Ever wondered where the tradition of Halloween sweets came from?
Halloween is just around the corner! Soon, there will be kids dressed up as superheroes, ghouls, goblins, and just about everything else you can imagine running around in the streets!– and they’ll be looking for sweet treats!
And while it may seem that giving away Halloween sweets to costumed kids has been a tradition since Halloween was first celebrated, the truth is much more complex. In this post, we’ll take a look at the history behind Halloween sweets, and trick-or-treating!
The Beginning of Halloween Sweets – From Samhain To Halloween
Halloween traces its beginnings to a Celtic holiday called Samhain. The Celts, who lived in what is now the UK, Ireland, and Northern France, believed that the dead returned to the earth one night per year – on Samhain.
This is where the idea of costumes during Halloween first began. People would dress up in masks and costumes made of animal skins – which were thought to drive away spirits.
In later Celtic times, people began dressing up in more complex costumes, as ghosts or spirits. They would put on performances for food and drink, a Middle Ages custom known as “mumming.”
After Christianity spread to Celtic lands, November 2 was designated “All Saints Day.” These celebrations resembled Samhain in many ways, and gradually replaced the holiday. And in Scotland and Ireland, young people began dressing up in costume (also known as “guising”) and going door to door, pledging to sing a song, perform a “trick”, or recite a poem – in exchange for a “treat”!
Guising Gains Popularity In America – And Halloween Is Born!
Halloween was celebrated by some American colonists, and an influx Irish immigrants in the 1840s (due to the Irish Potato Famine) helped spread the holiday. These Irish and Scottish communities popularised “guising” and “trick-or-treating” in America.
It took a while for the holiday to spread – but by the early 20th century, it was being celebrated by Americans from all across the United States.
By the 1920s, trick-or-treating looked a lot like it does today. Kids would dress up in costume and go door-to-door for candy and treats. However, the Halloween sweets they were given were nothing like the mass-produced candy of today. Kids would often get nuts, dried fruit, pieces of cake, homemade cookies, pennies, and toys – mass-produced Halloween sweets were still a rarity!
As the 20th century went on, many communities adopted organised “trick-or-treating” events on Halloween, as a way to avoid the mischief and pranks that were commonplace during the later hours of Halloween. However, these Halloween celebrations abruptly stopped with the breakout of World War II. Sugar rationing during World War II meant that children had to refrain from trick-or-treating, and the tradition lost a bit of steam until the late 1940s.
Post-War To Today
During the post-war baby boom, America experienced tremendous economic growth, and many Americans moved into newly-developed suburbs. Here, the modern history of trick-or-treating begins.
Candymakers, no longer constrained by wartime sugar rationing, began to realise the potential of Halloween as a money-making opportunity – and they launched nationwide advertising campaigns that were aimed specifically at Halloween.
This is where modern Halloween sweets truly began making an impact. Folks no longer handed out homemade cakes or cookies, instead opting to pick up large tubs and bags of candy at their local markets – and hand these Halloween sweets out to costumed kids during trick-or-treating!
The most popular candies included the ever-sought-after Hershey bar, the UK-born Kit Kat, Milky Ways, Snicker’s bars, and dozens of others!
And while Halloween may have gained the most popularity in the US, it’s spread far and wide since. Halloween is celebrated in every English-speaking country in the globe. In the UK alone, Halloween spending in 2015 exceeded £400 million!
Dig Your Teeth Into A Halloween Tradition – With Auntie Ammie’s Candy Shop!
Interested in traditional American Halloween sweets, snacks, drinks, and more? Shop at Auntie Ammie’s Candy Shop today. We’ve got thousands of products at the best prices – so celebrate the history of this spooky holiday with authentic treats from the birthplace of Halloween!