The History of Halloween and the magic candy madness – make your left over candy disappear

Why do the have to eat all that candy – donate your leftover Halloween candy


 

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unce a year the dead crosses the portal between the worlds and mingle with the living, we offer foods to appease the spirits. We call this night Halloween. The ancient Celts called it Shamhain (Sah-ween). Today people rush to stores and buy creepy outfits and mountains of candy. There is so much candy I begun to think something is just not right. For the most part all goes unnoticed but there’s something spooky behind all of this. Why do we give so much candy to our kids? Without really thinking, year after year we do just that: overload our kids with candy, but why? The history of Halloween goes way back in time but it wasn’t always candy.

Dressing up in customs is something we all like to do. The gore and the excesses of Halloween are all part of the human experience. Halloween fun is great. though giving kids tons of candy may be something we just recently invented. Why mothers, and grown ups routinely buy 600 million pounds of candy every Halloween and don’t even notice? That is the equivalent of 6 Titanic ships in weigh.

In 2011 a new record was set and the U.S. spent 2.3 Billion dollars in candy around Halloween. The average American consumes 3.4 pounds (1.5 Kg) of candy every Halloween. Wow – this is a creepy scary number and just the thought of it raises your blood sugar. I don’t want to sound like the Grinch of Halloween (which would be a oxymoron) this can’t be good for you, or – your children.

This is insane; the no limit candy stuffing begun around the 1960’s, before that candy was not even associated with the holiday. Halloween today just show us how efficient advertising campaigns are. Industry have free range to shape the way we act and think, if we buy into their mass merchandising. Trick or treat activity begun as a way to distract the attention from kids engaging in vandalism and pranks in past Halloween as we shall investigate in a moment.

What if we gave children less candy; but that would not work out so well for the candy industry because we have already been sold on the idea that: it’s totally OK. Trick or treat? But Halloween is a lot more then passing candy. Halloween is practiced in one way or another by many different countries and has created a rich tapestry of pagan rituals that are deeply embedded in all of us. Halloween is not an “all American holiday”. We can’t deny its roots.

The history of Halloween

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To understand Halloween we need to know more about Celtic peoples all across Europe in ancient pre-Christian times. Their most important yearly celebrations was called Shamhain (Sah-ween). They believed that at the night of Shamhain the doors between the worlds would open and the dead might return to be among the living. A creature named sidh would come and bedevil humans.  This was the beginning of the winter and also harvest time. There would be a temporary abundance of food.

Many animals were slaughtered and a few kept for breading. According to new archaeological findings this was also a time of alcohol abundance which were wildly consumed around the days of Shamhain. Large fires were lit and three days of feasting would take place. Shamhain was also a time for social justice. Three days of feasting and drinking would alternate with debt repayment and crime trials.

Severe crimes would be tried and the guilty, executed. Shamhain was also a time when heroic gruesome and frightening tales were re-enacted. This may explain some to the deepest roots of Halloween taste for gore. Tales of demonic giants who demanded yearly taxes, corn, milk and children. There was also a romantic element to some of these tales. By the 7th century the Catholic Church had spread throughout Europe and the Celtic peoples were converted to Christianism.

Many Catholic icons where then introduced into the festivities which begun to transform it throughout the years. What we call Halloween today was very different in the past but character remain. There is an element of “having one day of freedom” where kids can be bad and it’s OK. Halloween in early America was different then today and bigger changes begin to take place after the 60’s. Before were getting home made goods; that was about to change when the candy industry decided to cash in. They were helped by some cultural changes, some brought by the industry itself.

If we look at the history of Halloween we find that feasts and sharing of temporary abundance were central to the celebrations since ancient times and and there’s nothing wrong with that. This is such a strong tradition that even though we no longer harvest our foods and slaughter our animals; we still have the urge to re enact these ancient rituals. Today the meaning of sharing abundance became corrupted because we already live in a “eternal never ending abundance”. Did candy and sugar became the ultimate expression of food abundance? Even though is cheap it still pure glucose and energy and will give us a priceless fix. If it is so precious kids should work a lot harder to get it. We make it so easy.

