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The Politics of Halloween Candy

52 comments | October 30th, 2012

(by Mir)

It was during my childhood that the Fear Police decided that Halloween candy should be checked for razor blades and cyanide. For a few glorious years before whatever triggered the fear that your neighbors were trying to kill your kids, we trick-or-treated unabashed, gorging ourselves on whatever we found in our bags, and discarding the apples and boxed of raisins simply because they weren't candy, not because there was a fear that they might be deadly.

Back in the pre-fear days, it wasn't unusual to get a baggie full of unwrapped candy—the more frugal neighbors simply created smaller portions from a larger bag, rather than buying individually wrapped—and often such bags contained a variety of candy, so that you could pick through a single "serving" and have everything from cordials to pretzels. And while we always tossed the plain, inevitably stale popcorn balls neighborhood grandmas seemed compelled to distribute, the rare caramel apple or caramel (or even, if we were lucky, chocolate-drizzled) popcorn ball was cause for celebration.

But then, of course, came the various edicts: Never eat anything unwrapped. Check wrappers for signs of tampering. Never eat fruit or other homemade items. Children everywhere heaved a sigh of relief at no longer being pestered to enjoy "that nice apple" or box of Sun-Maid raisins, but throwing away the baggies of good (albeit unwrapped) candy was somewhat sobering.

Despite that shift, I find that many of the "rules" of candy consumption from my youth seem to still stick with my in adulthood. To wit:

1) Candy classification. I have very clear memories of the serious business of dumping out our bounty after trick-or-treating and dividing the haul into piles of Most Desirable, Second Tier, Will Eat When Everything Else Is Gone, and Who Wants It. Most desirable candy would include things like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Mounds/Almond Joy, 100,000 Bars and Whatchamacallits (do those still exist?), Snickers/Milky Way, Krackle/Crunch Bar, Twix, Pop Rocks, and M&Ms. Second Tier would be things like JuJuBees, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, candy corn, and good gum like Juicy Fruit. The grudgingly-consumed candy would be stuff like plain Hershey's Miniatures and Gobstoppers. Candy that languished in the bottom of the bucket was always stuff like salt water taffy and Paydays, and those were invariably from senior citizens who thought such things were a real treat. Heh.

2) Candy consumption rules. My parents attempted to set limits on the amount of candy consumed per day. So there would be edicts like "you can have two pieces after dinner," which then meant we kids would do our darndest to twist the rule to our favor as best we could. Which candies were biggest? A bag of M&Ms was technically only one piece even though it had a lot of pieces inside of it, right? Etc. Once I reached adulthood and my own children were bringing candy home, I delighted in watching them go through similar mental gymnastics to maximize their candy consumption at any given time, but I'll also confess to my own bouts of "I'll just eat this candy to get rid of it" because I didn't want there to be candy in the house, lest I'd be tempted to eat it. (You got that? That I was eating candy, so that I wouldn't… eat candy? So logical!)

3) Candy classification and rules influencing my buying habits. I am a full-grown adult and I still feel like I shouldn't be allowed to have candy if I want it. Or maybe it's that I feel like I have no control when it comes to having candy in the house. Either way, that seems rather pathetic when I write it out like that. Come Halloween season, depending on what state of mind I'm in about my body and my eating habits, I will purchase candy for our trick-or-treaters accordingly. If I feel okay about sneaking a few treats, I'll buy the good stuff I like. (This almost never happens, by the way.) If I'm feeling yucky about myself/my body, I buy candy I don't like (though I still try to buy something I think kids like; salt water taffy for Halloween still seems like a cruel joke, to me). And now that I have a problem with gluten, I just buy stuff with wheat in it so that I can't eat it. (Did you know Twizzlers are made with wheat? So unfair.)

All of this aside, yes, I will confess to nicking candy from my kids' stashes. I consider it a parental tax. And neither of them like Reese's Cups, so really, I'm performing a public service. Now if I could just ditch the stab of shame that comes with it….

Got any Halloween candy memories to share? What's your favorite goody for the season, and will you buy candy, or do you deprive yourself because of hang-ups?

