If you’re not a committed annual participant, then every October’s Halloween brings up the old debate. Is it commercialised, consumer nonsense or a way to introduce the kids to creativity, community and the history of other cultures? Abigail Denham-McQuillen, mother to Brooke (8) and Jeremy (5), tells suitcases&strollers why she thinks Halloween teaches children a bit about themselves, their neighbourhood and other places in the world – a cheap and cheerful way of accomplishing all the things that traveling with kids is all about.

Good old neighbourly custom, that’s what Halloween is all about. And the odd lollie or two and awesome dress up. Yes, I’m a fan of Halloween and I’m proud of it.

I was 14 the first time I celebrated Halloween at my uncle’s wedding. At the reception (which was hosted at a house), when the adults were all having a hoot of a time, the kids all decided to do some DIY entertainment via a Halloween Trick or Treat night out. We wandered around the neighbourhood following the Trick or Treat tradition we’d seen on many an American TV sitcom. Some homes were prepared for our knock (and greeted us with all sorts of lollies). Others weren’t – but they still played along and gave us some toothpaste (honestly!). We had a great time, met some new friends and were only mildly chastised for leaving the reception without alerting adults to our whereabouts. Whoops. Lesson learnt.

Now that I’ve got kids of my own, we continue the fun as a family. And I think there are many benefits of Halloween, namely:

1. Nurtures Creativity Choosing or creating the dress-up costume helps spark kids’ creative cells. Making a witch’s hat out of cardboard or a ghost costume out of pillowcases shows kids that you don’t need to buy everything; it’s much more fun to make things.

2. Fosters Ingenuity The kids have to prepare a raft of their own tricks that they can pull out of their pumpkin if they are challenged to do so. Jokes, stories, card-tricks… good, old-fashioned, D.I.Y. entertainment.

3. Builds Self-Confidence The ability to introduce yourself to neighbours and demonstrate your manners (regardless of the trick or treat outcome) is an important life skill.

4. Builds Local Community Network You can never have enough community spirit and community care.

5. Teaches Kids About Other Cultures and Histories Yes, it’s widely regarded as American tradition, but what’s so wrong with that? If we only adopted home-grown traditions then (depending on where you live) we’d miss out on significant occasions like Christmas (originated in Jerusalem or Rome, depending on your religious persuasion) and Easter (Hebrew origins) and New Year’s Day celebrations.

In actual fact, the origins of Halloween go beyond the US of A. According to the History Channel, its origins are Celtic where locals would ward off pesky ghosts with costumes and bonfires. (If only they knew about the powers of water…that worked for the Wicked Witch of the West).

Halloween doesn’t always need to be about copious amounts of lollies either.  Packets of dried fruit or little toys from the $2 shop also do the trick (pardon the pun). And as long as the kids give their teeth an extra-long brush at night, all will be well.

For more ideas about how you can celebrate other holidays with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story Cool Craft: The Traveller's Christmas Tree
By Abigail Denham-McQuillen