 

Halloween in America

Halloween - The Aftermath

The aftermath

Halloween came to America with the Irish immigrants. In 1845 more then a million Irish came to America flitting the potato blight which ravaged their crops. Scottish immigration was also high. This new influx of immigrants coincided with the rise of the American middle class; and American Halloween celebrations begun. At that time fun and play centered around, children entering the house and stepping over a broom placed to keep witches out. Divination of the future by burning nuts and pouring water to read the shapes it formed. Bonfires were common. Some games included boys dressing as ghosts and one dressing as a devil who pretended to grab one of the ghosts and trow at the fire. This game did not endure in America for obvious reasons. By the 1900 Halloween started to mutate again and this time it favored pranks and rowdiness of the Irish celebrations.

In the rural areas the night belonged to mischievous young boys. Scaring passing pedestrians; ringing door bells; making startling loud rattle with the “tick-tack” immensely popular Halloween noisemaker. Pranks became more widespread but also more of a problem. In 1920 pranks spread to urban areas and rapidly turned into vandalism. Destructive activities included breaking windows; setting fires, tripping pedestrians; sawing down telephone poles; overturning cars; opening fire hydrants were common “pranks” of the time. The mischievous boys turned hoodlums. Government considered banning Halloween altogether. This was perhaps would lead to the birth of trick or treat we have today.

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Towns begun to promote civil groups in order to keep the youth occupied and attempted to give them a positive engagement as an alternative to destructive behavior. YMCA and the Boy Scouts begun to offer parades, costuming, and contests. Chambers of commerce and other merchant associations also joined the effort. Store owners payed for parties, help build boxing rings and supported other social activities. Parents also created diversions for the young providing home parties. Popcorn balls and fudge making were part of the festivities and seldom, candy corn or jelly beans was seen. Candy was not at all a priority yet. It was only after the Second World War when luxuries like candy became readily available that it begun to take center stage.

Candy quickly became a effective and cheap way to get kids attention and drive them away from engaging in vandalism. Candy was just that much more irresistible, cheap, safe and less work was involved. Adults found it much easier to dispense individually wrapped sweets replacing popcorn ball, apples and nuts. Children are specially vulnerable to candy because how their taste buds are clustered. Even though they have the same amount of taste buds as adults, their tongues are smaller causing the taste to be more intense. The younger you are the more intense it is. The flavor explosion is like a rush. (try to remember). The industry quickly saw the money potential.

Advertising changed from the fortune teller’s games, post cards and bogie books to popularizing the idea of trick or treat and candy, lots of candy. Halloween became the top selling holiday for the candy industry. The U.S. consumes 20 million pounds of candy corn a year. Halloween alone accounts for 3/4 of Brach’s Candy Company annual sales revenues. Seasonal performance in Halloween surged 5.2% in the last year. Chocolate was the winner growing a whooping $409 million in 2013.

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Many health conscious parents are concerned about the amount of candy their children eat and they wander what to do with leftover Halloween candy before it gets all consumed. Halloween is candy eating on steroids. The following days and weeks are also worrisome as kids slowly go through their loot. It can make for months of daily high candy diet. Tooth decay, childhood obesity, excess insulin, diabetes, artificial dies are a some concerns. Some strategies are available to reduce or control this, out of control candy galore.

Is nearly impossible to take candy from children and it wouldn’t be fair since they worked for it. Always try to empower your children by giving them the choice to make their own decisions. One good idea is to exchanging candy for money or gifts or other favors; teaching your children the value of donating candy to troupes oversees on buy back programs. Don’t hide your children’s candy because it will teach them that they are not in control. Let them make their own decisions by teaching them about candy and why they should not eat too much. Instead of stressing about Halloween use it as a learning tool for your kids. Turn Halloween candy madness into a learning opportunity for your children. Teach them something great like having to control a undesirable habit; something they will need their entire life. Empowerment is much more productive then repression or aggressive control strategies. Don’t ever underestimate the intelligence of your children. Think about the lessons they can learn and use candy to fuel their leaning. Good luck this Halloween.

 


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Operation Gratitude is a 501{c}{3} sending care packages to U.S. military serving overseas. Please donate your leftover Halloween candy as well as dental hygiene products (toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss) to help fill care packages for the fall.


 

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