(for More Mir, Go Here)
 

52 comments

  • Rosie

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Pixie sticks! I bought a whole bag of ‘em, and I might even hand a couple out to trick-or-treaters. The rest I plan to pour down my throat in an undisguised orgy of flavored sugar.

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  • Mary Fran

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    As I said on Facebook, you can have my Mounds and Almond Joy. My brother and I always gave those up right away. My husband and I love Take5′s and up until this year, the kids were oblivious. Now they love them. So I buy a couple bags and hide them. We won’t share.

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  • Leslie Ross

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    I’m sorry, I’m over here feeling too shocked about the fact that your kids don’t like Reese’s PB cups to write an appropriate response. Whaaaa?

    Although I am totally with you in that I apparently don’t believe I deserve to have candy around – so I generally buy stuff I dislike. Or I buy the stuff I like but wait to get it until right before Halloween so it minimizes the amount of time to have stuffing my face. Which, come on, self, I’m an adult and can make the decision to eat a mini Snickers after dinner without it being a big horrible thing.

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    • Mir

      Posted on October 30, 2012

      My son used to be anaphylactic to peanuts, and my daughter actually developed a mild peanut allergy as a teen. Weird, right?? Now neither of them will touch anything that has so much as gone near peanut butter.

      Oh, well. More Reese’s for me!

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  • Brenda

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Whatchamacallits are my favorite, they do still make them, and I look for them at gas stations when we are on any road trip.

    The favorite at Halloween are 100,000 bars… yum.

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  • Brooke

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Ah yes, the Halloween Fear. I was young when that hit and my mother banned trick or treating. We were sad. But then The Great Pumpkin (of Charlie Brown fame) visited us on Halloween night and only brought us our favorites. No second or third tier candy – just FIRST tier!!! We’ve happily welcomed The Great Pumpkin ever since.

    Thanks for the heads up on Twizzlers. Hubby loves them but can’t do wheat. He will be sad.

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  • Wendy

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    My brother was seriously allergic to peanuts. my mom felt the obvious solution was that she would pull out all of the peanut related candy from his bag and all of the non-peanut related candy from mine and he was allowed a “candy per candy” trade AT HIS DISCRESSION.

    Which, ok, fine, I can see the trade being ok. however, I DISLIKE peanuts. I’m not allergic to them, but I’m not a fan of them For Sure. So he’d get all my “good candy” like twix and kit kats and 3 musketeers and I’d get stuck with all of this stuff with peanuts in it. No matter how many times I just asked if we could pull out all of the peanuts from BOTH BAGS and toss it, she wouldn’t hear it.

    Halloween basically pissed me off as a kid. ha.

    at any rate, right now there are two bags of kit kats just for me in the bottom of my fridge. I refuse to share with my kids and I refuse to hand them out. TAKE THAT Halloweens of the Past!

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    • Mir

      Posted on October 31, 2012

      That does seem cruel and unusual, Wendy. When my son was allergic we allowed him to trade with his sister (at her discretion) and then “sell” us the remainder. He was usually happier with a handful of change than the candy, weirdo.

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  • Cheryl

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    We used to go through our bags when we got home and pulled out all the “crap” we did not plan to eat – salt water taffy, kisses (the gross ones) and any other yucky stuff. Next kid that came to the door got it all – we would put it in a soup/cereal bowl and then dump the whole thing into the unsuspecting kid’s bag. They would scream like they just won a lottery.
    Also – there was a lady lived around the corner that made the BEST cinammon buns, just for Halloween. You would knock on her door, and if she knew you, be invited in. She would have small tables set up in her living room, and you actually sat down with a plate and napkin and ate your warm bun right there. I still giggle when I picture all the parents standing around in the yard, waiting. They were not invited in – this was just for the kids. If she did not know you, then she just handed out regular candy. It was awesome!!!

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  • Em

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    I like the way your mind works. So, I have given up a few rules from my childhood. I read some statistic that something like 4 kids were ever attempted to be poisoned with Halloween candy and it turned out to be by their mothers. So I don’t inspect anymore. How do you like that? I’m wild! That said, my kids don’t generally eat loose candies just because that is weird. But inspect each store bought twix? Nah.

