Granola bars instead of chocolate bars. Pencils instead of popcorn balls. Toothbrushes instead of Tootsie Rolls. What is this world coming to? I even heard one eco-friendly blogger say, “Let’s celebrate the holiday, not the candy.” I hate to tell you, but when it comes to Halloween, the candy IS the holiday.

When I was a kid, the highlight of the fall season was the annual trek from house to house to gather as many Butterfingers candy bars as I possibly could. I’d snag one of the king-sized pillowcases off my mom and dad’s bed, the better to hold all my loot. When my brothers and sister and I got home, we’d dump our booty in the middle of the family room rug. Mom would do a quick once-over to remove any suspicious-looking items (and a 3 Musketeers or two), and then the trading floor would open.

The four of us would spend the next three weeks swapping Swedish fish for M&Ms and haggling over the going price for Good ‘n’ Plenties. I could cite to the ounce how much candy I had, and if even so much as a Jujube was missing, I’d know it. The trading and candy snarfing carried us well into November, when only the thought of preparing our Christmas lists from the Sears catalog could distract us.

Fast forward a few decades. Now, my kids are lucky if they can come home with a Baggie full of treats, let alone a pillowcase full. Instead, parents are encouraged to hand out “alternative” items, like pencils (like we don’t have enough of those cheapo splintier things), stickers (ditto), and themed puzzles whose pieces will be lost faster than I could demolish a green apple Now & Later.

I understand the need to wean our kids off of high fructose corn syrup and sweets as a reward for all occasions. I’m in favor of reducing the overall amount of sugar and empty calories consumed by this nation. But Halloween is not the place to do it.

Yes, twenty percent of kids in the US are obese. Yes, that statistic shocks and saddens me. But could the weight be due more because of frequent trips to McDonalds and hours sitting in front of the television, rather than one night — or even a week — of overdoing it on the candy? Line up every beefy kid in the fifty states, and I bet on a stack of Snickers bars (my personal favorite) that not one of them is fat because he or she went trick-or-treating.

Let the kids have their holiday. Let them eat a Peanut Butter Cup every day for a week — or even two! Run around the yard or take a walk around the block after dinner. Make them brush their teeth an extra time before bed. Then take the rest of their candy and dump it in the trash.

I know parents love their kids and want the best for them. But let’s ease up at holiday time and focus on the other 51 weeks of the year. Our kids are trying to make memories here, and I sincerely doubt that thirty years from now, they’re going to have fond recollections of the made-in-China junk they collected on Halloween.