Posts filed under ‘Holidays’
The Snapsy story is bigger than I thought, folks.
So: Hershey’s and Russell Stover, two totally separate candy companies, both come up with the idea of chocolate rabbits to break in pieces, at the same time? I don’t think so! There’s a mole in the chocolate…bunny heads will roll.
To Russell Stover’s credit, their version at least maintains the classic chocolate bunny aesthetic. As for the name, Snapsy wins over “Break -It Rabbit” hands down.
What kid hasn’t dreamed of a huge chocolate bunny to call her own, a massive hunk of melty bliss to be consumed in one of several equally messy ways. I liked to break off the head first, then eat shards down the sides. My daughter prefers the ear-sucking method. Web-sites are devoted to bunny-eating controversy. So imagine my horror when I came upon Snapsy, the snap-apart chocolate bunny.
We can thank some horrid committee at Hershey’s for dragging the hallowed chocolate bunny into the food wars. You know the story: obesity, big food, sugar kills, eat your kale. Snapsy is Hershey’s answer to the food police.
The package promotes the bunny as “easy to snap and share,” but seriously, who shares Easter candy, especially bunnies. This travesty has nothing to do with sharing. I can just imagine how it went down in the marketing meeting: mothers are going to love this! They can give Junior this whole bunny, then faster than you can say “bait-and-switch,” they can break it into sensible portions and morsel them out one at a time.
Just look at how sad and ugly little Snapsy has become compared to his artful 3-D cousins. Snapsy is the chocolate bunny reduced to a flat, lifeless form whose contours serve the purpose of portion control and fun-sapping.
I’m all for most of the new food orthodoxy–except when it comes to candy. Listen: candy is supposed to be FUN! There should be room for silly, crazy, excessive, pleasurable, messy, kooky candies, especially when it comes to giant chocolate bunnies.
Last night my family decided to watch the classic Frank Capra film released in 1944, Arsenic and Old Lace. What a terrific surprise to discover that it is set in Brooklyn on Halloween!
And an even better treat: a glimpse of a very interesting early precursor to trick or treat. At about 24 minutes into the film, the aunties retire to the kitchen. Dashing Cary Grant follows, and we see some very strange action around the back door. A swarm of masked children are hollering and shouting and holding out their arms, and the aunties are passing them goodies. Sort of. They hand them: two big pumpkin jack o’ lanterns, and one pie.
I have done research into the origins of trick or treat: I wanted to know when kids started coming to the door, saying “trick or treat,” and demanding a treat or else threatening a trick. It emerges in various places in the mid to late 1930s. By the late 1940s, it is a familiar part of Halloween all across the country. For example, trick or treat features in episodes of Ozzie and Harriet and The Jack Benny Show (both 1948). By the 1950s, the trick part is gone and it’s all about the treats.
The scene in Arsenic and Old Lace was filmed in 1941. (The film is usually dated 1944; this is the release date because the film was held back while the play continued to fill houses on Broadway.) In 1941, trick or treat has just started showing up in other states, but the phrase “trick or treat” hasn’t yet arrived in New York. In the 1920s and earlier, kids on Halloween mostly went around doing pranks. What happens in Arsenic and Old Lace is trick or treat almost: the kids are at the door, but they are more unruly mob than organized trick or treat squad.
I would love to know more about what is going on in this scene. Was this what kids did on Halloween in Brooklyn in the 1930s? Or maybe even in Los Angeles? The movie was filmed in City Island, NY, and in Burbank; Frank Capra grew up in Los Angeles and made his career in Hollywood. Where did the inspiration for this scene originate?
And if this is an accurate representation of what kids either in New York or Los Angeles were doing in 1941, what did they call it? I wonder if it’s possible to deconstruct the audio and hear what they are shouting. And were these pumpkins and pies really the sort of thing a household would offer? I mean, what are the kids going to do with this stuff?
No, there was no candy at the beginning of trick or treat. In 1941, it was Jack o’ lanterns and pies. But it’s easy to see how candy eventually took over as the treat of choice.
