Halloween Candy – Ancient Traditions and Popular Treats

What comes to your mind first when you think of Halloween? It’s a time for families to carve pumpkins and decorate houses to scare away ghosts, and for children, it’s a time to go door to door in spooky costumes for trick-or-treating and to get Halloween candy. The history of Halloween goes way back into the past, starting with the pre-Christian feast day of Samhain. Candy has been part of the Halloween celebration for many decades, but Halloween candy is a relatively new addition to the holiday traditions.

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Halloween Candy Ancient Traditions and Popular Treats

The History of Halloween

Halloween is celebrated on the 31st of October. The tradition originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to scare the ghosts. The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1. It was the end of summer and the beginning of a dark, cold winter. The Celts believed that the night before the New Year was the time when the boundary between the worlds of the living and dead was blurred. On October 31, they celebrated Samhain, the time when the ghosts returned to earth. They used costumes to scare away these returned ghosts. 

In the 18th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as the time to celebrate and honor All Saints Day. All Saints’ Day soon incorporated some of the traditions from the Samhain festival. The night before All Saints Day was called All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween spread worldwide and became the holiday of Trick or Treating, pumpkin carving, wearing costumes, and eating treats. 

halloween history

Halloween in America

At first, when Halloween was introduced in America, it was very limited in colonial New England because of Protestant beliefs. Halloween is much more common in the southern states. Soon, a distinctly American version of Halloween started to emerge. There were play parties at the celebrations, and neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell fortunes, and sing and dance. 

The Colonial Halloween celebration was also a time for ghost stories and mischief-making. At the beginning of the 19th century, autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere. When the new wave of immigrants came to America, they brought Halloween traditions with them and helped to popularize the holiday.

halloween in america

Halloween Traditions

As far as Halloween traditions go, dressing up in costumes and trick or treating are the most popular ones. But have you ever wondered why we hand out Halloween candy to children? or what does the pumpkin carving represent?

halloween traditions

Halloween Costumes and Trick or Treating

You probably do not need an explanation of what trick-or-treating is because most children have enjoyed it as the most exciting part of Halloween night. This door-to-door wandering in ghost costumes and asking for candy has been a tradition in the United States and other countries for over a century. 

Halloween has its roots in ancient Celtic festivals, where people would dress in animal skins and gather around a bonfire to drive away unwelcome spirits. In later centuries, people began to dress as ghosts, demons, and other creatures. This tradition is known as mumming, which dates back to the Medieval Ages. 

Starting in the 9th century, on All Souls Day, poor people would visit wealthy families and get pastries called “Soul Cakes.” It was called “souling.” Later, children would go door to door and ask for some money or treats. It is unknown where the phrase “trick or treat” came from, but the tradition has been well established in the United States since the 1950s.

Today,  children get all kinds of Halloween candy for trick or treating and fill their Jack-O’ -Lantern baskets with goodies. What is your favorite trick-or-treat treasure? 

trick or treat

Jack-o’-lanterns

A Jack-o’-lantern is a carved pumpkin or another root vegetable, which are symbols of Halloween. Its name comes from the phenomenon called “will-o’-the-wisps” or “jack-o’-lanterns,” which is a flickering ghost light seen mostly by travelers, usually over the bogs or swamps. The tradition of pumpkin carving was brought to the United States by Irish immigrants. 

Prior to Halloween, families go pumpkin hunting, carve them together, and use them as part of the Halloween decorations. Today, artificial pumpkins with electric lights are also very common, but the ones that are carved at home are more fun and exciting. 

There are usually scary ghosts or funny faces carved on the pumpkins. To create the flickering, a candle or tea light is used. 

Nowadays, pumpkins have become an essential part of the Halloween celebration. Families make all kinds of treats from pumpkins, like pumpkin pies or pumpkin cakes, to add the spirit of Halloween to their family celebration. 

jack o lanterns

Have you ever wondered when candy became such a big part of the Halloween celebration? It was not until the 1950s when Halloween candy entered the market. Until then, it was more popular to hand out homemade treats to children who were going trick or treating. People would also welcome them at their homes and offer some Halloween beverages. If you are interested in what were the most popular Halloween treats, find the list below.

halloween candy

Soul Cakes

The tradition of giving Soul Cakes, or otherwise called Soul Mass Cakes, was celebrated in Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages. Soul Cakes were the key part of the “souling” tradition. The cakes were usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, or other sweet spices. There were also raisins and currants. Before baking, they were topped with a mark of the cross, so it meant that soul cakes were alms. 

