yelling "Boo!"  Just treats from the neighbors.

Even teens and adults like to dress up and go to a party, which is also fun, as long as it's not excessive.

What do I mean, "excessive" and "season of excess?"

  • Pillowcases full of candy because you went door to door in six neighborhoods – EXCESSIVE.
  • $490 million spent on costumes for pets – EXCESSIVE.
  • Drinking too much at a party, especially if you drive – REALLY EXCESSIVE.

And that's just the beginning.  After Halloween comes Thanksgiving, the season of football and overeating.  Then Black Friday, Cyber Monday, "the holiday shopping season," tons of presents, cookies, eggnog lattes, and more overeating for Christmas.  Then binges on alcohol, snack food, and football over the New Year holiday, ending with another candy-fest on Valentine's Day.


Keep Halloween simple, for your kids' sake and for your own.

4 Steps to a Simpler Halloween

1.  Buy enough candy for your expected trick-or-treaters no earlier than the day before Halloween.

Too many people buy candy at the beginning of the month, and wind up needing to buy it again (and maybe again) because they've eaten it themselves.

Humans are not meant to eat so much sweet food all the time.  Our ancestors probably gorged on fresh fruit when it was in season, or on honey if they could procure it, but it wasn't a regular feature of their diet.  Our metabolisms are not designed for the constant onslaught of sugar.  Just keep it out of your house.

2.  Encourage and help your kids to be inventive with their costumes.

Don't run to the Halloween store unless you need something specific, like a cheap wig.  It's so much more fun and memorable to craft your outfit.  My grown kids still sometimes talk about pirate, fairy queen, fortune teller, and other costumes that they made with my help.  You can also check at thrift stores for items that can be adapted for a costume.

In my opinion, kids shouldn't dress in a way that glorifies murder, death, or evil.  There are enough more innocent alternatives to choose from, and I'd far rather see a princess, an astronaut, a cowgirl, a robot, a cat, a doctor, or even a branded character like a Jedi knight or Captain America than something more sinister.

3.  Keep Halloween d├ęcor minimalist and ghoul-free.

  • Hay bales, corn stalks, and pumpkins can grace your porch until Thanksgiving.  Carve a family of jack-o-lanterns to ascend the steps to your front door on Halloween night.
  • Use some twine to hang a leafless tree branch, drape it with cobwebs made from cotton batting, and add a few plastic spiders.
  • Scoop out mini pumpkins and nestle votive candles inside.  Add spiders' legs made of black pipe cleaners.

  • Decorate a table with a length of black lace fabric and a tall glass jar holding curly willow branches spray-painted black (use bone-white pebbles to anchor the branches).  Add three or four white pillar candles of varying heights and several knobby warted gourds.
  • Hang a stream of construction paper bats on the the wall.  You could also hot glue a few bats on a grapevine or twig wreath and hang it with some black ribbon.

4.  Celebrate All Saints' Day.

Halloween is properly called "All Hallows' Eve," that is, the Eve of All Saints' Day.  In Catholic tradition, All Saints' Day (November 1) honors all Christian martyrs, known and unknown.  Protestants celebrate all faithful Christians who have died, believing that the Bible calls all people who follow Jesus "saints."

While the American version of Halloween often emphasizes scariness, horror, and gore, and the original pagan traditions honored death and demons, All Saints' Day is a time to remember the promise of eternal life, the triumph of good over evil, and the love and example of those who have gone before us.

With your children, look at pictures of grandparents, friends, and others who have died, and share stories and memories about them.  Talk about the ways these people helped you.  Say a prayer of thanks for all of the people who have done good in the world and in your lives.  Write thank you notes to some relatives, pastors, or teachers who are currently having a positive influence on you or your children.

If you like, delve a bit deeper into the lives of some of the saints, such as Francis, Patrick, or Nicholas (the real Santa Claus), Mother Teresa, the Christian naturalist John Muir, or Harriet Tubman, whose faith and reliance on God helped her lead so many slaves to freedom.

P.S.  I'm offering the Kindle edition of my book Resilient: How Minimalism Helps You Cope With the Challenges of Life for only $1.99 from now until midnight on Sunday, October 18.  We're all dealing with the stresses of COVID-19, schooling at home, the acrid U.S. election season, job loss, and/or regular everyday difficulties.  Resilient can help you (or a loved one) find more freedom, ease, and clarity. 

Photo by Ralph Ravi Kayden on Unsplash


  1. One of our family's favorite costumes was a dark blue choir robe we bought at a thrift store then covered with moons, stars and planets we cut out of a white pillow case. Adding a cone-shaped hat made from old computer punch cards painted black turned that cheap outfit into a wonderful wizard costume that could fit nearly anyone over whatever type of clothing the weather called for.

    1. What a great idea, Linda! That's exactly the type of thing I had in mind. A creative, made-do costume that your whole family fondly remembers (probably used by more than one person on different years, too).


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