Trick or Treat: A Surfeit of Sugar
By Max Gilbert ’13, Staff Writer
How did candy come to be to Halloween what trees are to Christmas or turkey is to Thanksgiving? The ancient pagan roots of the holiday have almost nothing to do with our current traditional conception of Hallow’s Eve.

The Celtic people used to believe that on the night of Halloween, damned souls would return to earth to cause mischief and wreak havoc. The best way to avoid these imps, demons and devils was to look like one of them. This is the beginning of our custom of masquerading about as everything from Avatar to Angelina. Another way to protect one’s home and family from the evildoers was to put out the finest food offerings the household had to offer and hope that the visitors would be appeased and go away.

Candy corn, the first sweet treat associated with the holiday, was invented in the 1880’s in Philadelphia and was popular amongst agrarian Americans for its symbolism. It was trick-or-treating that elevated candy to the status it has today. The idea started in the early 1940’s, but it wasn’t until after World War II in sprawling suburban America that the tradition became national.

The treat end of the trick-or-treat, however, was not always candy. The costumed children could be given anything from coins, nuts, fruits, cookies, cakes or toys. It wasn’t a brilliant marketing scheme that made candy the obvious treat, but rather rising fears in the 1970’s about tampered gifts. Rumors of poisoned apples and treats with razor blades in them made individually wrapped products the only safe give-away.

Today, Americans spend about two billion dollars during the month of October on candy. The average Jack-O-Lantern bucket has a carrying capacity of 9,000 calories and three pounds of sugar; pillowcases are another story. San Francisco was ranked the best city in America to trick-or-treat, followed by San Francisco and Portland. Candy corn (at 3.7 calories per kernel) still holds the number one spot for best-selling candy during the holiday, followed closely by Snickers bars. In order to do enough walking to burn off candy consumption, it is estimated that for every 100 calories of candy consumed a trick-or—treater needs to walk one mile.

Halloween officially starts off the holiday feasting season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner. This can be a time of year when a lot of people have trouble managing their weight. Candy, like anything else, is fine in moderation. A few pieces here and there won’t make or break you, but binging is an issue for a lot of people.

Nutritionists recommend enjoying a few pieces slowly when you want them, to help stave off the temptation deprivation can cause. We college students should avoid late-night studying-induced candy raids on our RC’s, and, of course, remember to stay active.

Issue 07, Submitted 2010-10-29 20:06:02