October 22, 2009

Come on everybody, let’s go trick-or-treating!

An eerie wind rustles through the leaves, a shiver crawls like a spider up your back. The moon hangs low and round, it’s pale buttermilk hued face almost seems to cackle at you. All around hobgoblins and fairies, vampires and werewolves run amuck, laughing as they clutch their plastic pales and pillowcases close. Once inviting houses suddenly seem as cozy as a mausoleum, their porches bedecked with glowing eyed gourds, front lawns scattered in tombstones and scarecrows. An electric energy pulses through the crisp air, there’s magic a foot, on this ancient eve of festivity mischief and grand fun, for all Hallows Eve has arrived!

Or, as is the case today, it soon will, and with it comes the marvelous tradition of trick-or-treating! Though it has evolved and changed over the centuries, the practise of dressing up (mask, costume, etc) and going door-to-door, appealing to your neighbours for food (in days of yore, the door knockers would offer up prayers for the deceased relatives of their community members on All Souls Day) has been going on since at least the middle ages in Europe (some sources say as far back as the ancient Celts).

Trick-or-treating as we know and recognize it today (an act carried out annually by youngsters on October 31st) is thought to have emerged in the early years of the twentieth century, and the 1930s its popularity had really begun to spread across North America. Though various treats ranging from home-baked goodies to candy apples, nuts in their shells to fresh fruit have been handed out to trick-or-treaters over the years, for decades now, I think it’s a safe bet to say that candy has been both the most common and most beloved of goodies that a costume clad child could find waiting for him or her at the next front door.

Candy spanning the gamut from loose "penny sweets" to homemade taffy (in the days before widespread fear of tainted/poised/razor blade laced Halloween treats) has been doled out at one point or another, but for decades now store bought goodies have been commonplace, and are what most trick-or-treaters receive these days.

Everyone it seems has a favourite Halloween candy or two! I know that I certainly look back with immense fondness on any house that offered up Butterfinger, Crispy Crunch, Crunchie or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, as well as “Dots” and Tootsie Pop lollipops. I was also eager to get Coffee Crisp bars which I would rush home at the end of the night to give my mother, for they were her favourite chocolate bar when I was growing up.

I can remember nearly every Halloween night I’ve had since I was three years old with vivid clarity. Some years we marched from house to house in the snow (this being Canada after all), others we slipped raincoats and rubber boats over our costumes to fend off chilly rain. A few however were not freezing cold, they were lit by stars that tumbled like tinsel across the raven black sky and brought with them the feeling that the night would stretch on forever – or at least until the last front light in our neighbourhood had been turned off.

Buzzing with excitement (and a wee bit of a sugar high) rush we would tromp home, to a friend’s house or onwards to a Halloween party (sometimes at the local community centre), our pails and sacks brimming with what seemed like a monumental volume of candy, ready to carry out the all important candy swap with our friends and siblings. I remember we executed this ritualistic act with negotiating skills the likes of which would make most seven-figure-a-year lawyers quake in their boots.

Halloween night was for me one of tremendous joy and merriment. It was the chance to escape into a world of make-believe, to feel independent (I can recall perfectly the first year we were allowed out without adult supervision), and to revel in the spooky, enchanted, incredible spirit that only Halloween could deliver.

It has, however, been a few years since I last trooped around the local streets, melodically chanting “trick-or-treat” as my knuckles rapt at a door, and I miss it something fierce! (I joke to my husband that since I’m petite and have a very young sounding voice, I should just don a costume with a mask and go out, even if I am 25! ;D) So I thought it would tons of fun if we took at a look at a mixture of vintage Halloween and more general (aka, not Halloween specific) vintage ads for candy together. Reliving as a collective group, the joys of seeing some of these scrumptious treats land in our pillowcases and then later poured out on our bedroom floors as we hunkered down, a mile-wide smile on our face, over the spoils that Halloween night had provided us with.

Come, one and all, even if you have never trick-or-treated before (perplexingly, some countries have yet to take up this tradition – if only such nations knew the fun they’re missing out on!), and join me as we, dressed in our Halloween night finest, parade around the block (errrr, blog) collecting sweet treats!

{A stylishly dressed woman hands out candy to a pair of adorable trick-or-treaters in this vintage ad for Baby Ruth and Butterfinger chocolate bars from the 1950s. Don’t you just love the little girl’s witch hat and both or their treat bags?}

{For the absolute bargain price of just a nickel during the 50s one could satisfy their sweet tooth a classic Hershey’s candy bar, such as Krackel (which had crispy rice cereal in it) or Mr. Goodbar (chocked full of peanuts). By and large Hershey’s products (with the notable exception of Kisses) have never been quite as common in Canada as they are in States, but I do still recall finding the occasional, delicious Hersey’s bar amongst my Halloween treats.}

{Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (as well as Reese’s Pieces) were highly sought after Halloween night treats when I was growing up and I remember they often commanded two or three “lesser” chocolate bars (or a handful of chewy candies) if you were swapping with a friend. This charming 1950s ad is rich with the colour orange, making it perfectly suited to October!}

{Black liquorice is a flavour I instantly and fondly associate with Halloween, particularly in the form of black jelly beans, lollipops, and jujubes, though it most certainly came via Good & Plenty candies, too.}

{Lovely artistry fills this delightful 1929 vintage ad for Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum with oodles of vintage Halloween appeal.}

{Hard, sweet and ever so slightly salty, Heath (toffee) bars were always marvelous on their own, enjoyed slowly over the course of a favourite TV program perhaps or, alternatively, crumbled and tossed in with a big bowl of warm popcorn for an easy-for-an-eight-year-to-make spin on caramel corn.}