For more on trick or treat before candy, see my piece at TheAtlantic.com.
When I was growing up, my mother took me and my brother and sister to church every Sunday. And on the way home, we always stopped at the candy store. Each of us got 15 cents, and we could eat our spoils however we liked. We called it “Sunday Candy.”
Where did this tradition come from? I’ve met a few other people who had similar Sunday rituals, but not many, so I conclude this was not a wide-spread practice. My mother grew up in Illinois, and has a vague recollection of candy on Sundays. My initial theory was that Sunday penance at church was matched by Sunday indulgence in the bon bon box.
I’ve found some references to the idea of “Sunday candy” as a special treat in the early 1900s. Especially where pennies for candy might be hard to come by, a child might get candy once a week, on Sunday. Newspaper ads from the period also promote special items for the “Sunday candy feast,” suggesting that it was a frequent custom for special family Sunday dinners to conclude with candy.
But I’m also beginning to suspect that Sunday Candy, like just about every other American candy tradition, was an invention of the publicity department at the National Confectioners Association. V.L. Price began beating the drum for holiday candy promotions in the 1920s (Halloween, St. Valentine’s Day, and more). And soon, candy promoters realized that boosting candy sales on holidays was only the beginning.
In 1928, the NCA sponsored a co-operative advertising campaign with the slogan “Sweeten the Day with Candy!” Ads in major magazines like the Saturday Evening Post encouraged Americans to enjoy candy every day. And as part of this campaign, ads included the reminder: “Take Home Candy for Sunday.” Promotions along these lines, with the same slogan, had appeared locally beginning in the early 1920s; the NCA was attempting to make the Sunday Candy idea a national tradition.
Here are some illustrations of this theme that appeared in the trade publication Confectioners Journal. These might have been used as window cards in candy stores or as images for ads in local papers.
Both these designs emphasize a connection between church and candy, without specifying what that connection might actually entail. The stained glass window and angelic choir certainly lend the product an aura of sanctity. Will candy eating get you to heaven a little faster? Or is candy a bit of heaven on earth?
Notice the promotion doesn’t say “buy candy on Sunday.” “Blue laws” limiting trade on Sundays were increasingly in force in the 1920s, and so in many communities most stores were closed. The idea was that mother or father would stop at the candy store on Friday or Saturday and stock up with boxes of family favorites for Sunday.
I found reference to one shop that offered a special weekend promotion: a pound each of chocolate, hard candy and gum drops for 99 cents. A mere three pounds of candy to get the family through the weekend.
Candy for the household at the week-end, a package of candy, good candy, that can reasonably be counted upon to please the taste in candies of all the grown-ups, the children, and any possible casual visitor, just the right variety and not too much of it, yet enough and not too expensive—that has become another of the housewife’s important problems in this candy-eating age.
Anyone else remember Sunday Candy? I’d love to hear your stories!
Quote is from “A Candy Method of Loft’s Inc.” Confestioners Journal Aug 1925, p. 105.
If you’d like to experience a bit of Victorian Christmas this year, you might visit the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, Indiana. Historical interpreters at this museum are re-creating some late 19th century holiday traditions for their visitors. One might surprise you: Christmas candies in the shape of cockroaches!
Marcia Young of the museum explained to a reporter for the Illinois Times:
“Candy was a big deal to kids. Getting candy only happened on very special occasions,” says Young. For Christmas, Victorians gave them lots of candy in stockings or as gifts. Some of that candy was made to look like items in nature. “This was a time in which a lot of exploration is occurring all over the globe,” Young says. “Victorians are very excited about what they’re finding. They’re fascinated by the natural world, even the smallest parts, like insects.” That fascination inspired their candy-making, so they created [candies] that looked like carrots, lobsters, rabbits, beetles, spiders, and even cockroaches.
Today the Davis Mansion is offering a modern interpretation of those Christmas Cockroaches, made of molded chocolate. But the candies the Davis children received long ago would not likely have been made of chocolate. The museum has a letter received by Sarah Davis that describes a “sugar cockroach” received by a young friend in Massachusetts.