Souling is believed to be the origin of trick or treating. In the United States, some churches invite people on All Hallows Eve, to get sweets from them and offer to pray for the souls of their friends, family, or even pets. 

Do you still bake Soul Cakes for Halloween night? Or do you prefer having modern Halloween candy? 

soul cakes

Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples have been a Halloween icon for a long time. They are apples dipped in gooey caramel and topped with sprinkles or cookie crumbles. Today, they are usually bought at the store rather than made at home, but how did the caramel apple become a symbol of Halloween?

During World War II, caramel apples were distributed to homeless children as part of a charity. In the mid-1940s, it was named the best Halloween treat. 

The very first caramel apples were created by accident. Kraft Foods employee Dan Walker melted down the soft caramel, which was leftover after Halloween, and dipped whole apples in it. It was a healthier and crunchier alternative to soft candy. 

caramel apples

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Despite their name, there is nothing devilish about the Devil’s Food Cupcakes. They have been a popular Halloween treat since the 1950s when housewives enjoyed handing homemade sweets to trick-or-treaters rather than store-bought ones. 

Thanks to their spooky name and the addition of orange frosting, Devil’s Food Cupcakes have become a very popular Halloween treat. The cake got its name around the 1870s when the newly improved cocoa powder was added to the cake batter. Before that, cupcakes were just dark or richly spiced, and they were referred to as “deviled,” a name that perfectly matched their color. 

Have you ever had Devil’s Food Cupcakes? They are, without a doubt, an excellent Halloween treat.

devils food cup cakes

Like other holidays, Halloween is not an exception to being a popular candy holiday. Enormous amounts of candy are handed out during trick or treating. Candy companies create special holiday editions of their most popular treats. Fun Sized candies are excellent for sharing with trick or treaters. Orange and black dominate the colors of candies. What is your favorite Halloween candy? Is it one of those from the list below? 

Twizzlers

twizzlers
TWIZZLERS

No Halloween season is complete without Twizzlers. They are bright red-colored, twisted candies with a chewy, strawberry flavor. Twizzlers come in individually wrapped snack sizes, which makes them perfect to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Red is the initial color of the treat, but you can find Twizzlers in a variety of colors and flavors. 

Twizzlers were first introduced in 1929 and have remained a popular treat among children and adults for Halloween ever since. 

Tootsie Pops

Tootsie Pop out of wrapper
TOOTSIE POP OUT OF WRAPPER

Tootsie Pops are classic Halloween candy and surely bring excitement to the hearts of trick-or-treaters. They are fruit-flavored lollipops filled with a chewy chocolate Tootsie Roll center. The flavors include Cherry, Orange, Grape, Raspberry, and Chocolate. 

This fun-size candy comes in a Halloween bag, which is a great treasure for trick or treaters. They would delight everyone who comes to your door on Halloween night. 

Hot Tamales

hot tamales
HOT TAMALES

These spicy, cinnamon-flavored candy balls are sure to heat up your Halloween night. If you enjoy unusual candy flavors and are up for some mouth-burning, Hot Tamales are for you. Maybe it’s Halloween’s unusual nature that made Hot Tamales one of the most popular candies during this holiday. 

Hot Tamales have been the most popular cinnamon-flavored candy of all time, so it is not surprising that they deserve a place on the popular Halloween candy list.

Sour Patch Kids

Sour Patch Kids
SOUR PATCH KIDS

Everyone agrees that Halloween is all about trick or treating and collecting Halloween candy to fill out trays. Sour Patch Kids are one of the most popular candies that trick or treaters hope to get. 

They are soft, chewy, sour, and then sweet, kid-shaped confections, which are very exciting to use as Halloween decorations or just share with trick or treating buddies after you finish wandering around on Halloween night.

