Before Candy, This Is What Americans Ate On Halloween

There are a ton of playful, seasonal things to get excited about when October rolls around. Maybe, like many caffeine fans, you're stoked for Starbucks' new glow-in-the-dark Halloween cups. Even Baskin-Robbins' released a spooky ice cream flavor for October: spicy pepper and chocolate swirl. But, if you're like many Americans, there's likely one thing you're most excited about during the holiday: Halloween candy. In September 2020, ABC News reported that Halloween candy sales surpassed 2019's figures before October even rolled around. The pandemic was in full swing, and U.S. consumers didn't even need to go trick-or-treating to enjoy Halloween candy to celebrate the holiday.

As one Brit tweeted, "Is it just me, or do Americans take Halloween way too seriously? Like this is over-the-top levels of engagement." In fact, BuzzFeed compiled similar comments in a piece aptly called "29 Things That Are Totally Normal To Americans About Halloween That Are Completely Weird To Everyone Else." Admittedly, perhaps American Halloween traditions are a bit weird... but they used to be even weirder. Before candy, this is what Americans ate on Halloween.

Fruity festivities

According to historian Susan Benjamin, "trick-or-treat" was not a question you'd hear from the mouth of a 1900s kid in a superhero costume. Folks didn't get in on Halloween festivities until the early 20th century, and it took them even longer to celebrate with candy, Time notes. Believe it or not, the hot-ticket item on Halloweens of the past wasn't Reese's cups or Butterfingers, says Benjamin, author of "Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America's Favorite Pleasure." It was fruit. "Increasingly into the '10s and '20s, fruits — delicious grapes, and all sorts of succulent oranges — they would have that at Halloween parties," Benjamin explains.

Per CNN, Halloween candy only started becoming a thing during the 1920s-1930s and took another few decades to become a holiday staple in 1950. The Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar hit the market in 1900, but sugar rationing was still going on during the Great Depression and WWII. But, after the war ended, trick-or-treating began, and the rest is history. (Literally). You might be craving apple pie this time of year, but apples used to be an especially big deal on Halloweens of the past. Not only does bobbing for apples pre-date trick-or-treating, but they were considered the real treat. Some folks would even celebrate Halloween with "Nut Crack Night" by cracking roasted chestnuts. (Sounds like a Christmas thing? Early Halloween fans say, "Think again").