Global Exchange's hypocritical Halloween

Caryn Rivadeneira

Ken Leonard
October 25, 2011

Yeah ... I'd have to agree with you. It might sound like a good idea, but (among other things) it's too late. In my home, we rarely buy candy at all. I suppose that the two big bags of goodies sitting in the pantry right now are of the evil sort. But telling me off on Halloween isn't going to help, because I already bought them.

I haven't given that much thought to fair trade chocolate, I confess. Because of this post, I'll start doing so. But I'm not going to send my kids out to proseletyze the message on Halloween. If nothing else, the message gets too confused. It would be trying to yell over WAY too much noise.

Great post.

Rob T
October 25, 2011

Good insight!

October 25, 2011

When you said that handing out tracts to those who come knocking on our doors ISN'T the way to show Christ's love, my immediate reaction was to continue reading for your suggestion for a better way.  I found none.  In the same way, you complained about another group's plans to use the 'open-doors' opportunity that Halloween affords to spread their agenda.  Still no alternate solution offered.

I don't know about yours, but my folks taught me not to complain unless I had an alternative solution to offer because it's unproductive (which is ironic since what you seem to complain about is people being unproductive).

Perhaps you could remedy this with some ideas?

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
October 25, 2011

Hey KatherinLn:

I do appreciate your frustration. As it often comes up with tight blog posts. Maybe you won't take this as an "excuse" but there's a school of thought out there for posts that need to be limited to 500-600-ish words and that is that sometimes blog posts are conversation starters, thought-provokers. As opposed to, say, a 1200 word "how to" article for a magazine article.

That said, I like people who put a little "Jesus loves you" message on the back of a candy bar (Freely traded would be even better!) or include a bit of candy with their tract.

I think that the Free Trade message should be talked about the week before. And not with kids. Maybe adults who believe in this should venture out and knock on neighbor's doors. That'd be my thought. 

And I think your parents were on to something about not complaining unless there's a solution. But sometimes--SOMETIMES--just voicing a complaint within community allows others to offer solutions and opinions too. Lets things get started....

Thanks for your comment!

October 25, 2011

OK ... I am seriously confused....

Historically I thought Trick or Treating came from the Christian tradition of poor folk and children going Souling at Hallowmas to beg prayers for freedom of the dead from purgatory. The prayers were handed out in the form of Soul Cakes. People would carve a turnip or pumpkin to remember the departed.

I'm not saying modern Halloween is anything but secular fun blown up by Great Gothic Classics and modern commercialism. Churches that gather together to celebrate Reformation Day are recognizing an important event that deserves due respect as well!

Samain/Samhain was a Celtic festival of the end of the season for trading and war.

I agree with you that slipping literature into bags and using children to further agendas is wrong. The kids are not the decision makers. They are just kids. Most kids don't even read birthday cards but go straight to the present at their birthday. If we want our children to make a difference we can encourage them to invite their friends to come along to Sunday school or a youth group with their parent's consent. High School kids in our neighbourhood Trick-or-Treat for the Food Bank. 

As for the Free Trade chocolate debate. - - - Chips!

October 25, 2011

But just as Halloween is no time for subbing tracts for treats if we want kids to know Jesus loves them, neither is it the time to use our kids to push agendas.

Why do you assume here that the kids don't honestly believe in the agenda themselves? Why do you presume they're being "used," rather than choosing to engage in an action to make people aware of a problem they care about?

I completely disagree with you in this post; I think this is a great way to teach kids that they're not expected to sit down and shut up about political and economic issues until they're old enough to vote, but rather that they can play an important role in telling people about an issue that needs addressing at a time when everyone's attention is on what's causing the problem.

Furthermore, I'd suggest that the offense you're taking may be educational for you: If you're offended that Global Exchange is "using a child" to bring you a fair-trade chocolate that tells you about how mass-market chocolate exploits people and uses child labor, perhaps you should be more offended that you're paying the mass-market chocolate companies to "use children"—who I guarantee you have it much worse being "used" than the children who are coming to your door—to make the products you're giving out.

October 25, 2011

Would it not be better for everyone to find a solution like ...
maybe get the neighbourhood school to do a fundraiser selling bags of Free Trade chocolate in lots of time to hand out at halloween so the child labour chocolate is never purchased?

October 25, 2011

I like that idea too, giving people more opportunities to make the right choice.

Why not do both?

Monica Selby
October 25, 2011

Great post, Caryn!  So much truth here.  I don't know about other people's kids, but mine are too young to truly understand the concept of child labor/fair trade chocolate.  If I had them participate in this, it would definitely be using them to push a message.

It's a fine line, in America, to care about causes while also caring about the people around us.  Beating people over the head, making them feel guilty, and insulting them does little for the real issue--freeing children from the horrors of child labor.  If we care about this, we can hand out fair trade chocolate ourselves; we don't have to berate our neighbors for grabbing the Snickers.