A “sugar cockroach” would be a molded fondant candy, similar to the inside of a Peppermint Patty. Candy corn was invented around the same time; like cockroaches, corn was another of the plants, animals and insects that were popular shapes for the candy of the day (see my article on the history of candy corn at TheAtlantic.com). Now, I wonder why candy corn was so popular, and candy cockroaches just didn’t catch on? And what about candy bedbugs?
Keeping that candy out of junior’s mouth isn’t easy. But the cavities! Now, pediatric dentists expose the candy secret: eat up! just all at once please. It’s not the quantity of candy, it’ s the duration: candy over a longer period extends the time for cavity-causing toxic acid mouth bath. So go ahead and stuff it in, quick!
If you still have too much candy left over after two days of gorging (all at once, of course) here’s an idea from our friends in Canada:
“How can a responsible parent let a kid enjoy candy without letting him stuff himself with junk?” asks Sharon Bowers in her well-timed book, “Candy Construction” (Storey Publishing, 2010). “The trick is not to EAT it but to make something WITH it.”
So how was it in your neighborhood on Sunday? What about those kids at the door that are just a bit too old for Trick-or-Treat. And what’s with their “costumes”: dude, lipstick does not cut it. Now we have a word: they’re “Halloweenagers.” But admit it, you did it too when you were 15.
And kids, why is that Halloween booty such a big deal? I mean, you can buy that candy and save the effort. Or you can try this stunt, reported at MyFoxDC.com:
Fourteen-year-old Khalel Turner says he was trick-or-treating with friends Thursday night when a gunman got out of a vehicle, and flashed a firearm.
He demanded the teen give him all of his candy or he would shoot him.
Crazy and sad. That was in Columbus, Ohio. But the same thing happened in Peterborough, Canada. In York, Pennsylvania, a girl was shot with a BB gun for candy. Another candy heist was reported in Springfield, Ohio, but at least there they just knocked the kid down. Sheesh! Kid on kid violence. For candy. Something is not right.
Mischief has a long pedigree on Halloween. But the firearms are disturbing.
Halloween on your mind? Here’s a round up of Candy Professor Halloween stories from the archives.
- Whither Halloween Candy? When and why did Halloween get so candified, and will it always be about the candy?
Stories of early twentieth century Halloween. Halloween was parties and pranks. No trick-or-treat yet!
- Candy and Halloween Parties before 1920
Actually, not so much candy
- Retailing Halloween in the 1920s Window displays, candy favors, and a big pumpkin
- Halloween Aftermath Classic Halloween pranks from the turn of the century
- Thanksgiving Trick or Treat New York City had some surprising Thanksgiving traditions in the old days
Trick-or-treat, with the ring of the door-bell, the chant, the threat of trick, and the propitiating treat, doesn’t appear until the late 1930s and 1940s. After the conclusion of the Second World War at the end of the 1940s, trick-or-treat takes off. The 1950s were the trick-or-treat golden years:
- Candies For Trick or Treat in the 1950s
- 1951 Halloween Candy One small newspaper ad reveals all
- Trick-or-Slap Not everyone was thrilled with the whole trick-or-treat game in the 1950s
- Laxatives and the end of Trick or Treating The first (and only) Halloween sadist, and the end of Halloween innocence
After all that trick or treating, what if you have too much candy? Here’s a couple of solutions:
Off site, guest posts at The Atlantic Food Channel:
- Halloween and Candy: They Weren’t Always Best Friends Really! Halloween before trick-or-treat, and after
- October’s Original Candy Holiday? Candy Day A forgotten holiday, back before the Halloween candy debauch
- The Meaning of Halloween-Psychopath Stories Arsenic-laced jelly beans and razor-studded caramels aren’t real. Faith in processed, sanitary foods certainly is.
- Candy Corn Love it? Hate it? Traditional candy, but not for Halloween!
If you have kids at Halloween time, you’ve probably already started to strategize a plan for candy rationing.
