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  • Betty Girardeau

Trick or Treat


I feel sorry for children and some adults for whom Halloween has been one of the best and most fun times of the year. Like so many things this year, with more to come, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, Halloween festivities have had to be muted, if not altogether cancelled. As an adult I have never enjoyed dressing up in a costume and being something or someone that I am not, probably because I don't have a clever enough imagination for this sort of thing. But I can easily understand the appeal it has for others. And I have always liked the other trappings of Halloween, carved pumpkins, candy corn, caramel or cinnamon apples, ghost and witches stories, and Trick or Treating. There is also some pretty interesting history associated with with this activity. For example, do you know the history of candy corn, one of the most popular of all Halloween candies? It has been around longer than there has been Trick of Treat night, in fact. It was invented in 1880 in Philadelphia by candy maker George Renninger. In those days agriculture related treats were quite popular because more Americans lived on farms than in the city. Its original name was "Chicken Feed" and its logo was a rooster with the tagline "Something to crow about." Its name was not changed to Candy Corn until sometime in the 1950's when Trick or Treating became popular and candy companies started marketing treats especially for children on Halloween. In fact, much of what we now associate with Halloween is tied to costumed children going door to door in their neighborhood and getting treats of various kinds in their bags. We can thank the candy industry for that. Prior to 1916 Christmas and Easter were the two major holidays for peddling sweets. Executives in the candy companies were looking for a way to boost fall sales, so they came up with the idea for "Candy Day," which would be held on the second Sunday in October. They marketed it as a holiday of goodwill and friendship, though they were actually more interested in making money rather than promoting anything else. At some point they changed the name to the "Sweetest Day," and it held that title until the 1950's. In the post depression, post World War II era neighborhood parents had started trying to come up with an idea for an organized activity to keep their children out of trouble on All Hallows Eve. Passing out treats began to be seen as a better alternative to tricks. By the time I was a child Trick or Treating had become an established Halloween activity and the candy manufacturers had begun to shift their attention away from "The Sweetest Day" and began to promote candy as the perfect treat to pass out on Trick or Treat night. "Chicken Feed" candies easily morphed into "Candy Corn" and its sales skyrocketed to where today some 35 million tons of it are sold annually. That is a pretty good percentage of the 600 million tons of Halloween candy that is usually bought each year. Probably not that much will be sold this year. Like many industries in 2020, the candy one will likely be hit negatively by Covid-19. Maybe we should head right out to our local markets right now and buy Halloween candy and some little treat bags to fill which we would then deliver to our neighbors this evening because I think right now we need to have a "Sweetest Day" again.

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