Photo above: Margaret Hamilton as the iconic Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Halloween, that delightful fall ritual of costumes, pumpkins and trick or treating, just got a little scarier because of the new and enhanced Switch Witch.
Historically, on Halloween night, the mythological Switch Witch appeared after trick or treaters went to bed and exchanged some of the sugary loot for a token gift from the witch. Some Switch Witches on a health kick might leave a healthy snack, while others left a small toy. It was a one night only, no-fuss candy swap.
But with a one swoop of a marketer’s wand, the Switch Witch now aspires to be for Halloween what the Elf on the Shelf is for Christmas. If you have a child, you know how the Elf on the Shelf morphed from a quaint tradition to a ten million dollar a year industry with a kit that includes a book and an elf, coupled with an Elf on the Shelf cottage industry of websites and blogs listing activities for your elf in the month of December.
It’s fun and little kids love it, but a full month of the Elf amplifies holiday madness with its all-consuming daily elf moving, and elfin hijinx that range from baking cookies for kids to taking all the ornaments off of the Christmas tree. Many parents have had their Christmas spirit, along with their mental health, shattered by the pressure of a month long Elf on the Shelf visit.
And now someone wants to do the same thing to Halloween. Families can buy a Switch Witch kit (book and doll included). The book relays the legend of how the witch stays at your home for the month before Halloween to keep your little ghosts and goblins in line. The official website provides helpful suggestions about providing daily costume changes or advising that the Witch play nightly games of hide and seek. Sound familiar?
Creating magical rituals for kids is awesome. But isn’t Halloween itself magical enough without turning the Switch Witch into another event in the “Perfect Parenting Olympics”? The over-competitive moms and dads of the universe will be staying up until midnight carving pumpkins in the likeness of their kids, or leaving trails of confectionary sugar footprints to some naughty trick the Switch Witch did.
It’s an exhausting competition; stop the self-imposed madness. Not every holiday has to indulge the kids for a whole month. What’s next — the Love Bug (a month long celebration of Valentine’s Day) or Gobble Goodies (30 days of Thanksgiving festivities)?
Instead of a getting a Switch Witch, parents could learn some magical Halloween spells that accomplish the original job of the Halloween enchantress, which is to reduce holiday candy intake:
Magic spell number one: “No.” As in, “No, you can’t eat three hundred pounds of candy in one day.” Or, “No, some of that candy has to get thrown away.” Or for the charitable version of the spell: “No, you can’t keep all that sugary junk: let’s give it to soldiers, to mom’s office, to a homeless shelter.”
Another awesome spell: ”You’ll be sorry.” As in: “If you eat all three hundred pounds of candy, you’ll be sorry and throw up.” Or, “You’ll be sorry because you will be hyper and unable to get to sleep, which means I won’t sleep, and we know that ends badly for everyone.”
And for the truly brave parent who is willing to dodge the expectations from the Switch Witch tradition altogether, there is the scariest incantation of all: “Go ahead, honey, and enjoy your Halloween loot. It’s a once a year treat, and it’s ok to indulge yourself every once in a while.”
Lisa Perez Tighe has been an attorney, writer and a professor. She attended the University of Notre Dame and New York University School of Law. A native of the Bronx, Lisa currently resides outside of Boston with her husband and four children.