Why candy? America is a melting pot so it should come as no surprise that Halloween is a mix of quite a few old world traditions from a variety of countries. I first searched “why do we give out candy for Halloween” and Google did not disappoint.
Sidebar: I have always wondered if the costumed child is asking me “trick or treat?” Shouldn’t they perform a trick or give me the treat? And if it’s a demand like “trick or treat!” Well that’s just rude and presumptive. So here you go.
Candy, like Valentine’s Day and other “Hallmark” holidays, is a product of advertising and consumerism. When the “Baby Boomer” generation began trick or treating, the candy companies, coming off the sugar rations of WWII, found a great way to peddle their product and make a decent dollar between the big holidays of Easter and Christmas. Because Jesus means chocolate after all.
The wearing of costumes and being handed candy by strangers really took off in the 1970’s and has grown to become the holiday we know and love.
History lesson: The entire thing is taken from a Celtic tradition of signing songs at someone’s doorstep dressed in a costume of a ghost or ghoul to send their loved ones’ souls on to the afterlife, leaving treats to appease the dead. Beggars would come to doors to do the singing in exchange for the treats. Probably the first instance of outsourcing.
There is also a tradition from France that sounds a lot like “Dia De Los Muertos”, Day of the Dead from Mexican culture, i.e. Coco by Disney. The French believed that on a certain day of the year the dead would return to the earth and the living would gather to celebrate and pay homage to them. Actually, this is exactly like Day of the Dead.
It should come as no surprise that Disney has a direct hand in present day Halloween. In 1952 they produced the first Halloween cartoon, starring Donald Duck. One year after the first comic strip ran acknowledging the holiday. That comic strip? Peanuts. It is the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
So when you are relishing your treats and have enjoyed a few tricks, you may thank ancient Celtic tradition, the French, Mexican culture and good old fashioned American consumerism. Happy Halloween Everyone!