Posts filed under ‘Holidays’

Halloween Round Up

Halloween on your mind? Here’s a round up of Candy Professor Halloween stories from the archives.

Stories of early twentieth century Halloween. Halloween was parties and pranks. No trick-or-treat yet!

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:

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 and Salon:

October 30, 2013 at 10:28 am 2 comments

Is Snapsy a Spy?

The Snapsy story is bigger than I thought, folks.

Look what I saw today at the drug store:

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.

March 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

Snapsy: A New Easter Candy Low

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.snapsy005

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.

photo 1

Snapsy Before

photo 2

Snapsy After

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.

photo 3

Sad Snapsy

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.

March 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm 1 comment

Pumpkins and Pie: Not Quite Trick or Treat (Arsenic and Old Lace)

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.

Happy Halloween!

For more on trick or treat before candy, see my piece at

October 31, 2011 at 7:35 am 4 comments

Sunday Candy

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.

January 28, 2011 at 9:42 am 13 comments

Cockroaches for Christmas (candy of course)


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 Now, I wonder why candy corn was so popular, and candy cockroaches just didn’t catch on? And what about candy bedbugs?

December 14, 2010 at 8:59 am 1 comment

Halloween Aftermath

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

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.

November 3, 2010 at 8:44 am 3 comments

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Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

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