Culture

The United States of Candy Land

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Sally was right when she complained in the Peanuts Thanksgiving special that it was too soon to learn about another holiday because she wasn’t even through with her Halloween candy yet. And she couldn’t have had that much candy as she’d spent Halloween in a pumpkin patch with Linus, and her brother came home with a bag of rocks. 

With Halloween, the US candy calendar begins. Now, I’m not a strict candy limits mom. When my eldest was three years old, we hit about half a dozen houses. This was in Eaton Square, an area of London that was just coming up to speed with American traditions for All Hallows Eve, so we aren’t talking about a ton of candy. I let him eat to his heart’s content. My mother did not approve, but as she cautioned me, Patrick got about half way through his bucket, then stopped and asked for water and if he could have the rest tomorrow. His tummy didn’t like all the candy, he told us. I beamed, of course, and let him watch The Great Pumpkin before bed. (He slept fine, by the way.)

I’ve not had a candy or sugar-binging problem with him since. His modeling and similar lessons for his younger sisters have done wonders. One of the girls will occasionally binge on sugar, TV—whatever I don’t want her doing. She’s my contrarian. The let-them-learn-by-an-early-binge strategy doesn’t work so well with those kids. But on the whole, it’s a good parenting trick. That all said, it was much easier to do in the UK when it was just candy at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. They celebrated Valentine’s Day in the UK, but it wasn’t a candy fest. It was a few Hershey’s Kisses kind of portion. (Although Hershey’s chocolate isn’t found much in Europe. It’s grainy and waxy.) Here, we have candy and sugar year round. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, school fairs, birthdays. It just keeps coming and parents don’t do little parties or fairs here in the US.

My least favorite of the US candy trends, however, is the dip packets. Remember pixie straws? The teaspoon or so of tart sugar? For the non-parents of Trick or Treat age children, these days we have packets of approximately 2 table spoons of tart sugar. These packets come with a dipstick for licking and dipping into the sugar. The dipstick is made of sugar, like a long sugar cube. Worse, the sugar is colored. If the children, say, spill it on your couch and it happens to get damp, then you have a new purple, red, or green spot that will not come out. And topping it all off, the tart/sour candies are the offensive line of the sugar bugs that eat tooth enamel. I can manage most candy, but those packets I throw out on sight.

Happy Halloween. And may you successfully hide at least some of your kid’s candy before Thanksgiving sweets arrive.