    I also pretty much let them gorge themselves. I mean, it’s their candy and it is kind of on the same principal of you eating it so it isn’t in the house. Let’s just get this over with and get the candy gone. For this reason, I raid their bags with abandon. Well, not abandon. I don’t tell them and I start with the stuff they have the most of but I eat it so they’ll be healthy and won’t eat as much candy. I DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN!

    When buying Halloween candy, I usually buy one extra bag that I expect to polish off myself. What? I don’t get to trick or treat! This year I bought 2 five pound bags of candy from BJ’s (I don’t usually go so big) and there is one left. I blame the hurricane. Next year, I will either buy smaller bags or wait until any potential weather has passed.

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  • Jan in Norman, OK

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Freshman year in college (1970). One young woman who lived on the same dorm floor was about 4’10″. We bought her a mask, wrapped a sheet around her, and hit the trick-or-treat trail. Took our candy back to the dorm and ate it while listening to the college radio station’s Halloween special broadcast of that old Orson Wells “War of the Worlds”.

    Ah, youth…

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  • Meg

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    We get a visit from the Great Pumpkin on Halloween night. Each kiddo gets to pick 15 pieces of candy they want to keep, and after they go to bed the Great Pumpkin comes and trades the rest for a toy. They do a good job sorting through and keeping the good stuff. On Halloween night her dad and I pig out on the leftovers and the rest is thrust upon my poor co-workers. The kids like it because they are greedier for toys than candy.

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  • My Kids Mom

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    No one comes to T or T at our house (only my own kids), but “just in case” we put candy outside while our whole family goes out together. (I’d be so lonely if I didn’t go with the kids!) I buy stuff we like since we’re sure to have it leftover. Up until recently, we sent all the peanut products to work with my husband. Then I got the kids allergy tested. Now they want to keep it. It helped diminish the stash since about a third of it seems to be peanuty. They gorge themselves that night then put it in a family bowl to eat as dessert forever. This year we might make a gingerbread house to take for Thanksgiving. Hopefully it will use up lots of candy and cousins and grandparents will get to help eat it.

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  • KarenP

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Last year we only had 3 trick or treaters. I haven’t even purchased any candy. Might just buy one bag. If I buy three musketeer bars I won’t be tempted to eat them. However, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups are my downfall. Too many years I bought Reese’s and we have never had more than 20 kids show up so of course I had to eat them. Maybe I should buy skittles mini packs. Going on a plane trip to Hawaii and I almost always eat skittles on a plane for some crazy reason.

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  • suburbancorrespondent

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    You forgot to put Butterfingers and MaryJanes in the lowest tier. Also, malted milk balls.

    Our kids are allowed to eat as much as they want on Halloween; then they pick out 15 pieces of candy (and yes, they do prize the packets of Skittles because that only counts as 1 piece) to eat over the next 10 days or so. I pay them a dime for each piece of candy they don’t keep or eat.

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  • Lisa

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    We’ve lived in this house for 12 years now. It’s a nice little suburban neighborhood, but most of the homes belong to people whose children are grown (though we have had a little turnover in the past couple of years). We might get 15-20 trick-or-treaters on Halloween. But one year, it was like all the mothers in our town got together and decided to drive their kids to our neighborhood to t-o-t. We actually ran out of candy! So now, just in case, I buy two big bags at Costco–one that’s chocolate-y (my preference) and one that’s fruity (the ds’s preference). It’ll keep us fed until Christmas!

    And for the record: I grew up in an old Victorian in a non-gentrified neighborhood, in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the nation. We were surrounded by tenement apartments. My brothers and I were *never* allowed to trick-or-treat. Halloween was a non-event in our house. :(

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    • Em

      Posted on October 30, 2012

      We had extra trick or treaters last year because there was a blizzard that cancelled trick or treat in a number of surrounding towns so they all just came here. (Don’t get me started on “cancelling” Halloween, or even rescheduling. Go or don’t go. You earn your candy on snowy nights!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    I grew up in the 90s and ate a ton of non-sanctioned candy because my neighborhood was filled with immigrants. So I remember getting really neat homemade candy with sesame seeds and honey: it was fantastic! I’ve bowed to the pressure now to get individually wrapped candy, but I try to at least get something a little unusual.

