This was supposed to go up on Halloween :(
Halloween is basically all about dressing up and begging strangers for candy, right? Well there's a little more history to it, but for a thousand years, Halloween has been all about eating sugar to ease our fears. Dating all the way back to the ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, which ended with an opening to the spirit world, October 31st has always been a combination of sweets and the supernatural. These ancient Celts would use honey, and later sugar, to preserve their perishable food and prepare the bounty of the summer for the winter ahead. They would also mask or blacken their faces to keep evil spirits at bay. this practice was later seen in Scotland in 1895 when people carrying lanterns of hollowed-out turnips went door-to-door "guising," or begging for cakes and fruits. Learn more about turnip carving here.
It wasn't until 1934 that guising became known as trick-of-treating. By 1948, Jack Benny was doing jokes about it on his popular radio show, and by 1951, Charles Schultz was drawing the Peanuts gang wandering door-to-door wearing ghost sheets and witches' hats. Halloween was a thing people knew about, but before the 1950s, trick-or-treating simply wasn't a part of most people's Halloween celebrations. When these ghouls and ghosts did start showing up on people's doorsteps, only sweets would keep you from getting egged, TP-ed, or worse.
This finally clued the candy companies into the notion that they might have a million dollar baby on their hands. "There was a rise of advertisements that talked about Halloween, and candy companies started marketing candy directly to moms. The message was: 'If you buy the right candy, you won't get tricked!'"
In 1964, Helen Pfeil, a Greenlawn, N.Y. housewife decided to hand out arsenic-laced candy buttons in an attempt to teach local teenagers that they were too old for trick-or-treating. Then on November 2, 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston from Detroit died after eating what initial reports identified as heroin-laced Halloween candy. It turned out that the heroin never came from the candy, but by that point, no one was paying attention. Concerned with safety, parents started telling their kids not to take any sweets that weren't factory-wrapped. The candy industry reacted with fun-sized candy bars that were individually wrapped so parents could be certain had not been tampered with. Today, Halloween candy is big business. In 2011, $2.3 billion worth of Halloween candy according to the National Confectioner's Association.
So get out there and stock up on some good candy to make sure you don't get attacked by Halloween hooligans. Or, you can be like me, turn off all the lights, buy candy on sale tomorrow, and eat it all yourself. Happy Halloween!