October 25, 2011

I read this right after returning from whole foods with my fair trade candy to hand out on Halloween :). I will say, I kind of disagree with you on this post. I guess I take the whole reverse trick or treating as a way to educate people on an issue I think the vast majority know nothing about. It is hard to believe, but pretty much every major candy company in the u.s. buys there chocolates from farms that are guilty of forced slave and child labor. And we seem perfectly comfortable to ignore that fact because it takes place on another continent. I can't imagine we would be so keen on trick or treating if the child labor was taking place with American kids. You can bet people would educate themselves and boycot those brands of candy. I think reverse trick or treating is just a way of educating people on an issue that does not receive a lot of attention so that maybe next year they can make different choices with their money. And if enough people start to do that you can bet the candy companies will take notice.

October 25, 2011

I guess my problem is just that I try to teach my children to be polite and say thank you after they receive a treat from an adult and the idea strikes me as having the potential to turn rather rude. I've never seen it done. Maybe I'm wrong. I would be all for someone attaching the business card of the store where they bought the Fair Trade chocolate to the chocolate so I could find more for Christmas events. 

Maybe the children are all perfectly polite with a nice "Here is what we are giving out, thought you might like one." or something like that. 
Anyone who does let or ask their child participate in Global Exchange should monitor their child for signs of stress and not push too hard.Hey I've been tempted to give out candy canes. After all the next day is the start of the Christmas Season. Unless candy canes are made by child labour too? Must research... Do Santa's elves count as a sweat shop labour? jk LOL

October 25, 2011

Ken, I appreciate your last sentences.  If families participate at all in Halloween fun, then there is definitely confusion and mixed messages for kids.  Perhaps supporting the Fair Trade movement the day after trick or treating, starting with your own family and friends; make it a life-style cause, not just a Halloween (or Valentine's Day) statement; get your church to use fair trade coffee and tea at their functions; get your church to sell fair trade products, including excellent chocolate, to members, educating the congregation in the process.

October 25, 2011

I wonder whatever happened to the "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" campaign---it was quite popular when I was a kid in grade school in the early '60's. 
 I find myself being a bit critical of people and programs which target dates and popular events for an alternative message---(how can we turn Christmas on end?) ---unless they continue that message 24/7, 365. Is the tract or the Gideon testament a true gift to neighbors and strangers, or is it public snark, expressed displeasure for the events of the day? Would the tract be given out with the same zeal on Nov. 1, or Jan. 1 or July 1 as well?  If not, just turn off the yard lights and do not participate.
In answer to the call for fair trade-type alternatives:  Start a campaign in local churches, schools, community centers, to use Fair Trade products---coffee, tea, chocolate---for all their functions; volunteer to act as coordinator/broker for distributing goods and collecting money from purchases, etc. Sell the non-profit idea to local institutions and businesses.

October 26, 2011

Caryn, agreed on both your points.

I don't think Jesus would give little kids pieces of paper instead of candy on Halloween. In Luke 11:11 He talks about what a bummer it is to ask for bread and get a stone. If you feel you must give out tracts, make the message important and the recipient important by wrapping your message around a full-sized chocolate bar, preferable Godiva or at least Dove (seriously, not generic!) And please, share positive messages about the love and grace of God instead of indictments about participating in Halloween.

If fair trade matters to adults then let them give out fair trade candy themselves. Recruiting a bunch of kids to market the message seems a little bit like child labor to me.

Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira
October 26, 2011

I would think if the kids cared about it, they wouldn't trick or treat. And there are probably some kids out there who do this (God bless them! Seriously!) 

My kids, for example, want to see the horrors of puppy mills end. And they talk to their little friends about how they should adopt dogs from shelters, etc. My kids would not (nor would I allow them to) go buy a puppy from a pet store (which all come from puppy mills) and then simply hand the owner a card. That would be ridiculous. Right? 

That's what I'm saying here.

And I agree that child slavery is MUCH more "offensive" than child-pushed agendas. I just want us to think thru the techniques we use.

Thanks for the comment!

October 26, 2011

We don't buy chocolate because of child slavery issues. It is a luxury good, so there's no mandate that we buy it. I was a steady chocoholic until 2000 when I first read about the disturbing situation in the Ivory Coast. I haven't intentionally purchased chocolate (commodity or fair trade) in over a decade.

Our three kids (the oldest is in elementary school) do not eat chocolate (it is an acquired taste). We only trick or treat a few friends' homes. We give out non-chocolate treats to Trick or Treaters. Hospitality is our primary goal for guests.

While some of our community knows of our objection to chocolate, that information is not necessary at every juncture.

Our children are taught to say "thank you,"  whatever they are given. If a person pressures our children to eat the item immediately, the kids simply say that they don't eat chocolate.

At parties our kids decline chocolate politely and we give them a different treat afterward.

I also received Equal Exchange's reverse trick or treat email. I would no more do that than I would tell a gracious host why I don't eat chocolate when they offer a meticulously made and most likely extraordinary chocolate dish. Education rarely works when it costs another person's dignity.

I periodically blog about why I don't eat chocolate, but it is counterproductive to offend people showing only goodwill. We can have that discussion later (or I can send you the post), if someone should ask.

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