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    • Mir

      Posted on October 31, 2012

      I absolutely LOVE that sesame seed candy!! So cool that your neighborhood just bucked the “rules.”

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      • Anonymous

        Posted on October 31, 2012

        That’s called halvah – it’s an Israeli candy and you can buy it commercially in the U.S. (though commercial can’t touch homemade for taste).

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        • Anonymous

          Posted on October 31, 2012

          Hi, original Anon here.

          It’s not halvah (though halvah is certainly tasty too!) because it wasn’t paste, but rather whole sesame seeds and honey brittle, so more like pasteli in texture/composition.

          Thanks for the tip though! Maybe next year I’ll see if I can find some wrapped version to hand out. Last year I gave out a chile tamarind candy that was a hit, and this year dried candied plums. I try to keep it creative, cause it does bug me that I have to follow the ‘rules’ (I’ve moved to a much more suburban zone, so I’m sure I would get emails from concerned parents and maybe icily polite notes in my mailbox, if I tried to hand out anything homemade).

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  • katiefleck

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    Last year my kids hauled in 33lbs of candy. I’m not joking, I need to find the picture of the box of candy on the scale. Granted I have 5 kids and we live in “pretty little boxes close together on flat suburban streets with lots of families with young kids.” If you can imagine the most perfect place to trick or treat, that’s where I live. Everyone hands out 2-4 pieces of candy per trick or treater too. It’s ridiculous.

    Anyway all this candy means I struggle with what to do with it all on Nov 1st. My kids don’t generally get candy through the year so they will gorge themselves until they puke. Limits are important. The Mommy Tax is Twix, Kit Kats, and Butterfingers (which interestingly enough I only eat at Halloween. They don’t taste right the rest of the year.) I give out Skittles and Starbursts because I don’t like the sugary fruity candy so it’s safe to buy before. The last few years I’ve been bringing the “extra” candy to college with me because nursing students need sugar and chocolate. Course this is my senior year so I lose this option next year. Oh well.

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  • Brigid

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    I actually salivated when you said Lick Em Stick. Oh my. I miss the days of eating those little packs of pure sugar, with a pure sugar spoon with which to scoop, no less.

    I have pictures of my son on when he was almost 2 eating his first ever piece of chocolate. It was halloween and he ended up with chocolate drool all over his shirt. Ahhh, the memories. So cute.

    I’ve made my way through about half a bag of Reese’s cups in the last 2 weeks which is 10x my chocolate consumption over the last 4 months. Guess I’ll start again in a week. I need the serotonin to get through the last week until the election. THEN I will either start anew or just stick my head in a chocolate fountain in an attempt to end it all.

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  • meghann @ midgetinvasion

    Posted on October 30, 2012

    As someone who doesn’t like chocolate, Halloween was less fun for me. On the flip side, one of the random candies I DO like are those orange and cherry tootsie rolls. The only time you can find those is Halloween, so finding one in my loot was like finding gold.

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  • Therese

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    I found the most perfect bag of snacks the other day–mini bags of peanut M&Ms and mini Snickers in one bag!!. Since we get no trick or treaters, it was my duty to consume ALL those treats. And now that they are all gone, I have the most monstrous ZIT. Absolutely disgusting. Not sure if it was worth it.

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  • Jennifer

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    We live outside of the town proper in a neighborhood of mostly folks with grown children. For the last 13 years I had the boys convinced that it was against Halloween Rules to trick or treat OUTSIDE of your own neighborhood. Of course my 2 are 2 of the maybe 5 trick or treaters that come to our neighborhood, so they get loaded up – last year each kid got his own PACKAGE of Oreos!!!! There’s some “Mom tax” on the haul and some limits on how much they can eat. This year they found mini bags of pistachios to hand out. They’re in heaven!

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  • Cathy

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    I’m heading to a friend’s house to pass out candy tonight since our place doesn’t get trick-or-treaters. I bought three bags of top tier candy (Snickers, York Peppermint Patties and 3 Musketeers) a week ago and was being so good about not opening them… then I got home from work on Monday and my husband had opened ALL THREE to “sample” them. I did pretty well; I didn’t eat toooo much of it… but he completely pigged out on the Snickers and York. He decided to buy more to replenish the stash for tonight, and the only thing I requested was no Reeses, since my self-control jumps out the nearest window if someone puts something with peanut butter in front of me.

