There’s these little icons that always remind me of Christmas. One that rally triggers good memories would be candy, peanuts, a popcorn ball and an apple in a brown bag: the candy bag.
I still see candy bags given to children at different events so I know these are still a familiar Christmas treat. Typically, it’s a brown paper bag although I have seen some bags that are almost like a heavy, white parchment paper. The contents are not always similar which I imagine is a reflection of local tastes and availability of the treats.
When I was young, the candy bag was given out after the church Christmas program. I could reach into the bag and pull out something different at least 5 or 6 times before I found any duplication. The candy bag was structured with a good base of peanuts. As an adult, I would probably prefer mixed nuts but peanuts were perfect for that time. The salt and savory flavors of the peanuts were perfect in between the pieces of candy.
As I recall, the candy bags were stapled at the top with an entrance guarded by a candy cane that either stuck out the side of the top-fold or a small cane that was taped to the side. Once I was past the opening, I typically went after the popcorn ball first. Popcorn balls are a separate subject unto themselves as some people love them while others take a pass. Popcorn balls today are pretty gooey and sticky however a 70’s popcorn ball was just a little more indulgent than a rice cake but much better tasting.
Next on my list would be crème drops; vanilla crème centers with a chocolate coating which I still enjoy. I always wondered why the chocolate on these never melted however the answer would probably be that I never gave the chocolate time to melt. There was always a generous selection of candy-cane based candy too; everything from traditional canes to mint-sized versions or even those soft, individual candy canes treats which just taste like Christmas to me.
Candy bags changed from year to year and some years included chocolate-covered peanuts. Has anything ever tasted better than chocolate-covered peanuts? I mean the taste was wonderful but the consistency was also key to my enjoyment. The chocolate was almost a little crunchy and thick enough that it struck a perfect balance when the salt and flavor of the peanut released from inside the shell. People might say these were no more the peanut non-coated M and M’s but they were something special to me.
It’s not right that the healthiest thing in the candy bag is relegated to the end of the list. I didn’t grow up in the late 1800’s but even when I was a kid, fruit was a pretty good treat. I think every candy bag had an apple in it and they were typically very good, particularly if eaten in a timely manner. Of course, no one ate them right away but most homes back then were cold so fruit stayed fresh longer so your apple was usually tasty. The kids received oranges back then too although I believe I received a tangerine at least once or twice. A variation on this theme would be that the fruit would not be included in the bag but instead handed out straight from the box after you received your bag which was a sort of assembly line version of the candy bag process.
Christmas is the birth of Jesus however little traditions help evoke the emotion that, paired with this historical knowledge, bring you to the proper state of mind to truly celebrate Christmas. Enjoy this birthday, enjoy your traditions and enjoy that candy bag.