{An ageless classic, the humble fruit flavoured Lifesavers candy was a frequent Halloween loot bag find, in both miniature roll size and in the form of Lifesavers lollipops, all throughout my childhood – just as they have been for those of trick-or-treaters for decades.}

{A rather solemn looking woman graced this 1955 ad for Aero bars, her expression in stark contrast with the pleasant fun that usually came from letting the Aero bubbles melt on your tongue as you nibbled your way through one of these light milk chocolate bars.}

{Tootsie rolls are a Halloween staple in my books, not only the delicious chewy chocolate variety, but also the Tootsie Fruit Rolls (which feature flavours such as vanilla, lemon, and cherry) which, in Canada at least, you can only ever seem to find in October (and thus I was extra cautious to ration the fruit flavoured Tootsie rolls for as long as I could each year).}

{Tropical beauty flows through this wonderful 1950s ad for Bounty bars, which are shows here with a deep almost red wine and white hued label, which is quite different than the blue, green and white variety that I recall seeing in my pile of Halloween candy. Pretty as the modern wrapper for this tasty coconut candy bar is, I think I prefer the vintage one shown here.}

{To this day Crunchie bars with their deep golden, intensely crisp – yet airy – sponge candy (aka, honeycomb or cinder toffee) centre and thin outer coating of milk chocolate remain one of my favourite sweet treats at Halloween – or any time I need a sugar rush.}

{A true chocolate classic, Cadbury milk chocolate (and Caramilk) bars always went head-to-head with Neilson's Jersey Milk, Nestle Aero, and Hersey’s Milk Chocolate bars when kids debated which “plain” chocolate bar was best.}

{If you were particularly lucky, each Halloween there would be a handful of houses that went above and beyond pint sized chocolate bars, candy corn, lollipops and bubble gum and handed out something extraordinary (by Halloween treat terms) like bags of potato chips or cheese puffs, cans of soda, or boxes of Cracker Jacks, as this fantastic 1950s ad suggests doing.}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

Gosh, gang, wasn’t that that a swell time?! Did it call to mind happy memories of childhood Halloweens? I hope it did and that you enjoyed this make-believe trick-or-treating excursion (and that you didn’t get too spooked out! :D).

I had a terrific time putting this post together (not surprisingly, I’ve got a hankering for chocolate now!) and I would adore hearing about your favourite (or scariest!) Halloween night memories, what you loved to find in your pumpkin pail, and how you celebrate Halloween these days!


  1. Wonderful post!! Now I need some chocolate :D

  2. I wish we could go back in time when Halloween was innocent and precious time for kids. Our society has corrupted it.

    Blessings, andrea

  3. I love all of the vintage ads! Especially the Crackerjack one...they all look so adorable.While I could never get away with trick or treating without a small child now, we are having a party that will not be complete without candy. Great post!

  4. Hey Jessica. Wow. What a fantastic post. I loved it. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It was definitely one I've been a big fan of since I was a kid. I had so many great Halloweens growing up. My little nephew will be going out for his first trick or treat this year.

  5. I'd like to "bit a little moonlight" - giggle! I LOVE Crunchie bars! Especially the minis that come out this time of year - but I can't find them exclusively in their own bag anymore. They come in a mix with Crispy Crunch, and Mr. Big. Those are okay - but the Crunchie is my treat of choice!

    Really great old ads!

  6. Oh, I thought you might not add my favorite candy, but you did.. The AREO BAR!!! WE cant' get it in the US, but my daughter lived on these for two years at school in Ontario.. I love the areo bar and your post about candy and Halloween, priceless.. love to read your post.. you have such a way with language and I love it!! I'll be sending off your Halloween card today.. have a great day!!

  7. Great post! I love all the vintage candy ads! My husband and I will be experiencing trick or treaters for the first time in our new house this year so I'm excited. I want to be the cool lady in the neighborhood that hands out the good candy :)

  8. So I'm not the only petite, squeaky-voiced 20-something woman who has ever considered dressing up and Trick-or-Treating? Actually, I really did that a few years ago with my stepdaughter. I was 25 and she was 9, and I easily passed for her sister or friend and we had a wonderful time! So if you have a similar-sized kid to take Trick-or-Treating and a good Halloween mask, it can be done. :)

  9. Ah, you've made long for the days when I was young enough to trick or treat. Hehe people always think I'm a lot younger than I am (probably because of my height and I have a young sounding voice as well!). Maybe if I go as a ghost I could get away with it. I such miss getting all that good candy and the fun of going around the neighborhood.
    All those pictures of candy made me hungry. It's cool to see the candy that they don't have around here. Coffee Crisp sounds so good!

  10. Oh I love these old Ads!! 5 cents for a candy bar- I could never imagine... now you are lucky if you can get one for $1. LOL


  11. This is a seriously sweet post :)
    Have a great weekend!

  12. Wonderful Halloween Memories! I have good ones myself. My favorite is Trick or Treating in over a foot of snow in 1991. My sister and I were one of the few kids that went out, so we got quite a haul!

    As to favorite candy, that is way to difficult! In America we didn't have the wonderful Cadbury choices that we now have. I adore Cadbury chocolate, especially the Crunchie. My favorite Trick or Treating candies were Butterfingers, Nerds, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Yummy!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  13. Oh what fun candy memories. My favorite candy is York Peppermint Patties...Love 'em!

    Stay Cozy, Carrie

  14. All those vintage candy ads are just delightful, and you paint such a pretty trick-or-treat vision! Hope your weekend is treating you well dear Jessica. :)

  15. Happy Monday, my dears, thank you each very much for your wonderful comments! To say they sweetened my weekend would be an understatement :)

    May you each a treat filled countdown until Halloween and a marvelous week!
    ♥ Jessica