Perhaps there was a day of old in which Halloween was all about ghosts, goblins, thrills and chills. But the truth is that Halloween today is all about candy — lots and lots of candy. And pumpkins — we can’t forget the pumpkins.
Regarding the latter, the United States is a heavyweight in pumpkin production, growing 1.1 billion (with a capital “B”) pounds of the large orange gourd. Illinois leads the way, producing 427 million pounds of pumpkins, with California, New York and Ohio falling in behind, each producing more than 100 million pounds. Except for a handful left behind to ensure that Linus, of Charlie Brown fame, has a patch in which to wait for the Great Pumpkin, a good chunk of those 1.1 billion pounds has already crisscrossed America to serve as traditional Halloween decorations and again later to be used for dessert on Thanksgiving Day.
But back to Halloween, as much as Americans are pumping out record numbers of pumpkins, we are also honking down candy with the best of them. Per capita consumption of candy by Americans last year was 24.7 pounds. Yes, that’s right — each and every one of us is happily munching down nearly 25 pounds of Snickers bars, Almond Joys and Peppermint Patties. While candy is appropriate for nearly every holiday (or even on non-holidays, of course), Halloween is the only time when it’s socially acceptable to knock on a stranger’s door and expect them to drop a handful of chocolate bars into the bag you are carrying.
Candy is not only making us all happy, it also keeps a lot of people employed (so in turn they can buy some of the 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins). More than 50,000 people across America are employed in the candy industry, with the vast majority, more than 34,000, making chocolate-specific products. In the U.S. in 2009, there were 1,177 companies producing chocolate and cocoa products and 409 companies manufacturing non-chocolate confectionary products. California and Pennsylvania are the big candy producing states. In addition to candy, Halloween also helps keep people employed through 1,719 businesses that rent costumes across the nation.
And then, there are the big numbers. According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 41 million potential trick-or-treaters between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States. That number may not come as a surprise to those living in the popular Halloween neighborhoods in South Hillsborough, such as Cypress Creek Village where trick-or-treaters seem to appear from tour buses and possibly jumbo jets to take part in the bounty offered. That number is entirely manageable given there are nearly 117 million occupied housing units in the United States. In other words, with a little national organization, each trick-or-treater could conceivably take the entire candy bowl from 2.8 households. That is something that would surely bring cries of joy for those kids lucky enough to get the homes that offer Snickers bars or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and wails of anguish from the kids who get the homes offering healthful tofu snacks.
Happy Halloween! For adults, one of the best things about helping the economy in buying bags of candy for trick-or-treaters is the ability to dip surreptitiously into the candy bowl between the shouts of “Trick or Treat!” Don’t worry, it’s OK. You have nearly 25 pounds to go for the year.