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Halloween rule No. 8: When in doubt, go with chocolate

This story originally appeared in the Sunday, October 30, 2005 edition of The Kansas City Star

My 4-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, spends 12 hours a day pondering what Halloween costume she should wear this year. Plato did not spend this much time considering forms of government.

In the last day, for instance, Elizabeth has decided to be Leia from "Star Wars," Padme from "Star Wars," Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine from "Aladdin," Robin, Elastigirl, Pebbles Flintstone, Dorothy, Ariel from "The Little Mermaid," at least two of the Powerpuff Girls, her friend Talia, and Maria from "The Sound of Music."

Because she's so young, she doesn't realize that it doesn't matter.

On Halloween night, someone will give her Circus Peanuts anyway.

Kids will eat anything

It amazes me that they still make Circus Peanuts. These, you undoubtedly remember, are large, orange, marshmallow-type candies that resemble the polystyrene peanuts you find in packaging. But Circus Peanuts taste worse.

They are so bad that I've never met a child who would eat them, and children will eat anything if you call it candy. Anything. Chocolate-covered door knobs. Sugar-coated radiators. On my desk right now, I've got a candy called "Green Apple Spray," which is exactly what the name says. You spray this into your mouth, like it's asthma medicine. There's another candy here called "Paint Shop Doubles," which is a can filled with some sort of candy paint (paintbrush included).

Kids will paint their tongues like crazy. They will spray some apple-tasting spray in their mouth. They will eat exploding candy, and things called jawbreakers. But they know from a young age not to touch Circus Peanuts.

Why Circus Peanuts?

I remember last year when Elizabeth got her first Circus Peanut.

"What is this?" she asked.

"That's a Circus Peanut."

"Do you eat this?"

"I wouldn't."

"Why did someone give me this?"

That was a good question, right up there with "What becomes of the brokenhearted?" and "Why do people spend 10 minutes backing into parking spaces at the mall?"

So why do people, after all these years, still inflict Circus Peanuts on kids?

A candy primer

I think the reason is nobody has ever offered a primer for giving out candy on Halloween. Here are some suggestions:

1. Don't give out candies that you get while waiting in line at banks. This would include Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Dum Dums and Jolly Ranchers. These are perfectly fine candies, especially Smarties, but for a kid the whole idea of Halloween is to get special candy, the kind they usually are not allowed to eat. They don't want the same candy they get while waiting for Mom to get a home equity loan.

2. Don't give out money. This should go without saying. But last year, someone threw a quarter into Elizabeth's bag. I will admit that the rate has gone up - people used to throw pennies into my Halloween bag - but what good is that quarter going to do her? She's 4. Get out of the house and buy a bag of Reese's peanut butter cups or something.

3. Don't make your own Halloween treats. It's a nice thought, really. But take my word for it: Kids won't appreciate the effort you put into making that popcorn ball jack-o'-lantern. They're looking for a sugar coma, not creative cooking.

4. Candy corn. Don't do it.

5. Box of raisins. Don't do it.

6. If you have a variety of candy - and it's always good to have a variety - let the first group of kids choose what they want. It's always the youngest kids who come first. Let them pick out all the good stuff, and that way the later kids, who are usually in their mid-30s, are left to pick Hershey's Dark and Mike and Ikes.

This is no joke; these kids are getting older and older. A guy came to the door last year wearing a robe and holding a gavel. I said, "Are you supposed to be a judge?" He said, "I am a judge, give me one of those Mr. Goodbars."

7. Bit-O-Honey. Don't do it. What kind of misguided idea for a candy bar was that anyway? It's hardened honey. That sounds delicious. You know Bit-O-Honey was a bad concept because somewhere along the way they started putting the words "now softer" on the packaging. If your selling message is "now softer," you are in trouble.

8. When in doubt, go with chocolate.

9. Avoid the candies you haven't seen since you were a kid. You might be nostalgic for Good Plenty and Oh Henry bars, but there's a reason those disappeared from the supermarket checkout shelves long ago.

10. If you see a little girl dressed as Princess Leia, Jasmine, Dorothy or one of the Powerpuff Girls, don't give her Circus Peanuts. Save it. You might need some roofing insulation.

To reach Joe Posnanski, call (816) 234-4361 or send e-mail to

jposnanski@kcstar.com
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