This week as my daughter became obsessed with all things Halloween, she announced a surprising fact: Cavemen invented candy and were the first trick-or-treaters. I paused and scratched my head. Really?
Keep in mind, my daughter is the same kid who believes a girl in her class is her long-lost-witch-sister because they both share the same ticklish spots. They store magical powers in their favorite necklaces and recite gibberish spells to witch-travel back to their houses for an invisible snack if they get hungry during the school day. No doubt she inherited her mother’s imagination, which means all her bold proclamations require further investigation.
In modern fiction, the references to candy are too numerous to count – especially this time of year when everyone dusts off their Halloween books. Candy has become ingrained in child folklore both as a reward and as a coveted treasure. But how far back does it go? Samantha shared candy, and her doll, with a new friend in her American Girl Series set in the 1990’s. In the 1870’s, Laura Ingalls helped her mother make candy for Christmas as they pioneered across the United States in the Little House on the Prairie series. Marie Antoinette is infamous for her candy, and cake, consumption in the 1770’s. Beyond that, my loosely-based-on-fact historical references become a bit sketchy.
To quote the all-knowing Wikipedia:
The Middle English word candy began to be used in the late 13th century, coming into English from the Old French çucre candi, derived in turn from Persian Qand (=قند) and Qandi (=قندی), “cane sugar”, probably derived from Sanskrit word khanda (खण्ड) “piece (of sugar)”, perhaps from Dravidian (cf. Tamil kantu for candy, or kattu “to harden, condense”).
Before sugar was readily available, candy was made from honey. Honey was used in Ancient China, Middle East, Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire to coat fruits and flowers to preserve them or to create forms of candy.
Wow. The appearance of candy in the Roman Empire far exceeded my expectations. My search into the history of Trick-or-Treating did not trace back nearly as far.
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas.”
Random Daughter Myth Busted: Cavemen did not invent candy or trick-or-treat.
But let’s not prune her wild imagination . . .