Post # 65 Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2012 at 10:27 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 65 Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween and Happy New Year!  I’ve always looked on Halloween as the celebration of candy.  It’s one of those times of the year when the food defines the feast.  It’s all about candy, and getting as much as you can.  Kids go from door to door begging and amassing vast quantities of the stuff.  Adults have parties and indulge in child-like behaviors for a night.  Halloween has been celebrated all over the world in various forms for many years dating back at least to the time of Robert Burns (mid 1700s) and Shakespeare (late 1500s).

The phrase “Trick or Treat” and the custom of going door to door begging for candy define the Halloween tradition here in America.  The begging started in the late 1800s, and the phrase probably originated in the western states in the early 1900s before making its way east.  The costumes add anonymity and date back to celtic days.  Trick or Treating was a scattered, localized event, but after WWII, it became a national craze.  Many traditions and customs and myths grew from it.

First, when the custom started of going from door to door asking for treat, candy was seldom part of the offer.  Usually, people offered fruit that was plentiful at the time of year, mostly apples, and baked goods such as cookies or cupcakes.  Popcorn was also a traditional treat and was dressed in many ways, but the popularity of the popcorn ball made it a regular treat.  Popped corn was added to a sweet boiled syrup, or boiled sugar and formed by hand into balls and allowed to harden.  The salty and sweet treat was a big hit.

Gradually, convenience and safety concerns overtook the homemade quality of the celebration and individually wrapped candy became the treat of choice.  The icons of the celebration became those images that scared us most.  Witches, ghosts, monsters abounded at this time of year.  It was partly because it was getting dark earlier and clouds riding across the moon showed images of flying creatures, but also because the natural night creatures like bats and owls were out earlier to catch their prey.  From the safety of their indoor fireplaces, people love to be scared and Halloween serves that purpose wonderfully.

The legends of Halloween, old and new, seem logical enough to be based in fact, but seldom are.  One of the safety concerns about the treats at this time are that nefarious people put razorblades in apples for children to bite into.  No reported case of this happening ever took place in the U.S.  In the sixties when drugs were prevalent and the national conscious became aware of the danger, the rumor was that some candy was laced with acid, or LSD, or some other type of drug.  This might have been true for the drug user/seller to pass the drug from supplier to user in an innocent looking manner, but never happened to children at Halloween.  Can you imagine any drug user/seller giving away such an expensive commodity to a child?

But, there are real safety concerns with the treats that are handed out.  Kids have food allergies.  Homemade treats aren’t subject to health standards.  Even the candy industries have taken a hit.  Today, you mostly see the major chocolate manufacturers putting their treats in small serving sizes to hand out.  When I was kid and did my begging door to door, you got a lot of different kinds of candy.   I remember that chocolate was rare and highly sought after.  If you got a small box of milk duds (chocolate covered caramel balls) you had scored!  We had piles of jawbreakers, candy corn, peanut butter taffy, salt water taffy, dumdums, sweetarts, bubble gum, lifesavers, candy pumpkins, tootsie rolls, tootsie pops, sugar daddies, sugar babies, peach stones, jujubes, boxes of dots, pixie stix, licorice in all shapes and sizes, candy stix, hard candy in every flavor and color imaginable, gum drops, lemon drops, caramels, and once in a while M&Ms.  And I mean literally piles of the stuff.  There was enough candy to keep Willie Wonka happy for weeks!  Every kid had a veritable candy store in a bag!  It was easy to be generous at first, but as the candy dwindled, hoarding began.  I don’t think I ever had a piece of Halloween candy left by Thanksgiving.

My least favorite candy (and it still is today) is candy corn.  This was a sweet confection with no discernible flavor except sugar in the shape of a kernel of corn and dyed in the colors of Halloween.  When I was kid, thankfully it could only be found at Halloween.  Now, it can be had at any time of the year.

Are you going to watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” tonight?  That shows what Halloween once was for kids, and what people are striving for it to become again.  In this age of a coming zombie apocolypse, watching Snoopy fight the Red Baron might be a more pleasant way to spend an evening.

Halloween is a lot of fun, and a not too serious time of year to celebrate, dress up, cut loose, and eat candy.  It’s another way to blow off steam after the harvest and prepare for the very serious business of surviving the winter.  But mostly, it’s fun.  I’ll leave you now with a Halloween invocation:

And a little scare:

Enjoy your candy!

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