Dentists in your community are happy to help. Have you heard about the Halloween Candy Buy Back? Participating dentists will accept your kids’ excess candy, pay out a dollar a pound, and send the candy to U.S. military serving overseas.
Over the years dentists have independently come up with the idea of gathering up all that extra Halloween candy and getting rid of it somehow. In 2006, Madison WI dentist Chris Kammer began to coordinate and organize the event nationally, emphasizing the buy back as a way of supporting the troops. Hundreds of local dental offices now participate. The master plan, according to Dr. Kammer, is that one day soon, dentists will “own Halloween.”
It is a win-win, as the dentists put it. Fewer pounds of candy for American kids, more pounds of candy for American troops.
Actually, taking candy from the kids and sending it to the troops is a pretty old idea.
Back in the 1890s, the German military started experimenting with sugar as a food for their soldiers. Sugar, the Germans concluded, refreshed and energized. The soldiers receiving sugar portions outperformed the sugar-free on every measure. Americans took note: Mary Hinman Abel, writing for the USDA, reported extensively on these military investigations in her 1899 study “Sugar as Food.”
The growth of candy manufacturing made more candy available for military uses. From a 1908 account of the Brooklyn candy trade:
Nowadays every battleship leaving the Brooklyn Navy Yard has on board a lot of candy for the men–Brooklyn candy. ‘Why, in the navy, when a man is handed a pound of tobacco now he is also given a certain amount of candy, and it is believed that the drinking habit will be lessened in that way,’ said a manufacturer. ‘The sailors like the plan immensely, but if they knew it was done for that, they would probably chuck the candy overboard. But aside from that, it is a good food for them; men can fight better on chocolate than on meat–that has been proved in the German army.’ (“Brooklyn leads Country in Candy Export”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 7, 1908)
Even before the U.S. joined the European war, the soldiers’ love of candy was a common theme (see my post Taking Candy from a Soldier). The war-weary GIs returning from battle in World War I brought home with them a hearty candy appetite. The explosive growth of the U.S. candy business in the 1920s and 1930s was in large part due to a new, rigorous kind of candy eating: not just kiddies and plump ladies, but big strong soldier men had to have their candy.
World War II meant once again a big demand for candy for the troops. Sugar, and candy, were in short supply state-side during the war years, partly due to war shortage, but also due to the requisitioning of huge quantities of candy for military uses. Curtiss Candy reminded customers that Uncle Sam’s needs came first:
If Americans were forced to give up some of their beloved candy to the troops in the 1940s, it was because it was the right thing, the patriotic thing to do.
And Tootsie Roll picked up the theme in their advertising:
In the Tootsie Roll ad, the joke is that the kids are mad that the grown ups are taking their candy: the soldier should buy his own Tootsie Roll. In jest or in the seriousness of war, the basic message was the same: you’ll have to give up your candy to the soldier if there isn’t enough to go around. But patriotic support of the troops is the only reason you’d forgo your candy.
In the Halloween Buy Back, the long history of “candy for the troops” collides with more recent ideas about what is bad about candy. It is dentists, after all, representatives of health and hygiene, who are encouraging kids and families to turn in their candy to send to the troops. But if the candy is bad for the kids, why isn’t it bad for the troops?
The Buy Back FAQ suggests some responses to critics who ask this annoying question:
If you get negative comments or feedback, remind critics of the purpose of Halloween Candy Buy Back:
- Halloween candy represents a warm memory of life “back home” and children that care enough to donate candy in support of our troops.
- Those troops are risking their lives every day. If a little piece of candy can provide a moment of happiness, why not?
- Soldiers are adults and certainly understand how to keep their mouths healthy by now. Children are still learning how to brush, floss, and take care of their teeth.
The first two answers emphasize candy not as candy, but as an emotion-laden symbol. This solves the conflict between candy and dental virtue by making the candy invisible: In all those crates of candy, we’re not sending candy, we’re sending support and the warmth of home.
The third reason is that kids shouldn’t have candy because candy causes cavities in kids, but somehow adults will not have this problem. Here is where things get tricky.
