- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2016

Despite a chaotic presidential election — or perhaps because of it — Americans will spend a record-breaking $8.4 billion on Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Ah, but there are more stats. Seven out of 10 parents confess to filching candy “from their children’s Halloween haul,” according to the National Confectioners Association, which also reports that about a quarter of the guilty moms and dads wait until their child is sleeping soundly to make away with their prize.

And regarding “the candy corn clash,” the trade organization notes that 52 percent of Americans say it’s just not Halloween without candy corn; 48 percent say they’d just as soon skip the little sweet, which has been around since 1898.

In additional, Delta Dental, a nationwide dental plan group, reports that about a quarter of Americans will hand out something other than candy Monday night. The breakdown: 14 percent offer toys, stickers, pencils and erasers; 9 percent give out money.

And a timely hint from HGTV, which provides the makings for an Almond Joy Martini: 1 ounce of Three Olives chocolate vodka, one ounce of Frangelico and one ounce of coconut rum. Combine with ice in a cocktail shaker and blend well, then serve in a chilled martini glass.

Meanwhile, an estimated 171 million Americans — 69 percent of the country — celebrate the holiday, dropping about $83 on costumes, candy, assorted decorations and party supplies.

Costumes, in fact, account for $3.1 billion of the total. Half of U.S. adults plan to wear costumes, and 17 percent will dress their pets up. The top themes for adult costumes are superheroes of every persuasion, plus vampires, witches, pirates, political characters and animals.

Speaking of animals, the most popular pet costume of all is a pumpkin, followed by hot dog, bumblebee, lion, devil and Batman. Superhero themes now reign supreme for kids, both boys and girls alike.

“Why such interest in Halloween? In the era of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, there is no hiding a bad costume — and a clever costume makes for a buzzworthy addition to digital timelines,” explains Allison Zeller, an analyst for the National Retail Federation.

“Trick-or-treating isn’t what it used to be. The number of families planning to head out door-to-door for this tradition is up slightly from last year but still not as high as a few years back,” she said, noting that about 29 percent of parents will head out around the neighborhood, the second-lowest number on record.

“Community events such as parking lot ‘trunk-or-treating’ and Halloween festivals are popping up across the country as alternative options. With concerns over food ingredients like sugar, gluten and nuts — and the general fear of taking candy from strangers — it’s not surprising to see parents looking for safer celebrations,” Ms. Zeller said.

In addition, about a third of Americans will either attend or throw a party, 46 percent will carve a pumpkin and 21 percent will visit a haunted house.

The consumer group report also found that 7-out-of-10 Americans will hand out candy this year, and they’ll spend $2.5 billion on it.

Though it seems impossible, some of that candy is worse than others according to Business Insider, which ranked the absolute best and worst of the sweet offerings in terms of sugar, fat, calories and even protein content.

“While no candy is obviously nutritious, these are the ones you’re better off eating — or avoiding,” researchers advise.

The 10 ranked “healthiest” of the season: Reese’s Pumpkins takes first place, followed by Take5, Smarties, Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Pops, Snickers Peanut Butter, Nerds, Jolly Rancher Lollipops, Gob Stopper and Caramel Apple Pops.

“With either no protein, too much fat or too much sugar, these candies are likely the least healthy,” the analysts said of Sweetarts Chews, followed by 3 Musketeers, Reese’s Miniatures, Reese’s Cups, Brach’s Candy Corn, M&Ms, White Chocolate Kit Kats, Nestle Crunch, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate and the original Kit Kat bars.

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