Thursday, November 3, 2011

Candy, candy, Samhain

In the immortal words of Garfield "Candy, candy, candy!"

Halloween is over and as kids all over the US get over their sugar hang-overs, I'm here at work, still munching on some of my favorite candies.  I have a Twix, Snickers, 3 Musketeers and a Milky Way.  I wanted to write about something so I figured, candy is a good idea.  Everyone loves candy, even those who are not supposed to eat it still eat it.  So, while I try to separate the good candy from the bad candy and then throw out the high fructose corn syrup laded candy, I tend to think, sometimes after my chocolate coma, about how the candy was made.  Now, I have tried to make my own candy at home and it isn't an easy task.

So, anyway, Halloween is basically the American form of Samhain.  Samhain is a Gaelic harvest festival that runs on October 31st and November 1st.  In old Irish culture, Samhain was the end of the Fall and the beginning of Winter, which is characterized by the end of the fall harvest.  In history, people gathered together, had harvest parties, made bonfires and slaughtered livestock before the winter.  In the later centuries, people would wear masks and costumes in order to ward off any spirits or demons. I would guess then these people would then go door to door and offer to scare away the evil of the home or building in return for payment. Which is where trick-or-treating came from.  Foods that we associate with Halloween were typical fall and harvest foods, like corn, apples and nuts.

Now, Halloween is basically, just the trick-or-treating part of Samhain.  For instance, apparently the carving of pumpkins came from the Christians who carved turnips to resemble their dead family members for All Souls Day.  Halloween, means the day before All Hallows Day, as in All Holy Day as in All Souls Day.  There was also this old idea, and I think it has pagan ties, that the spirit world's barrier is thinnest on the day before All Saint's Day.  This causes many spirits and ghosts to pass over or at least try to pass through.  So, by dressing up, humans are able to scare these spirits back to their own side.  This idea is the reason why the demons of many a horror movie and story, always seem to strike on Halloween.

Okay, back to the candy...

The four candy bars I have in front of me, are from the same company: Mars.  Mars candy was started by Frank Mars, whose mother taught him to make candy when he was young and he started selling his own candies by age 19.  The first time he started his company, it failed and it wasn't until he started a second company where it was later incorporated into the Mars company we have today.  The company is still family owned and makes many numerous candies as well as other labels under their own, such as Uncle Ben's.

Snickers, brings in about $2 billion dollars a year, just from that one kind of candy bar.  The bar was invented in 1930 and named after Frank's favorite horse.

Twix stands for twin sticks.

Milky Way was invented in 1923 as the first distributed filled chocolate bar.  Its flavor comes from malted milk, like a milkshake.  It is a milky way of making the candy bar and was named after this idea, not the galaxy.

3 Musketeers was invented in 1932 and originally the package had 3 small bars inside: a strawberry, vanilla and chocolate malt bar.  During the war when sugar was tight, they phased out the strawberry and vanilla and kept the chocolate.

What is great to see, is as of today, on their website, Mars does not use High Fructose Corn Syrup in their candy bars.  They use the same family secret recipes as Frank learned from his mom, probably almost a hundred years ago.

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