By Guest Blogger Stacy Leighton

Happy Halloween! We wish you all a safe, candy-filled night with your kids. We’re thrilled to share this post from Forsyth Family magazine to start your day.

Ah, it’s officially Halloween. It is a delightful day, where fairy princesses and pirates parade throughout the town. They spread light-hearted laughter and joy. On the surface all is ethereal, right? But behind every cherub is a cunning strategist. It may be an older sibling or a parent. The plotting begins as early as August, heralded in by the stocking of Halloween candy. Make no mistake, my friends, this is war.

Our “Halloween Huns” have more to consider than whether to be ghoulish or glamorous. Demographics, for example, are a critical component. Their research can best any City Planner. First and foremost, they will review crime statistics to determine which areas are the safest. Once this is established, it is time to consult Google Earth to identify target neighborhoods. The criteria include family streets with houses that are close together. This will result in a higher return with minimal effort. Did you really think ALL those children lived in YOUR neighborhood?

Timing is key—not too early and not too late. Little ones usually go out before dark. Costumes: masks are for older kids who are not ready to give up the hunt. No question. The real quandary is—bucket or bag? The answer is neither; pillow cases hold more. This night is THE night they have been waiting for all year. And the only time they will have their clothes laid out the night before. There will be no room for error and no time to waste. The universal signal to begin seems to be at sunset. As the sun slowly sets in the west, if you listen carefully you may hear their growing cheer, “Divide and Conquer!”

Of course, there are many others who also enjoy this holiday, the confectioners’ industry, for example. Here are some fun facts you may not know. The National Confectioners’ Association estimates that Americans spend over $2 billion each year on Halloween candy. The NCA states that 72% of it is chocolate—90 million pounds, to be exact. That is more than on Easter and Valentine’s at 65 million pounds and 48 million pounds, respectively. Even in this economy, the average family spends $44 per household on this sweet stuff.

Halloween’s origins are steeped in myth, lore and obscurity. Is it pagan? Somewhat. In the middle ages, the Celts celebrated “Samhain,” meaning “end of summer” with a touch of the supernatural, but much more food, fun and merry- making. Some draw a line to All Saints’ Day, a more Christian celebration. It’s all very murky, and matters very little to our small Halloween Candy Harvesters.

What is interesting, is how “new” this confection hunter/gatherer tradition is. This is a very American festivity. In the early 1900s, people would celebrate with food, festivities and play acting (which requires costumes). The door-to-door reaping didn’t begin until much later, in the 1940s. Coins, small trinkets, fruit, nuts and home-baked goods were the treat of choice. Candy began to trickle in during the 1950s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that candy became the only acceptable treat, marketed as being less likely to be tampered with.

And let us not forget who really benefits from this confection connection, it is we, the parents. Yes, I said it. We are the gatekeepers, after all, aren’t we? Your secret is out, but you are in good company. In a national survey done by the NCA, 41% of the parents polled claimed to regulate their children’s candy consumption until it was gone. But 81% of us admitted to pilfering our child’s spoils of war when they were not looking.

So what are the most popular candies? Top of the list—Hershey’s Reeses brought in $510 million in 2013, then M&Ms at $500 million and third place goes to Snickers (how can that be?!?) at $456 million (Information Resources Inc.). Gummies, lollipops, gum and hard candy swim at the bottom of the list. So want to thwart those Halloween Huns? You know what to get…or you can do as 70% of the Americans polled do, and simply buy what YOU like! Hope you have a safe, “sweet” Halloween!