In my opinion, the best part of Halloween when you’re a kid is dressing up for Halloween and loading yourself up with candy–pounds and mounds of delicious, teeth-rotting goodness. Even as an adult with children of my own, I still get to enjoy some favorite childhood candies. Seriously, I have to check the candy for some sign that a lunatic is trying to hurt my child- and oh! There it is…in the sour gummies. Let me consume those for you so that you don’t get sick, Little One. I do it because I love you. Let’s move on.
Believe it or not, Halloween candy doesn’t hark back to Samhain traditions or any other Celtic celebration. It seems to have started in the 1930’s and ’40s when kiddos were given everything from cookies to coins. Candy manufacturing companies saw the financial promise and began marketing candies specifically for Halloween at that time of year. Around the 1970s, candy became the preferred form of treat to give children. I mean, you don’t know what that Old Lady put in her cookies after all, do you? Your kiddos trampled her flowers more than once, so it’s a good idea to watch your back.
As an interesting side-note, the Milky Way, Snicker, Musketeer and Kit-Kat bars originated from the same family: Frank Mars and his son, Morris. Morris is also responsible for blessing the world with M&Ms. Thank you, Morris.
Although the custom of giving kids candy at Halloween doesn’t hark back to samhain in some way, a costume/food tradition might. Those Celtics sure knew how to have fun. In any case the Celts were interested in placating angry spirits so the living would wear animal skins as a costume and offer a banquet table full of food to the aforementioned angry spirits.
In England, the poor might visit wealthier neighborhoods where they would exchange promises of prayer for ‘soul cakes’. Later, children began ‘souling”–begging for gifts and food.
The Irish and Scottish kiddos would partake in ‘guising’: wearing a costume and receiving treats in exchange for a ‘trick’ they would perform, like singing, reciting a poem, or telling a joke. Now that’s what I’m talking about! The reason American children perform these Halloween rituals is easy enough to understand: the traditions were carried over by European immigrants.
And now we all have a better understanding of Halloween, it’s possible origins, and why we celebrate the way we do. Americans have made it their own thing, that’s for sure…but I love it. Bring on the scary movies and decorated lawns! Trick-or-treat until you can’t walk any more! But don’t forget to share a piece or two with your parents!
CJ Heath is not used to this kind of exhaustive research, but it sure has been fun and enlightening. She’s only shared the basics with you so if you want to understand this fun holiday better, the information is out there. In the meantime, did you eat her M&M’s??