On this, the spookiest and kookiest day of the year, the world as we know it takes a strange, dark, and wacky turn. Ordinary neighborhoods are transformed into creepy rows of haunted houses, little children become heroes and heroines, and grownups find a way to become someone or something else for a few hours, until the escapism wears thin or the booze runs out. But beyond all of this, beyond the costumes and the decorations and the homemade gravestones and the excuse to play Thriller more often than necessary, there is one thing about Halloween, above all others, that truly matters. And that, my doves, is candy.Trick-or-treating is the ultimate in childhood candy dreams; it's the one night where it becomes socially acceptable to walk around your neighborhood knocking on random doors and taking candy from strangers. The Jezebel editors have happy trick-or-treating memories of Charleston Chews, Krackel bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Tootsie Pops, and 3 Musketeers bars, and some of these beloved treats actually have some interesting stories behind them. It might not be the same as dumping your overloaded pillowcase on to the living room rug in a fit of Halloween hysteria, but hey, it's a chance for us to learn a little history and stare at some pretty, pretty pictures.
M&M's: An old school favorite that will be hitting many trick-or-treat bags tonight, M&M's have been around since 1941, when Forrest Mars developed his famous candy treats after being inspired by seeing Spanish Civil War soldiers eating Smarties (a UK variant of M&Ms) in the 1930s. Mars was impressed by the candy's ability to remain firm in the heat, due to its hard candy shell, and decided to whip up a version of his own. He was successful: M&M's ability to melt in your mouth and not in your hands was precisely why the United States Military handed them out to soldiers during World War II. The plain milk chocolate candies provided a quick source of energy and their hard candy shells kept them from melting in the soldiers' pockets. Their popularity exploded after the war, paving the way for peanut, peanut butter, mint, almond, raspberry, and cherry flavors, among others. Capitalizing on the urban legend that green M&M's are an aphrodisiac, M&M's released all-green packets for Valentine's Day, 2008. You probably shouldn't hand those out to kids in your neighborhood, though, lest you want a visit from someone wearing a Chris Hansen mask.
Gummy Bears: Bouncing here and there an everywhere, gummy bears are a staple at movie theaters, candy counters, and birthday parties everywhere. But according to National Geographic's Holly Morris, the original gummy treats were used for medicinal purposes. "From the seventh and eighth centuries onward, gums—made from sugar, fruit, and gum arabic (the sap of the acacia tree)—were used to soothe sore throats and other ills," writes Morris, adding, "the French became masters of gummy-making in the 17th and 18th centuries." In 1922, Hans Riegel of Bonn, Germany created the first gummy "bears" (he called them "dancing bears"), which are still produced by his Haribo company to this very day. And let's not forget another super important contributor to the world of all things gummy: Frank Galatolie, the confectioner who came up with an idea to add a sour powder to gummy sweets in the 1970s, which led to the creation of one of the best candies EVER, Sour Patch Kids.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: Mitch Hedburg has a joke about Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: "I get the Reese's candy bar, If you read it, there's an apostrophe. The candy bar is his. I didn't know that." It's funny because it's true: there really was Reese who created the delicious cups. After a string of failed jobs, including farming, selling oil burners, and butchering, young Harry Burnett Reese moved to the chocolate wonderland known as Hershey, PA, where he took a job as a dairy employee in the Hershey chocolate factory. Inspired by Hershey's success as a candy maker, Reese set out to make his own name in the candy biz, coming up with the little treat in the bright orange wrapper that we all know and love; the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. After competing with Hershey for decades, Reese sold his company to his old mentor and inspiration for a sweet 23.5 million dollars in 1963. For those of you who are looking for a vegan peanut butter cup fix, you might want to check out Sweet Earth Chocolates, an organic, fair-trade candy company that donates a portion of its proceeds toProject Hope and Fairness, a program designed to help West African Cocoa Farmers. 3 Musketeers: A dreamy bar of fluffy whipped nougat and sweet milk chocolate, the 3 Musketeers takes its name from the original composition of the bar, which debuted in 1932. Instead of one piece of lovely chocolate, there were actually three separate pieces of flavored nougat in each package: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. It wasn't until 1945 that that bar became exclusively chocolate, though a 3 Musketeers Mint bar was introduced earlier this year, so one never knows if the original Muskeeter formula will ever find its way back on the shelves.
