I always wanted to be with my parents on Halloween. Trick or treating felt like a dangerous activity, and I was always more relaxed and comfortable if my parents were there.
I grew up going with the same group of people from my neighborhood every year, and everyone was always incredibly accommodating. We would have a pizza party with all the families and then the night would begin as we hit every house in town. I was young and often did not realize how hard my parents had to work in order to accommodate my allergies. I can’t remember a single time that anyone in our group ate candy with nuts in it. Each kid would show a piece of candy from the trick or treat bag to their parents to ask permission before eating it. I thought it was normal. In reality, they were asking if they could eat the candy near me.
My mom would make little treat bags every year with a few of my favorite safe candies in it. Keep in mind, my trick or treating was taking place before the top eight allergens were even identified. She would then give these bags to the neighbors in the houses around us. That way, I had something safe and special to get from trick or treating.
I was a very polite kid and always said thank you when receiving my candy. I never wore a Halloween mask, but my acting experience led me to smile graciously as people dropped Reese’s and Snickers into my bag. It was an unspoken rule that if we needed to reach our hands into a nut laden candy bowl, my sister would take one for me and drop it into my bag. I wasn’t worried about carrying around the candy since it was all wrapped, and honestly, I wasn’t eating it anyway. My parents would always carry around some safe candy, so if I wanted to eat any while we were trick or treating, I didn’t have to worry about possibly having an allergic reaction.
After hours of trick or treating, we would finally arrive home exhausted, but excited to count our candy. My sister and I would dump out the candy all over the floor and immediately count it all while each separating our candy into two piles. I would stand back and boss my parents around as they counted my candy. One pile was nut free and the other pile was nut containing.
All of the nut containing candy would quickly disappear into a big bag for the Great Pumpkin. Who is the Great Pumpkin, you may ask? Well, he is a combined invention from Charlie Brown and my parents. For those who are not familiar with “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” let me clue you in. In the Charlie Brown TV special, Linus sits in the pumpkin patch all Halloween night waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise from the pumpkin patch and bring toys to all the children.
Well, the Great Pumpkin came to visit me and my sister every single year. In exchange for our nut containing Halloween candy, the Great Pumpkin would come into our house and leave each of us a note and a toy. That’s how my sister and I got our favorite Polly Pocket car to play with. It was always something very special that couldn’t even compare to the candy we gave up. For as far back as I can remember, I always have an amazing Great Pumpkin memory from each year.
Halloween is definitely a tough one in the food allergy world, but it doesn't have to be. I remember always loving it. Sure, there were parties I missed and candy I wish I could try, but it ended up turning into an amazing family holiday. We have always gone all out with the decorations, the Great Pumpkin would "come," and my mom sewed all of our costumes every year. My family worked hard to make it about the Halloween experience and not the candy. If you need tips for making your Halloween allergy friendly, check out FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project!