Sunday, October 22, 2023

Creepy Corn Day (aka Halloween)

Corn stalks for sale at Lowes in New Jersey 

It's that time of the year again when spooky shenanigans slither into the normal daily lives of people. It's when kids in costumes defy the odds and gather candies from strangers, and the Simpsons treat us to another round of entertaining stories about really weird stuff. 

Yes, it's Creepy Corn Day (aka Spooky Corn Day, aka Halloween), which should be that celebration's official name, given that so much of the traditions associated with this day are related to the species Zea mays (corn/maize).

This was the thought that came to me while I was walking outside a Lowes in New Jersey last week and I saw another bunch of dried corn plants for sale. It made me wonder about all the other things during Halloween that involved this grass.

Corn Shucks

The dried bunches of corn that I saw are called corn shucks, and they were traditionally used by farmers during the end of the harvest to dry out the corn and to clear land for other plantings. The dried stalks were later used for bedding and feed for animals, and the corn itself was milled. During modern times, mechanical harvesters have obviated the need for this, but their common use in the past made people associate them with Fall and Halloween. Plus, they truly do look kinda spooky.

We're gonna get ya!

Candy Corn

I was not so familiar with this particular Halloween tradition, but it seems is very popular with kids. It's a type of candy that boasts a whopping 28 grams of sugar per handful, and is made out of various ingredients, including (you guessed it!) corn syrup. It is the most popular candy treat during Halloween in many states, and in 2019, it was estimated that more than 95% of holidays shoppers bought some of this confectionary. More than 9 billion of the candy is produced each year!

The candy seemed to have been first created by the Wunderlee Candy Company in Philadelphia in 1880s, but its popularity and association with Halloween did not occur until the 1950s, when the tradition of handing out candies to visiting children became popular.

Candy Corn

Corn Mazes

The idea and implementation of plant mazes has been with us since ancient times, but the use of corn fields to create mazes during the Autumn was not started until the early 1990s.

In 1993, a man named Don Frantz was flying over a corn field when the idea came to him. It didn't hurt that he had been involved in other creative endeavors, including  shows in Broadway and the Super Bowl halftime show. Frantz and another man named Adrian Fisher created the first corn maze in Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. They named it "The Amazing Maize Maze", and  the maze was modeled in the shape of a dinosaur named "Cornelius the Cobasaurus".

The popularity of corn mazes spread, and today they are another staple of  Halloween...ahem...I mean, Creepy Corn Day.

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