Halloween was always an exciting holiday for kids because it was completely focused on kids. Although teenagers and twenty somethings use the occasion to dress up in slutty costumes or to get drunk the primary focus of the holiday is for children to use their imaginations and pretend to be something they aren’t while roaming the streets door to door collecting as much candy as possible. During the season our school would throw classroom Halloween parties that consisted of a school wide parade in our costumes followed by a day of playing games and watching Halloween themed movies while eating candy and snacks. It was a great season for everyone except for the one or two weirdos in class that didn’t participate in Halloween for whatever personal reasons. I always felt bad for those kids because they always looked so dejected as everyone else in the classroom had such a great time. Another staple of the Halloween season was spooky supernatural themed kid’s meal premiums.
Last season I wrote about the relatively obscure Hardee’s Halloween Hideaways which weren’t exactly mainstream. Much more memorable in the collective psyche of people my age however are the McDonald’s Trick or Treat pails that were given away over the course of the 1980’s and 90’s. Debuting in 1986 McDonald’s replaced the standard cardboard Happy Meal box with buckets that looked like pumpkins with different carvings; the McGoblin, McBoo, and McPunk’n. The food arrived in these festive pails which could then be used to collect candy on October 31.
Over the years the pails would continue to be reissued with slightly different prints and became more varied. McBoo would become a ghost imaginatively rechristened McGhost, McGoblin became a witch cleverly named McWitch (which sounds like an awesome Halloween themed sandwich), and McPunk’n continued without interruption. Although the premise would typically remain the same with subsequent reissues of a witch, ghost, and jack-o-lantern the lids became more intricate two piece designs although I’m not entirely sure that it was a marked improvement. Apparently the removable piece also doubled as a cookie cutter which I never put into practice.
Over the years I accumulated a few sets of these but my preferred pail was always the ghost. In fact although they were designed to be fairly gender neutral there were definite preferences that developed among my classmates and friends which I observed. Most boys preferred the ghost, almost no boys wanted the witch (since it was a girl of course) and girls had a preference that was split between the witch and the pumpkin. All of this data of course is empirical and has no scientific basis whatsoever. While most Happy Meal Toys had a life that was very brief these pails had a more lasting appeal and were definitely among their finest offerings.