Cavities are caused by acids given off by bacteria as they feed on sugars and starches deposited on the teeth. Not every mouth is equally susceptible. Some kids get tons of cavities no matter what they eat. Some kids plant their face in the sugar bowl and get none. And all sugars and starches that adhere to the teeth, be they from candy, bread, pasta, jam, potatoes, and even raisins, can create a bacterial strong hold.
Of course, a “spaghetti buy back” would not put the dentists on the side of angels. Candy is easy to blame, has been for a century, and dentists have grabbed on to the candy scapegoat. This is why dentists can contemplate “owning Halloween.” Don’t get me wrong: I love my dentist. But I love my candy too.
In North America, Halloween parties have long been a favorite way to mark the holiday. The first descriptions of parlor gatherings come from the 1870s; by the 1890s the festivities were well established, with a variety of favorite games and activities and of course foods and decorations. Then as today, Halloween parties have always had a place for candy. But the kinds of candy, and the role of candy in the festivities, have changed pretty dramatically.
From the American Girl’s Handy Book (1888), a full chapter on festivities for “All Hallow Eve”, wherein candy makes a brief appearance:
Putting aside conventionality and dignity as we laid aside our wraps, ready for any fun or mischief that might be on hand, we proceeded down-stairs and into the kitchen, where a large pot of candy was found bubbling over the fire. This candy, poured into plates half-full of nuts, was eaten at intervals during the evening, and served to keep up the spirits of those who were inclined to be cast down by the less pleasing of Fortune’s decrees.
Ideas for a Halloween party in 1894 published in The American Agriculturalist included these proposals for refreshments: nut cake, pop corn, molasses candy and “as many more goodies as one cares to provide.”
In these pre-1900 party scenes, the candy references are decidedly turned toward the home-spun. Molasses candy could be purchased, but it was also a simple candy to make oneself, by cooking down molasses to candy consistency. As the American Girl’s Handy Book suggests, home candy making was a fun activity, especially suited to the colder fall and winter months.
The use of manufactured candy at Halloween only slowly became a common practice. The children’s magazine St. Nicholas describes in detail the decorations, refreshments, games and entertainments for a children’s celebration of Halloween in 1905. Candy makes one brief appearance as part of the dining table décor: “The dining-table was set with a group of carrot candlesticks and bowlfuls of apples, nuts, grapes, and candy.” The story does not specify what sorts of candy are in the bowls. Here is an image:
Is there even any candy in this picture? The predominance of apples, grapes and nuts suggests that candy’s place in the 1905 Halloween decorating and treating scheme was minimal.
Where purchased candy is incorporated into the party, it is not necessarily any special kind of candy. For example, in 1917, the Kansas chapter of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity reported:
On October 20 the annual tacky party was given. Arriving in a hayrack, the guests entered the house by way of the kitchen door. The rooms were decorated with corn and witches in true Halloween fashion. Popcorn, apples, penny candy sticks, doughnuts, pie, and cider were served. The party was one of the most successful in the chapter’s history.
The “penny candy sticks” featured in Phi Gamma Delta’s Halloween romp were just about the most ordinary sort of candy you could find in those days. And in these Menus for Halloween Suppers featured in the October 1915 issue of American Cookery (the magazine of the Boston Cooking School) the proposed molasses candy, caramels and marshmallows were year round popular commercial candies. Notably, one of the three menus has no candy at all:
Hot Bacon Sandwiches
Pop Corn Balls
Hot Cheese Sandwiches
Yeast Doughnuts, Sugared
Today, many Americans and parents especially are beginning to feel like the candy at Halloween has gotten a little out of hand. These party descriptions and ideas from a century ago might be good inspiration for a way of celebrating a less candified Halloween. Halloween Donuts, anyone?
More: An excellent book on the history of Halloween in North America (but not, alas, much on candy) is Nicholas Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2002).
One of the fun things about looking back at the beginnings of the commercial candy trade is to see how modern ideas about marketing, sales and promotion first began to take hold. Today we are so accustomed to the annual round of seasonal sales and holiday decorations. But in the early 1900s, these were new ideas for retail.
