Halloween Giving? Yes, Giving.

What for years seemed like extreme cruelty, now impresses me as heroic parenting.

The parent in this case was my mother who, back in the 1950s, thought the Three Stooges were too violent, carrot and celery sticks were excellent snacks, and putting a piano in my childhood bedroom would inspire me to practice in between lessons.*Shouldn’t be too difficult to guess what Halloween was like during my formative years – I collected pennies for UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) instead of candy. And so what if I haven’t needed a dental cavity filled since the early 1960s, pennies instead of candy? Pennies? Really? Really.

For decades, the annual pennies-for-UNICEF-on-Halloween drill was on the  list of childhood grievances I’d recite in psychotherapy. No, it wasn’t at the top – I’ve never been quite that nuts. Still, it was on the list of childhood never-quite-experienced.

Now that I’m older, not only do I appreciate my mother’s passion for social justice, but I love her for hard wiring it into me.  I don’t wait for Halloween to make charitable contributions. I also buy “fun size” candy bars all year long. Thanks be to God.

*FYI: they were, they weren’t, it didn’t.

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Meredith Gould
Meredith Gould, PhD, is the author of seven books, including The Catholic Home: Celebrations and Traditions for Holidays, Feast Days, and Every Day, Why Is There a Menorah on the Altar? Jewish Roots of Christian Worship, and The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today. She serves on the team at The Virtual Abbey and founded the Twitter chat for church social media (#chsocm).


  1. I too collected for Unicef for a few years through the Catholic elementary school program I went to for my education. I was able to get candy along side with the pennies though. I hope I’m not spoiled! (just kidding) Also, does Unicef still support abortion efforts? I’m not sure. I think they did at one time.

  2. Just so you all know, my mother made me watch UNICEF newsreels of Danny Kaye with children covered in yaws, so other stuff is hard wired, too. Lord, have mercy.

  3. Meredith, Here’s to mothers who do what’s right, kids who get hard-wired to social justice and to fun bars all year round.

  4. Meredith, I love your posts and knew this one had to be by you before I came to your name. I also Trick or Treated for Unicef but was allowed to have Halloween candy as well. My mother thought lollipops were an appropriate every day snack. Needless to say, my dental record is not as good as yours!


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