The Real Reason We Give Away Candy On Halloween

Giving out candy on Halloween is a tradition many of us have followed since we were kids. According to Fox Business, Americans were expected to spend a total of $2.6 billion on Halloween candy in 2020. That adds up to 600 million pounds, roughly 3.5 lbs of candy per trick-or-treater. (USA Today predicts $3 billion will be spent on 2021's Halloween candy.) Sadly, it seems much of that candy goes to waste, as much as $400 million of it — about $5 per participant in the holiday.

As it turns out, Trick-Or-Treating goes back even further than the days of swinging by a Target to pick up candy for the neighborhood kids. According to History, the Halloween tradition dates back to pre-Christian Celtic celebrations that took place around October 31 each year. Then, people would light bonfires to pay tribute to the dead. Bonfires have been replaced (mostly) by handing out free candy to costumed children. How did the tradition transition?

It stemmed from parental fear

Traditional trick-or-treating started way back — around 2,000 years ago, during Celtic times (via Thrillist). The holiday was known as Samhain, a Gaelic holiday when people would perform tricks in costumes in exchange for food (via the Library of Congress).

How did we evolve from watching tricks in exchange for food into handing out candy to strangers' kids with no real tricks involved? According to Bustle, the practice of trick-or-treating as we know it now is a relatively new concept. Even when the activity became popular in the United States around the 1930s and '40s, candy wasn't given out. Instead, kids could expect baked goods and small toys.

According to The Atlantic, Halloween candy became a thing in the 1960s and '70s. Fear behind children receiving harmful, homemade treats became prominent, and in came pre-wrapped commercial candy to save the day. Still to this day, parents check Halloween candy to be sure there isn't anything harmful mixed in. The candy tradition started because of this fear, and while it helped ease the minds of parents whose kids were originally getting homemade treats from strangers, the paranoia lives on.