    The jerk bought TWO BAGS of Reeses. I might file for divorce.

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  • Corey

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    An awesome throwback to the good ol’ days in our neighborhood: a family that has lived here since the beginning of time (lovely, old Victorian house among the ramblers and split-levels) hands out “bat juice,” which is hot chocolate from a cauldron on the front porch. If the kids want a ghost story, the family is happy to regale with stories of hauntings in their house.

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  • Frank

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    I wonder… do all kids, especially boys, go through the stages: Young (HALLOWEEN ZOMG!!), Older (Trick or Treating is for babies, I’m too old for that), Teen.. (FREE CANDY???? ZOMG How do I look enough like a little kid and fool people???) I know I did… and almost missed one Halloween when my friends came to get me (we were like 15) all dressed up.
    As far as Candy went… anything was fair game at our house. Mom let me eat a couple pieces a day. I avoided /gave away / traded my Maryjanes, Sugar Daddies, and Whoppers, along with Mounds and Almond Joys (didnt like coconut). I also gave away lollipops that werent Tootsie pops or Blopops. Speaking of which.. havent heard anyone mention Tootsie anywhere… they definitely were a Halloween favorite, and I only remember them at Halloween time.

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  • Arnebya

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    We used to have a Halloween party for the entire neighborhood when I was a child. Envisioning it now, I can’t even comprehend how we all fit into the basement (because once I was an adult, that room seemed to be unable to hold more than 8 kids at a time).

    Weirdo alert: I still can’t seem to call chocolate candy. To me, chocolate is chocolate. Candy is things like Starburst, Skittles, Smarties, Pixie Stix, Fun Dip, Alexander the Grape, Now and Laters, Sweet Tarts, Runts, Nerds AND NOW I’M SALIVATING!

    My kids will probably not trick or treat this year (it’s wet, it’s cold, and oh, yeah, they’re costumeless because I am mother of the year) but I do have a bag or four to share with them (and then hide!).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    My Dad takes his job as secuirty for a local hospital VERY seriously so when we were little, we would Trick or Treat at the mall where the local police would generously swipe a metal detector wand over the candy you collected. Good times. I am an unashamed Candy Lover who covets Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Twix above all others. My daughter is now at the age where she prefers to stay home and hand out candy while critiquing the other kids choices in Halloween costumes. She is of the Laffy Taffy, Sour Patch Kids and Kit Kat persuasion. And guys, because this is very important to me, it was originally called LIK-M-AID and is now called Fun Dip. Lik-A-Stix are the name for the marshmallow flavored sticks themselves. It’s one of the candies I like steal from my child, though it seems to be mor

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  • Kim

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    I am all about the fact that mine don’t like Reeses, even the one who ate PBJ every stinking day for at least 2 years. We are at the top of a very steep hill with one other house – nobody ever comes to trick or treat or see our jack-o-lanterns. But this year I had October bunko, so we had M&M’s and Snickers and Tootsie Roll Pops in the house.
    THink I’m going to the Switch Witch thing on Friday, after a few days of candy binges….

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  • Carol

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    I am the daughter of a dentist and a former dental hygienist. Candy was considered one of the deadly sins when I was growing up, hence I ate it whenever I could get my hands on it. I scarfed down candy bars, sugared snacks etc., by the boatload when no one was looking. When I had my own kids, I decided that moderation was everything. Candy would be one more nice thing in a world of nice things.

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  • paula

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    one house in our neighborhood hands out brussel sprouts every year. it’s funny to see all the brussel sprouts rolling around in the road the following morning, although i heard last year that one neighborhood boy found a hershey kiss nestled in the center of his! tricky treat!

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  • ScottsdaleGirl

    Posted on October 31, 2012

    OMG remember ‘bit o honey’? GAG!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Brigitte

    Posted on November 1, 2012

    I LIKE Bit ‘O Honey! I also loved homemade toasted pumpkin seeds, but would ditch those stale popcorn balls. And I still like to razz my sister for stealing my tangerine Lifesavers, oh, 40 years or so ago!

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