Halloween Traditions – The Food

Halloween is steeped in traditions. However, the Halloween that we Americans celebrate today has borrowed many traditions but we’ve made the holiday so mainstream that I’d argue that many of us don’t know why we do the things we do. From carving jack-o-lanterns, wearing costumes and giving away candies to trick-or-treaters. Or why we eat the foods we traditionally eat on Halloween.

Would you like to know why?

Candy Apples

CC Sevenmarie

The majority of trick-or-treaters this year are not likely to find candy apples in their bag of sweets, however they were once extremely popular — in the 1960s and 1970s especially.

The delicious and sticky coating is made from sugar, corn syrup, water, cinnamon and red food coloring. Said to be first made by a William W. Kolb in Newark, who wanted to have the apples ready in time for Christmas and sold them for 5 cents each.1

Now candy apples can found in festivals, fairs, the circus and strip malls — but not in Halloween bags — as the media concerned many a parent that underneath it’s bright, hard-candy coating were pins or razor blades.

Candy apples are not unique to Americans. In England, the apples are covered in toffee and named thusly — toffee apples. Usually eaten on November 5th in accordance with Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night. The Brazilians, Germans, French and Canadians also enjoy their apples coated in sugary goodness, but like the Irish and Scottish, Americans eat their candy apples around/on Halloween as apples are readily available at this time.

Apple Bobbing

Or bobbing for apples. Or dooking, as the Scottish say.

Dunk your face in a basin of water and start splashing about to pull the apple out only using your mouth and teeth. That’s got to be a good look, right? Well, there are various traditions pertaining apple bobbing that involved foretelling your fortune in the ways of love, provided you could fish out your apple.

Let us count the ways

  • He or she who chokes on their apple (fun!) would be the first to marry.
  • Girls who placed their bobbed apple under their pillow would dream of their future husband.
  • After fishing for your apple, carve it in to one long strip, toss it over your shoulder and the letter you can make out would be the first letter of your future spouse’s name.

In England, Snap Apple Night is synonymous with Halloween and a game involving apples hung from a string had to be bitten just as you tried to avoid (a variation to the game) another string that had a lit candle swinging about.2

Two completely safe and sanitary games that we should continue today.

Candy Corn

I’m in Lewis Black’s camp and detest the stuff. When it’s around I think I’ll enjoy the treat but after a handful I realize, again, how much I dislike candy corn.

Unlike what Black says they were actually first made in the 1880s by George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Company. Their unique taste is made when you combine sugar, corn syrup, flavoring, wax and water then cook them in to a slurry. For added texture and to provide that mouth feel you either love or hate, fondant is added. And for that “soft bite,” tip your hats to the marshmallows that are thrown in to the mix.3

Candy Pumpkins

CC Anthony Quintano

We can also thank Renninger for making candy pumpkins.      Thanks.

Made popular in the 1920s, the candy pumpkins underwent the same type of process as the candy corn with the slurry-making which is actually called “mellowcreme” by confectioners due to what they describe as that “mellow, creamy texture.” The mellowcreme slurry was divided up and given either an orange or a green color, then put in a mold to make the same type of candy as candy corn but put it in a pumpkin shape.

Get this! Candy pumpkins and acorns are often sold with candy corn under the name “harvest mix.” And if candy corn has a dark tip (as opposed to a white one) it’s renamed “Indian Corn.”4


  1. Candy Apples — Source
  2. Apple Bobbing – Source
  3. Candy Corn – Source
  4. Candy Pumpkins – Source
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