Halloween is one of the “big 3” nostalgic holidays for me, waffling back and forth between second and third place with Thanksgiving on my list, and Christmas being firmly in the number one spot. There has always been so much to love about Halloween. From the costumes to the candy, memories of harvest festivals, the scary movies, and the fall weather. But one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is just how wonderful a lot of the promotions that companies run are tied to Halloween. One of the best examples of this has been McDonald’s, and that’s what we’re looking at in today’s Retro Ramblings.
As I related before, one of my favorite things to find in my trick-or-treat bag at the end of the night were gift certificates in general, but McDonald’s gift certificates in particular. They made them available to purchase in little booklets and featured coupons entitling the bearer to a free small ice cream cone, or free small french fries, a small soft drink, or at times, a small Sundae. These little certificates were like some kind of savings bond for a kid. You knew it didn’t hold much value when you were holding it on Halloween night, but you also knew that in the future, that thing was worth something. For me, I would fold them up and put them in my Velcro wallet and eagerly await the next trip to town where I would pester my mom to no end about stopping at McDonald’s to cash in my certificate. The fries, or a cone, or soft drink always tasted better when they were gotten with those Halloween gift certificates.
Maybe my favorite Halloween tie-in that McDonald’s came up with was their Halloween Happy Meals, where everything came in one of those cool Jack-o-Lantern buckets. They initially released them in 1985, and they were such a hit, that they kept them going for many years afterward. Some years, they would make slight changes to the faces on them, but in 1989 they made a major change when they added a ghost bucket and a witch bucket. Of course, I had to have them all. They were the perfect size for a Happy Meal, as the burger and fries fit nicely inside. And they were the perfect size for a lot of other things too. My mom would go every week and get us each a Happy Meal during the Halloween season so she could get buckets too. She used them for things like storing clothespins, while I used mine for storing smaller toys like Micro Machines. The only thing I found they weren’t good for was using them as your candy bucket for trick or treating. They just weren’t big enough for that. But dang, they were such a cool concept, and one of my favorite memories of Halloween from through the years.
The last thing that I remember making a big splash with me way back when were the Halloween McNugget Buddies toys that came out in 1992. Now while getting an animated-looking chicken nugget toy with a face was pretty great on its own, giving it a removable Halloween costume just took things to a whole other level! The toys were well made, and so much fun to put on display in their costumes. McDonald’s created seven different McNugget Buddy characters and each had its own costume. You could even interchange them between the buddies. There wasn’t much to differentiate the McNugget Buddies from each other except their facial expressions, but it was still fun to mix and match their costumes between them.
McDonald’s has stolen my heart many times through the years in various ways, and their Halloween promotions were always one of the highlights of the season for me. What about you? Do you have any fast food Halloween preferences? Let’s talk about them in the comments.
My annual tradition (along with my wife) is ordering some McDonald’s Happy Meals (and a box of 20 McNuggets, because let’s face it, the Happy Meals just don’t go as far as they used to) and watching Garfield’s Halloween Adventure on Halloween night.
McD’s has been a big part of so many kid’s childhood memories. Not Halloween related, but I recall when my family was nearly killed when a guy flew through a stop sign and rammed into us, sending us through a fence and on a small tree. We all made it out okay, my grandmother had a broken arm and I had a twisted wrist. Otherwise, okay. Car was totaled, though, and our dinner was tossed everywhere. I remember being back home after my aunt and uncle had picked us up and they got my brother and I McD’s Happy Meals. A good memory from a bad day.
But those McDs Halloween pails. Damn, I wish I had saved at least one!