by Sara Mead
As I wrote a few weeks ago, October marks the beginning of a delightful season of candy-rich holidays that runs from Halloween, through Christmas, to Valentine’s Day, and then culminates in Easter. But one major holiday is a gaping void in this otherwise abundant candy calendar. And that, folks, is Thanksgiving. I mean, can you name a single beloved candy traditionally associated with Thanksgiving? Christmas has its candy canes, Valentine’s day conversation hearts, Easter its jelly beans. Thanksgiving? You might get a hollow chocolate turkey. If you’re lucky your bachelor uncle might show up for Thanksgiving dinner bearing a Whitman’s Sampler with Thanksgiving themed decorations on the box-but no real difference inside. C’mon folks. We can do better than that! We’re Americans, gosh-durnit.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why, exactly, it is that Thanksgiving is such as candy wasteland. After all, this is a holiday known for gluttony, abundance, and good ol’ American ingenuity–all qualities captured nicely in our booming candy market. So why, then, doesn’t that abundance extend pass the dinner table to the candy jar? I’ve considered a few possible explanations:
- Candy wasn’t part of the original Thanksgiving: Ok, it’s true. The pilgrims had corn, but the corn syrup that facilitates our abundant candy supply certainly wasn’t present at Plymouth Rock. But what kind of daft explanation is that? I’m pretty sure the Pilgrims didn’t have green bean casserole–how could they without Durkee Fried Onions?–or marshmallow topping on their candied sweet potatoes. But that doesn’t keep millions of Americans from enjoying those dishes every year. Explanation FAIL.
- You’re way too full after Thanksgiving dinner to even consider eating candy: I find this explanation somewhat convincing. After the IFA Thanksgiving, I actually was too full to want candy (a rare occurrence!). But, several hours after Thanksgiving dinner, when you’re watching TV in a semi-comatose state and you want something tasty in your mouth but still aren’t ready to consider putting more food in your stomach? That’s exactly when candy comes in handy. Not to mention that candy can be a lifesaver during the loooong wait for the turkey to be done. And I know I’d love some delicious Thanksgiving candy to munch on as I wait for my delayed flight in the airport. So, reasonable explanation, but still not an excuse.
- Items in the traditional Thanksgiving meal are already so similar to candy, that actual candy would be redundant: I’m looking at YOU, candied whipped sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping. Now, these are not part of the traditional Mead family Thanksgiving (we prefer our sweet potatoes broiled with a stick of butter and a cup of brown sugar until they become basically carmel), but I know a lot of people like them. Also: the Ocean Spray canned cranberry sauce that’s a staple of Thanksgiving dinners: basically candy. Even more candy-like: Homemade cranberry relish. You don’t want to know how much sugar is in that puppy. But ultimately, this explanation raises more questions that it answers: If so many traditional Thanksgiving dishes are basically candy already, why don’t we have more delicious real candies based on them to help us observe the Thanksgiving holiday?
- Thanksgiving is a day, not a season: Part of the reason that we have so much delicious Christmas candy is that Christmas is not just a day but an entire season. There’s not really a Thanksgiving season, though. It’s pretty much just one day. At the same time, Valentine’s day is just one day, and that hasn’t kept the candy industry from selling tons of red-hots, conversation hearts, and those iconic heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.
- Patriotic holidays don’t have good candy: Most holidays with the best candy are holidays with religious or cultural origins: Christmas, Easter, even, stretching a bit, Halloween and Valentine’s Day. But have you ever seen 4th of July candies for sale in your local CVS? Or Memorial Day candies. Patriotic holidays don’t make for good candy. And Thanksgiving is, ultimately, a patriotic holiday. As a result it doesn’t have good candy.
Each of these explanations make some sense: But they’re still not fully satisfactory to explain why the capitalistic spirits of commercial candy manufacturers have failed to seize on Thanksgiving as an opportunity in the same way they’ve seized on other holidays. Maybe they just don’t have any good ideas for Halloween candies. Tomorrow, we’ll see if we can address that problem with some suggestions for new Thanksgiving candies.