Today, when you look at kids’ Halloween Bags you see individual serving size bags of, say, M&Ms, and little bricks of candy bars, but nary a marshmallow. Aside from Peeps’ Halloween selections, in fact, marshmallows have been cast aside in the one national event focused primarily on candy.
This is strange given that marshmallows played a large part of Halloweens in days past. So where have they gone? Or, more precisely, why? I think I know. It all starts with the Halloweens that were celebrated in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, with parties, containing bowls of candy, finger food, fruit, and nuts cracked and ready-for-cracking.
The marshmallow had a presence at these places, in many forms: vanilla marshmallows, cut and ready to eat; chocolate-covered marshmallows, with a smooth, chocolate varnish; and marshmallows prepared for Halloween roastings. By the 1920s, when lollipops surfaced as American candy fare, marshmallow “pops” were all the rage, especially with orange and black sprinkles.
at that time were relatively new: for 4,000 or so years, the marshmallow was made with the actually marshmallow root
: a sticky, hard-to-manage sap. In the late 1800s, food-makers discovered the wonders of the instant gelatin, whose many uses included a quick-and easy replacement for the unwieldy sap. And, wonder of wonders, the marshmallow, the newest thing in the candy universe, was born…spongy, versatile and delicious…found its rightful place in the Halloween party.
By the mid-1920s, that place became vacate: parties included truffles, Hershey Bras, decorated Halloween candy boxes, and mixed nuts. As for the marshmallow: that was the feature item at Halloween roasts, but no longer a major player.
So what ousted the marshmallow? One reason could be that the novelty wore off as the versatility of chocolate and other sweets increased. Second, in the late 1920s, a seed was planted that would change American Halloweens for good, likely in Wellesley Massachusetts. That seed was called “Trick-or-Treating” and over the next few decades it spread across the nation until it became a national event in the late 1940s.
Halloween candies were bountiful, of course, including candy cigarettes, Dubble Bubble gum, Milky Way bars, Mint Juleps
, Cracker Jacks, Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Roll Pops…All of these candies easy-to-package and sturdy enough to withstand the requirements of a Halloween bag.
Today, marshmallows do have a presence: every so often they even appear in the odd Halloween roasts. As for me: I miss the marshmallow. Soft, tasty, and unassuming and with an impressively long history. May it never end!
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