Snickers

Snickers Limited Edition
SNICKERS LIMITED EDITION

If you enjoy this iconic peanut caramel combination chocolate bar, then Snickers is sure to satisfy you on Halloween night. Snickers offers a fun-sized Halloween candy, which is excellent for filling out your Halloween trays and the bags for trick or treaters. 

Additionally, they are individually wrapped and each wrapper features hair-raising Halloween phrases, like “Thrilling, Ghastly, Frightful,” to bring extra Halloween fun.

Kit Kat

kit kat
KIT KAT CHUNKY CARAMEL

Are you a fan of Kit Kat? These crispy wafers in milk chocolate offer special Halloween milk chocolate miniature candy bars. Kit Kat miniatures have got some cool costumes. Each candy bar is wrapped in a special Halloween wrapper. Are you excited to find out which character you get? A ghost, a skeleton, or a cowboy? 

The package itself is festive, which makes Kit Kat miniatures more desirable as Halloween candy. 

Life Savers

Life Savers
LIFE SAVERS

These big ring-shaped gummies for Halloween are one of the most popular treats among doorstep haunting trick-or-treaters. Individually wrapped Cherry, Watermelon, Green Apple, Strawberry, and Blackberry flavors are included in the Life Savers Halloween candy pack.

They are fun, exciting, and ideal for sharing at the Halloween table. What is your favorite flavor of Life Savers? Do they have a place on your favorite Halloween candy list? 

Halloween Candy Commercials

Halloween Candy The Bottom Line

Since ancient times, Halloween has been associated with spooky costumes, door-to-door wandering children asking for a handful of Halloween candy, pumpkin-themed treats, and monster-shaped cupcakes. Like every holiday, Halloween is unimaginable without specially prepared jack-o’-lantern baskets loaded with varieties of candy.

Every year, there are competitions for the most creative Halloween costumes. People hold costume parties at their houses with their families and friends. They put a lot of effort into looking like their favorite characters for Halloween. What is your favorite costume to wear on Halloween? 

Families start decorating for Halloween in advance to try and beat their neighbors. Pumpkin carving is a family tradition that brings extra Halloween spirit. People are proud when they see their hard work on handmade carved pumpkins. They are usually part of outdoor decorations, so when you start seeing them on the stairs or in backyards, you know Halloween is just around the corner. 

And of course, don’t forget about Halloween candy. Starting with the tradition of baking Soul Cakes, sweet treats have been an essential part of Halloween for a long time. It’s true that Halloween candy was not very popular until the 1950s, but in no time, Halloween became one of the biggest candy-related holidays. And what are your traditions for Halloween?

Halloween Candy FAQ

The Halloween treat “candy corn” was originally sold under what name?

Candy corn was originally called “chicken feed.” According to National Geographic, about half of America’s labor force was made up of farmers when the candy debuted, so there was an obvious tie-in. “Chicken feed” was sold in a box with a rooster on the front.

What is the most popular Halloween candy?

The most popular Halloween candy of 2021 was:
1. Peanut M&M’s
2. M&M’s
3. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
4. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
5. Twizzlers
6. Snickers candy bar
7. Kit Kat candy bar
8. Candy corn
9. Sour Patch Kids
10. Haribo Gold bears

When does Halloween candy go on sale?

You’ll find clearance deals in the days leading up to Halloween, but November 1st will see the lowest prices. Look for larger bags and candy bundles to get more for less. Don’t forget to shop the Dollar Section at Target for candy under $5.

What is the most commonly consumed Halloween candy in the US after chocolate?

Based on sales data collected by Candystore.com, a bulk candy retailer that has been satisfying America’s sweet tooth since 2007, each state has its own favorite treat—but Reese’s Cups are America’s favorite Halloween candy for 2021. Skittles, M&M’s, Starburst and Hot Tamales round out the top five

How much candy by weight, is sold in the U.S. during the Halloween season?

600 million pounds

Every Halloween, 600 million pounds of candy are sold in America.

How much money is America expected to spend on Halloween candy this year?

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are expected to spend more this Halloween than any other year — $10.14 billion, up from $8.05 billion in 2020. About $3 billion of that will be spent on candy alone; which translates to about $30.40 that each person is spending on candy.

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