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Gimme Some Candy!

When Halloween comes around, who can forget early 1990s episodes of Saturday Night Live with Adam Sandler on the “Weekend Update” segment offering up his unique and cheap costume ideas to maximize revelers’ candy booty:

“I’m Crazy Newspaper Face! And I want some candy! Give some candy to Crazy Newspaper Face! My face ain't normal, it's a newspaper! Come on, extra, extra, read all about me, I need some candy!”

House in Horse Creek decorated for Halloween. 1996 Little boys buy some candy. Caldwell, Idaho. 1941

Or how about: “I’m Crazy Plant-Arm! Hey, look at this! I have a plant coming out of my arm! Isn't that bizarre! I am crazy, I am deformed, and I am hungry! Now, give me some candy! Fork it over!”

So, whether it’s “trick-or-treat” or “give me some candy,” we should know why we make it our personal mission to accumulate bags full of candy corn, Sweet-Tarts, M&Ms, bite-sized Snickers and the less-than-popular mini boxes of raisins or those black- and orange-wrapped taffies that don’t really taste like peanut butter.

The origins of present day “trick-or-treat” date back to the Celtic tradition of offering gifts of fruits and nuts to appease wandering spirits. If not placated, the villagers feared that the spirits would kill their flocks or destroy their property. Others trace “trick-or-treat” to a European custom called “souling.” Beggars would go from village to village begging for “soul cakes” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.

Find out more Halloween history by visiting the Today in History entry for Oct. 31. This presentation gathers content from the Library's American Memory collections to uncover what happened in American history for every day of a year.

Also, by searching in American Memory for “Halloween” or “candy” uncovers items from presentations such as Folklife and Landscape in Southern West Virginia, the Nineteenth Century in Print and photographs from the FSA-OWI collection, many of which are also on Flickr.

A. House in Horse Creek decorated for Halloween. 1996. American Folklife Center. Reproduction Information: Call No.: CRF-LE-C159-01

B. Little boys buy some candy. Caldwell, Idaho. 1941. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-USF33-013079-M3 DLC (b&w film nitrate neg.), LC-USZ62-130997 DLC (b&w film copy neg. from print); Call No.: LC-USF33- 013079-M3