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Candy Is Sacred to Halloween

Cybele May

Halloween is a holiday of abandon for kids: dressing up in costumes, cavorting around the neighborhood, and, of course, amassing pounds of candy.

Unlike other holidays, when kids are simply handed gifts or sugary treats, Halloween is a time when they have to work for it. And the harder a kid works, the more candy she accumulates. She starts with the costume. She might need maps, or assemble a team and strategize. But at its core, the work of the night is to approach dozens of homes to collect the booty and then tote it home. The result of this effort is a bounty to gorge, barter and hoard.

As adults, we have one job on Oct. 31: Hand over the treats. If you’re in costume, or have ornately carved pumpkins, or decorate your house with ghosts and spider webs, that’s great. But if your porch light is on, your home is participating in the trick-or-treat ritual. That means you hand out candy.

So why are some people out there trying to trick children? I’m not talking about the urban legends about drug-laced chocolate or razor blades in apples. I’m talking about adults who make it their business to give kids something other than the requested candy. Lists abound this time of year on blogs, in newspapers and on the morning talk shows that actually promote this substitution.

These folks fall into several camps:

1. Candy is unhealthy and must be combated.
Solution: Hand out toothbrushes.

Do these people sincerely believe that kids don’t brush because they lack toothbrushes? No. They want to spoil the experience. They want to take the child out of the supreme moment of Halloween conquest — when the candy drops into the bag. When a toothbrush is dropped instead, a child’s thoughts go to the end of the night. The candy is consumed and put away, they have hygiene tasks before falling asleep and drifting into tomorrow … an ordinary day when candy is not behind every door. Thanks a lot.

2. Kids get too much candy.
Solution: Hand out cheap, plastic, probably unsafe toys made in China.

I refer here to crazy little novelties such as plastic rings with skulls, black cats or spiders on them. Temporary tattoos, stickers, sometimes molding clay. Most are useless for more than a half an hour of play. They promote a disposable culture and generally aren’t digestible or biodegradable, like candy is.

3. Kids need to become better citizens.
Solution: Hand out school supplies.

In most other contexts, kids love novelty erasers, pencils, Post-it notes or crayons. But on Halloween night, no child is thinking about how to decorate their Trapper Keeper. Halloween is this brief, glorious window when the laws of candy consumption are lifted. A ream of loose-leaf notebook paper is just going to take up valuable space in the pillowcase.

4. Kids need to be saved from this satanic holiday.
Solution: Proselytize.

I don’t even know where to start with this. I was, I admit, preached to on Halloween when I was a child. But I still got the candy. I’ve heard from others that some homes today just give out religious pamphlets. This is out of line. They’re children and you don’t know them. It’s creepy.

What irritates me so much about all the anti-candy agenda of these adults is the underlying arrogance. Me, I assume if there’s a child in costume at my door asking for candy on Oct. 31, this outing has been approved by the kid’s parents.

Halloween candy represents everything that’s right about candy. Candy brings people together. Candy is for sharing. It’s inexpensive and portable. It’s a pure treat.

So when a kid knocks on your door and chirps, “Trick or treat!” you play along and give them candy. It’s one night a year. If you don’t agree, just don’t turn on your porch light.

There will always be outliers, the folks who insist that what kids really need are a packet of cartoon themed Band-Aids, fiber snacks or an eraser shaped like an obscure cartoon character. Don’t be one of them. Jump in, both feet, and live in the moment with the kids. Give candy. Few things can make a kid so happy for so little money and effort.

Cybele May reviews candy daily at

Photo: Cybele May. Credit: Emanuel Treeson