Macaroni and breath mints: pandemic puts strange things in N.L. Halloween bags

·3 min read

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Boxes of Kraft Dinner. Erasers. A fistful of loose mints.

These are just some of the unorthodox treats that landed in kids' trick-or-treat bags in Newfoundland and Labrador this Halloween. 

"For whatever reason, I knew a lot of people who struggled to find Halloween candy this year, and as a consequence I think we wound up with some enthusiastic choices," said Ophelia Ravencroft, whose eight-year-old-stepdaughter, Charlotte Dymond, came home with a few surprises Saturday night.

"She got a reusable face mask, a package of instant hot chocolate, some loose Scotch mints . . . a few breath mints, a can of soda," Ravencroft said in an interview Monday, while rifling through Dymond's haul. "More full-sized chocolate bars this year than I've ever seen in my whole life."

Oh, and there were a few glow sticks and some school supplies, she added.

"The fact that people would put the effort in, regardless of what they gave us, was wonderful," Ravencroft said.

Five-year-old Brooklyn Lacey got a loonie, a package of microwave popcorn and a Jos. Louis snack cake, said her mom, Kelly Lacey. "We just laughed at it and assumed it was due to people leaving buying for Halloween until last minute. We thought it was nice to still be giving anything out at all, especially the loonie!" Lacey said in a Twitter message. 

In Burlington, a small town on the western side of Newfoundland, three-year-old Remy-Lee Martin got a banana, a Jell-O cup and two boxes of Kraft Dinner — one regular box and one box with spiral noodles — with his haul of Doritos and lollipops, said Barbara Noble, Martin's grandmother.

Ravencroft said the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to blame on a larger scale, with people unsure whether Halloween would even happen.

She also suspects the ongoing strikes at Newfoundland and Labrador Dominion stores put a dent in the local supply. Eleven stores across the province have been closed since late April when about 1,400 workers went on strike.

Erica MacDonald said things got "pretty crazy" at Belbin's Grocery in St. John's Thursday when word got out there were a few boxes of Halloween chips left at the store. The phone started ringing and the door started swinging, and within 30 minutes, the chips were gone, MacDonald, who is the store's head cashier, said in an interview.

"I guess people were not expecting there to be trick or treaters this year, but the closer it got to the date, they were like, 'Well, just in case,'" she said, adding that Belbin's carried the same amount of treats this year as it did last year.

Pipers department stores in St. John's also sold out of treats in record time, said Elizabeth Strickland, the buyer for the stores' confectionary department. "I don't think the local supply was there this year, and also we were late finding out if Halloween was a go or not," she said.

Strickland has been getting a kick out of the local social media threads that have popped up listing kids' weird Halloween surprises. She said she stocked up on Halloween candy early this year and she was lucky she did — she got about 50 trick or treaters in her St. John's neighbourhood, many more than last year.

"A lot of people did say they got more trick or treaters this year," she said. She said she felt this year was different for another reason: people seemed really happy to be out seeing their neighbours. Many of the kids who knocked on her door had both parents behind them, lots who were dressed up along with their kids.

"It was like a different atmosphere, it was nice. I even had fun just opening up the door," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2020.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press