I have a special attachment to Halloween.
Nearly 20 years ago, we celebrated this crazy day of costumes and candy with tremendous relief. My then 2-year-old daughter had just been diagnosed with celiac disease after a scary — much scarier than any dressed-up ghoul — rapid decline from a healthy toddler to one who couldn’t walk and could barely hold up her head.
But by Halloween she was on a gluten-free diet, nearly back to herself and so excited to wear her unicorn costume and go out collecting candy. I think of that every year when pumpkins and ghosts start appearing.
Certainly we were a little afraid of what to do about Halloween candy given that we were so new to the diet and there was so little gluten-free information available then. But my daughter was so happy about the holiday we were determined to find a way to keep her safe while not ruining it for her.
In the pictures we have from that year, she looks a little gaunt because of all the weight she had lost while sick, but there’s huge smile on her face as she sits surrounded by all her candy spread on the floor.
From that first year until the last she trick-or-treated we used a trading system — for every piece of candy she had to give up because it contained cookies or wafers or rice crispy pieces or any kind of gluten, she could choose one from our stash of gluten-free Halloween treats.
So she grew up loving Halloween and had more gusto for it, from picking and planning a costume to hiking the length and breadth of our neighborhood, than our other two children. The year she was Cinderella, it poured. But she was not deterred and came home soaking wet but happily clutching a pillow case loaded with candy.
This year I found the perfect card to send her at college. It had a drawing of many streets and homes with a little ghost making its way through them. “So little time, so many houses,” it said, capturing her Halloween philosophy.
So I hope all the children who follow a gluten-free diet have a happy and memorable Halloween. For their parents, I would advise using the trade system, as well as emphasizing all the fun of carving a pumpkin, making pumpkin seeds, decorating the porch, dressing in costume and then combing the streets when it’s dark. The candy is important too, I know that. But don’t let worry about it cast a pall on Halloween
Here’s a candy list to help you out. (Make sure you always read package labels as these are the most up-to-date sources of information. For example, Nestle now includes a label statement on several Wonka brand products that says they are made in a facility that also processes wheat. This includes Bottle Caps, Gobstoppers, Nerds, Runts, Spree and Sweet Tarts.)
Happy Halloween and Best Witches,