Go Big and Go Home

Ah, late October! That time of year when everything tastes of pumpkin spice, every lawn is aglow with inflatable monsters, and every vacant building becomes a Spirit Halloween store. It’s also that time of year when one gives oneself a stern look in the mirror and asks, will I hand out full size or fun size candy bars on Halloween this year?

I’m going to tell you right up front that I’m team full size. I also think it’s necessary to confess that I don’t really like Halloween. I like Halloween candy. Actually, I just like candy. With the notable exception of candy corn. Like religion and politics, the merits, or lack thereof, of candy corn is a hotly debated topic, but not germane to the present theme. Let’s forget I even mentioned it and carry on. Wait a sec. You, in the back of the blog, I said we’re moving on, fer crying out loud.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the Origin Story…

Four score and more years than I care to mention ago, we lived down the street from a nice lady named Mrs. Arnold. I remember clinging to my father’s leg as he pushed me up her porch steps. She stood looking down at me in a long, flowing, black gown, and a tall black hat, her white hair glowing in the porchlight. Sweat borne of sheer terror poured out from under my Casper the Friendly Ghost mask. I thought for sure she was the sort of witch that eats children. Her pale hand extended from the darkness of her sleeve to reveal a Hershey bar as big as my forearm. Two things happened almost simultaneously: abject fear turned to ecstasy and I was officially hooked on Halloween candy. Mrs. Arnold may not have been a witch, but she created a monster.

Saccharine childhood memories aside, Halloween has its fair share of critics. The Full Size vs. Fun Size controversy leads the pack. A common argument against the big bars is that they’ll make the neighbors look bad. I’m not making this up. Apparently, there’s a chance that the neighbors will feel outdone. I prefer to think that no one’s ego is that fragile and that each household will do what it prefers. We’re all adults here and it’s all about the kids. We’re doing this for Johnny, man, not trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston in The Outsiders, 1983

I submit to the fun-size-is-better camp that they’re doling out more packaging than confection. Fun size candy is a marketing scheme by Big Candy. It costs more per pound and you get less of it. The individual candy wrappers take up more space in the bag than the candy. In a bid to save the planet, many stores don’t give out plastic shopping bags anymore. But I can buy a plastic bag of landfill-clogging, fun-sized candy wrappers to put in the paper bag at the checkout. In this age of sustainability and eco-friendliness, full size bars are the more sustainable option. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m kidding. Kind of.

I’m really in this to give the kids as memorable an experience as I had all those years ago on Mrs. Arnold’s front porch. I set up the doorbell to play Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” with the speaker in the open window to maximize the effect. They love it. I’m pretty sure they expect to see Lon Chaney open the door. Well, if they knew who he was they would. What they actually get is the two of us in plastic Viking helmets. They like that, too. Then comes the ecstatic look on their faces as the basket of big bars appears around the door jamb. With that, another generation of sweet-toothed Halloween enthusiasts disappears into the night.

Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera, 1925
Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

While the kids are the VIPs, we can’t forget about the shadowy figures lurking along the dark edges of the driveway: their parents. They, too, deserve a treat for schlepping about in the dark so that their offspring can test the fortitude of their collective pancreas with a pillowcase full of chocolate and cane sugar. When the kids are told to take another bar for mom and dad, the look on their little faces is pure gold. Every kid knows they have to pay the ferryman at the end of the night. And now it won’t come out of their stash.

While Halloween’s origins are as ancient as humanity itself, for me, it’s a modern social contract based on kindness. Sure, every year the big bars see to it that we get a few more kids than the year before. Word spreads. That’s a good thing. Living up to a child’s expectations is a privilege.

It’s only one night out of the entire year. A mere few hours really, from when the sun sets until the porch lights dim, when young minstrels and jokesters parade down the street to perform at each door in exchange for a treat. That’s why, when the organ music fades and my front door creaks open to expectant faces in greasepaint and frippery, full size candy bars shall be their wage. Therefore, I beseech thee, fun-size givers, reconsider thy fare for this cursed night, these costumed kids, these trick-or-treaters, this Halloween. Or you can ignore me Like Richard II ignored John of Gaunt and get egged. Trick or Treat!

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