In a 1917 issue of The National Druggist (St. Louis, MO), for example, a writer explains the basic idea of holiday promotion:
Holiday times are always good times for business. In the first place, people are then in a spending humor. “Other days they go around with their pockets buttoned up tight,” says an old druggist. “On holidays they open them.” … The point is that it will pay a retail merchant to capitalize the holidays as they come along, that is, to catch people while they are in a spending humor.
The description for window display possibilities for Halloween from this same article gives a useful description of the kind of commercial decorations that were widely available from stationery and novelty shops in this era:
Halloween gives us a fine opportunity for working up timely business. The wholesale stationers and novelty houses supply a big line of Halloween favors, place cards, paper table covers, paper napkins, noise makers, Halloween hats and a variety of Halloween decorations. Halloween suits for small children are coming into vogue now and some good sales may be made. Halloween is always a great time for window displays. The season’s colors, yellow and black, are extremely effective.
Interesting to note the reference to “Halloween suits for small children.” Although trick or treating was not yet invented, it was popular in some cities and towns to parade about or to go visiting door to door on Halloween. Here is an early glimmer of the costume business that will become so central to Halloween in our day.
Publications for soda fountains and candy shops made similar efforts to persuade business proprietors of the necessity of dressing up for the holidays. In the October 1921 issue of The Soda Fountain (New York, NY), a column urges “More Window Displays Needed”:
Window displays and fountain decorations are more important factors in business than is generally realized and the establishments which make use of them to the fullest extent are loud in their praise of them as business-getters.
This column offers some ideas for Halloween display as well:
Halloween, with its traditional orange and black color schemes, its pumpkins and black cats and witches, offers the excuse for any number of effective decorative schemes. With these displays may be joined various devices for attracting trade: souvenirs, special dishes, contests, etc., may all be tied up with the Halloween displays. Special candy sales, using appropriate containers are effective and often used to attract attention.
Soda fountains often sold candy as well, so the reference to special candy sales is not unusual. But it is notable that while special sales are mentioned, special candies are not.
While many small businesses seem to have been timid about taking advantage of holiday themes, some retailers in this era were extremely creative and adventurous in mounting impressive seasonal displays. A 1918 story in The National Drug Clerk (Chicago) describes in detail the Halloween display of one large New York druggist:
The ceiling and walls of the window were covered with grey crepe, and were cleverly decorated with black witches sailing on their brooms, black cats, and yellow pumpkins. To give a different effect, some of the witches were sailing in aeroplanes, and had a black cat sitting on one of the wings.In the middle of the window was the customary large pumpkin. The eyes, instead of being square, were large and round.and long eyebrows tilting down toward the nose, were painted in, in black. The nose was cut in a V-shape, with black whiskers twirling around the mouth. The eyes were illuminated with tiny red lights.To the left of the pumpkin was a large mask (about two or three times the size of a regular mask) resembling a pirate. … To the right of the pumpkin was a mask resembling the Giant in “Jack the Giant Killer.” … Suspended on different colored strings, which hung from the ceiling, were numerous kinds of masks of regulation size.
On the floor of the window, which was also covered with grey crepe, were dainty little printed invitations. Some of the invitations were decorated with black cats while some were plain. Here and there were favors for the party, consisting of tiny boxes of candy in the shape of wishing wells and cats, whistles shaped like witches on their brooms, small dolls dressed up as witches and apples made of a wire frame, covered with red transparent paper, and filled with candy.
Leaning against the walls were books of games, conundrums and some of the popular ghost stories and superstitions connected with Hallowe’en.
This is a display for a druggist, not a candy store, but it is nevertheless striking that candy is so inconspicuous in the display. Druggists were perhaps the next largest retailers of candy, after specialty candy shops.Yet in this display, candy is only featured as the filling for party favors.
I imagine these paper-covered wire frame apple favors as the ancient ancestors of today’s trick or treat plastic pumpkin buckets. A century ago, kids would take home an apple’s worth of candy corn from their Halloween festivities. Today, we fill those huge pumpkins to the brim.