It seems that every major holiday has its candy, but perhaps none more so than Halloween. Whether your kids’ stash comes in a pillow sack or a pumpkin named Jack, candy isn’t the reason for the season. Go ahead and bone up on the history of trick-or-treating while and learn about some healthier alternatives you can offer at your house this Halloween.
The tradition of dressing up and going from house to house in search of sugar is a relatively recent American invention. In the 1930s and early 1940 — mostly during World War II — ringing doorbells while in costume began to pop up in various places. The war’s sugar rationing meant fewer sweets and more other kinds of treats such as toys, fruit, coins, and nuts. One inventor, Forrest Mars (son to Frank Mars, who we can thank for the Milky Way, Snickers, and 3 Musketeers candy bars), anticipated a cocoa shortage during the war. To ensure access to ingredients, Mars partnered with Bruce Murrie, son to a Hershey executive, for a new kind of candy. The little chocolate drops covered in a smooth candy shell first were sold exclusively to the U.S. military and issued as soldier’s rations. Now 77 years later, M&Ms are found around the world in a variety of colors and flavors.
As the war progressed, government leaders put a halt to the Halloween holiday that once was celebrated with parades and city-wide celebrations. Resources were needed for the war, and the country’s mood had darkened, putting an end to treats as well as tricks.
“Even ringing door bells has lost its appeal because it may be disturbing the sleep of a tired war worker who needs his rest,” wrote James Spinning, a school superintendent, in 1942.
House parties became the preferred way to celebrate the holiday with a focus on games. Kids and adults wore costumes evocative of Hollywood’s classic characters — cowboys, Indians, clowns, witches. The Andrews Sisters, who sang the war’s hit song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (of Company B), saw the tune repurposed to become “The Boogie Woogie Boogie Man.”
Once the war ended in 1945, trick-or-treating made its great return. Candy makers began to promote their products as an affordable, convenient way to appease the kids. It wasn’t until the 1970s that pre-wrapped, factory-made candy became the standard, as parents had begun to fear that homemade treats could be tampered with.
These days factory-packaged treats are preferred for much the same reason — plus increasingly large neighborhoods and children wandering in droves (plus parents willing to drive their kids to where the best treats are) put the pressure on supply and demand. Handing out a hundred Bit-O-Honey is infinitely easier than rolling up a hundred popcorn balls by hand.
“For the past several years, we’ve teamed up with our neighbors to give out candy,” said Jordan Bumgartner, who lives in Wilmington. “We turn off the lights at one house and get together at the other’s house and pool our candy supply. We sit out on the porch and socialize, which is fun, and no one goes broke trying to keep up with all the kids.”
Candy Everybody Wants
When it comes time to choose which candy to hand out or which candy to pull out of your kids’ treat bucket consider the following:
- Chocolate is a preferred treat because it washes off teeth easier than other types of candy, according to the American Dental Association. Also darker chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate.
- Sticky candies are some of the worst for teeth. They’re harder to remove and give cavity-causing bacteria more time to eat away at the enamel. Super sticky candy can even pull out fillings or loose teeth.
- Hard candy presents two threats: the duration of time pieces are in your mouth mixing sugar with saliva and the chance of breaking a tooth while chomping down.
- Sour candy often combines factors like hardness or stickiness along with high acidic content. The acidity can weaken enamel.
When considering alternatives to candy, also be mindful of age groups. Toddlers may mistake small toys like bouncy balls or erasers for candy pieces. So what are some good things to give?
- Juice boxes (refreshing and available in organic/low-sugar options)
- Dried fruit leather (also available in organic/low-sugar options)
- Stickers (cheap, plentiful, and available in all kinds of shapes, colors, patterns, characters, etc)
- Glow bracelets (great for safety too)
- Dress up/play-pretend items (fake mustaches, sunglasses, temporary tattoos)
- Hand sanitizer (choose cool colors and kid-friendly scents)
- Character bandages/first aid (boo boos are made better with cartoon characters)
- Games and toys (miniature mazes, doodle pads, yo-yos, figurines, coin purses)
Make a Trade
- Encourage your kids to use candy as cash. Make a plan so that they can trade you candy for other treats — maybe a gift card to a store they really like, a few power ups in an online game they’re playing, a trip to a museum, or maybe that puppy they’ve been asking you for (though we don’t recommend a puppy every year).
- Help your kids put together a care package for the troops. The Soldier’s Angels and Operation Gratitude programs are two ways to give.
- Care to share. While some kids have the best costumes and adults to take them trick-or-treating, others don’t. Find ways to distribute the candy wealth equally such as pooling all candy within a classroom or church or youth group.
At the End of the Night
No matter how much candy comes home, remember to celebrate by brushing your teeth! Make it a family event rather than a punishment. Try brushing in rhythm to a Halloween-flavored song like China Anne McClain’s “Calling All The Monsters,” Will Smith’s “Men In Black,” or for the really little ones The Higgleoos’ “The Monsters Ball.”
All of us at Your Community Dental wish you a happy and safe holiday!