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Candy Karma

by on October 25, 2016 5:00 AM

Ah, a change of seasons is finally in the air.

It’s just a little over a month after the autumnal equinox and we’ve had our first frost. Every day Mount Nittany looks down over Happy Valley more resplendent in the vibrant colors of fall. The annual parade of strange-looking people ringing your doorbell is just around the corner.

I’m talking, of course, about political candidates and their minions out canvassing for votes.

OK, I’m just kidding.

What I’m really talking about – which I’m sure you knew – is Halloween. That’s right, All Hallows’ Eve is less than a week away. Children of all ages will dress up in costumes and go door-to-door in neighborhoods in search of treats. Although the threat of trickery is also invoked in this search it has never been much more than words for most kids taking part in the ritual.

The origins of All Hallows’ Eve have been written and documented by many scholars and you can find plenty of information on the folk customs, pagan roots, and medieval practices that supposedly led to the event we know today.

All of which may be intellectually stimulating, but we Americans, being great distillers of ancient customs, have condensed and focused Halloween into one primary obsession: candy. Candy, candy, candy, candy. We are ALL about the candy.  

Alright, we do require at least a modicum of effort be made at creating a costume as the entry fee into the great candy extravaganza, but the attempt can admittedly be minor. I’m sometimes unsure if a few of the older trick-or-treaters are wearing a costume or just their regular clothes.

However, as adults, the great conundrum for this candy spectacular holiday comes not from what kind of candy to hand out, but how much to spend on the candy?

Well, some of us do stress over what kind of candy to distribute, but luckily Halloween has one broad social rule to follow, and after that it is a matter of personal preference.  

The broad social rule is: give out candy. Raisins do not count as candy. I think the raisin industry realized years ago they were fighting a losing battle as it has been awhile since I’ve seen raisins packaged and displayed in a store alongside the gobs of candy for sale.

As to the matter of personal preference, mine is chocolate. I will normally buy one bag of the sweet/sugar candy variety so our handout color scheme varies a bit from the darker hues of chocolate, but otherwise it’s chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.

If I were a true choco-holic I would go to one of the local purveyors of this fine delicacy, Gardner’s Candies on N. Atherton Street, the Sweet Tooth Bakery downtown on Miller Alley (now shadowed by the Fraser Centre!), or Chocolates By Leopold in Boalsburg, and purchase locally-made treats. However my budget (more on that in a bit) requires going with mass-produced products to achieve the necessary quantity.

My personal favorite of the mass-produced variety is the Nestlé Crunch bar. Crisped rice and chocolate is a great combination providing the necessary taste of chocolate with the crunchy-but-not-difficult-to-bite sensation from the crisped rice. The Swiss have been doing chocolate for centuries and know their stuff.

One would think that the Pennsylvania-centric Hershey's Krackel bar should satisfy this need and give me the chance to support a business headquartered right here in the commonwealth. The Krackel bar is essentially the same concept as the Crunch bar – chocolate and crisp rice. But it just doesn’t taste the same to me, so the international conglomerate gets my vote.

However, as I mentioned, having decided what kind of candy to buy is the easy part of the Halloween giving equation – the great riddle is how much to spend on the candy?

Luckily, kind readers of Happy Valley, I am here to provide you with the answer to this puzzle! The Quarter-Hundred-Percent Rule.

Here’s what you need to do. First, write down to the nearest thousand dollars the current estimated market value of your home or condo (or the selling price of your rental). Then, knock off the last three zeros from this number. Lastly, divide that number by four.

And there you have it. That is your expense budget for Halloween candy. Spending that amount means you are appropriately tithing to the general well-being and social health of your neighborhood. Good karma will be yours for another year.

This number also allows you to adjust the size of the candy you will be distributing based on how many trick-or-treaters you expect. If you normally receive a hundred or more of the little pumpkins you will go with the mini-bars. If you don’t get as many witches and goblins then you’ll be able to move up to the full-size, 1.5-ounce bars!

But whether you go with the mini-bars or the full-size, whether you give out one piece or a handful to each treater, you can rest easy knowing you have spent the right amount of money which will neither embarrass your family or appear to be Daddy Warbucks. Enjoy your Halloween!

And for the folks in Switzerland, I’ll email you the number of my Swiss bank account…



John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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