Tootsie Roll Pops: Not only are Tootsie Roll Pops delicious, they're the stuff that candy legends are made of. Thanks to a series of fantastic commercials that have run for the past 30 years, the world still wants to know how many licks it takes to get to the center of the chewy, chocolatey treat. Mr. Owl claims it's "a-threeee," but nobody knows for sure. Tootsie claims it has received over 20,000 letters from children who say they have the answer, but perhaps the world will never know, or at least the world won't know until after the 50,000 "How Many Licks?" contest ends next July. That's right, kids: just enter your best guess on the Tootsie website, and you could win 50 grand! Sadly, the legend that finding an Indian with a star on your Tootsie wrapper entitles you to a lifetime supply of Tootsie Pops is untrue. Candy Corn: There really is no in-between with candy corn: you either love it or you hate it. A seasonal treat that shows up in mid-September and kicks around until Thanksgiving, candy corn is THE candy of the season; it's mere presence on the shelves screams out, "Halloween!" louder than any 900 pack pick and mix trick-or-treat bag ever could. Introduced by the Wunderlee Candy Company (I know! Isn't that the best name ever?) in 1880, candy corn has been grossing people out or making their lives much happier for over 120 years. According to the National Confectioners Association, "more than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces—enough to circle the moon nearly 21 times if laid end-to-end." Lewis Black, however, is not a fan:
Lastly, as a candy lover, I'd like to ask you all to step it up a little bit this year. For the children, such as. Don't get caught handing out one of the Top 10 Worst Halloween treats. Everyone knows you mean well with your raisins or your tiny boxes of floss, but let's get real, people: on a night filled with Butterfingers, Milky Ways, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, Kit Kats, Tootsie Pops, Sugar Daddies, Jolly Ranchers, Baby Ruths, Snickers, Fun Dip, and Nestle Crunch bars, NOBODY ON EARTH WANTS A BLOODY BOX OF RAISINS. Unless, of course, they're Raisinettes, and then all is forgiven. But know this: if you give out crap candy, the kids in your neighborhood will NEVER forget it. Our own Dodai has unhappy memories of "cop-out candy," such as hard candies and Smarties, and Sadie still hasn't forgotten "a family on our block who gave out airplane-sized cans of tomato juice. Not popular." Not only do you have to worry about disappointing the wee children in your neighborhood, but you might disappoint their parents as well: whatever candy you give out, they'll probably steal from it their kids. The NCA states that "ninety percent of parents admit to sneaking goodies from their kids' Halloween trick-or-treat bags," though parents, seriously, all you really have to do is ask, as 66% of "kids ages 6-11 years old say if they were given lots of candy, they would share some with their family." Of course they would! They'd share the crap candy and the tomato juice! That's why Mom and Dad have to go in and steal the good stuff! So tonight, as you hit the streets dressed as Sarah Palin or Ashley Todd or Sexy Mouse #189 or Joe The Plumber, remember this: after the costumes are put away, the decorations torn down, and the pumpkins smashed along the side of the road, the best part of the holiday, delicious, delicious candy, will help you keep the Halloween spirit going until at least mid-November, when the chocolate Santas and candy canes come rolling in to bring another round of sweet sugary memories into your life. Oh, and an extra bonus: all of this Halloween candy is going to be marked down at least 50% in most stores tomorrow. So, you know, do your part to help the economy and make a wise recession decision and pick up that 800 pack of Pixy Stix. It's the least you can do, really. Happy Halloween! Candy Facts: Halloween Treats Stem From Ancient Recipes [National Geographic] Top 10 Worst Halloween Treats [CandyAddict] M&M Candies Go Green Just In Time For Valentine's Day [PR Newswire] National Confectioner's Association [Official Site] Tootsie Pops "How Many Licks" Sweepstakes [AskMRowl] M&Ms History [M&Ms Official Site] Reese's History [Hersheys] Sweet Earth Chocolates [Official Site] Project Hope and Fairness [Official Site]