As long as there is processed food, and as long as there is
holiday marketing, manufacturers of processed food will always find a way to
milk each season for all its worth. Case in point: Holiday junk food. Most of
us don’t eat this stuff too frequently after we grow up, though, so I’m
probably not alone in how fondly I look back at the seasonal snack foods of my
childhood. Right? I mean, we all
thought unnecessarily holiday-themed food was awesome, right? Nothing spruces
up a plain ol’ bowl of cereal like a seasonal makeover. This Throwback
Thursday, let’s take a look at some of the best holiday (OK, admittedly, it’s
mostly Christmas — marketing is dumb) junk foods of our youths, shall we?
Obviously yes, junk food is bad for you, and no, it’s not a good idea for kids to be chowing down on it all the time. But as with all things, moderation is the key; my mom, for example, kept my brother’s and my access to junk food limited while occasionally allowing us to have it. Subsequently, we didn’t gorge ourselves on it without tasting it every day; instead, it was a treat that we looked forward to. Maybe that limited access even causes my constant nostalgia for foods I didn’t actually eat all that often: I associate it with something special, so my memories of it are sharp and happy. Well played, Mom. Well played, indeed.
Originally, I was planning on focusing solely on junk food from the ‘90s; however, given the propensity of the late ‘80s and early ‘00s to look pretty much the same as the ‘90s, you’ll notice a few oddities here and there. Whatever — as long as it’s at least 10 years old but not more than 30, I’ll consider it fair game. So for this Throwback Thursday, here’s a look back at 10 vintage seasonal snacks that made the holiday season seem that much more festive:
1. Christmas Cookie Crisp
Produced by Ralston in the early ‘90s, Christmas Cookie
Crisp took an already amazing concept — eating cookies for breakfast — and imbued
it with a little holiday cheer. Instead of miniature chocolate chip cookies,
the cereal looked like red and green sugar cookies dusted with snow. Alas,
Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb are no longer the mascots of this most hallowed
of breakfast treats; they were retired in 1997 and replaced first with Chip the
Dog, and later Chip the Wolf. But at least the old commercials are still
available on YouTube, right?
2. Christmas Coca-Cola
The Coke inside the can was still the same bubbly cola as always
— but its cosmetic makeover and the commercials that went along with it somehow
made soda into a festive holiday beverage. The now-infamous Coca-Cola polar
bears first appeared in the ‘90s, with the “Northern Lights” ad seen here
debuting in 1993. Ah, memories!
3. Christmas Crunch
I’m cheating a little bit here — Christmas Crunch made its
debut in 1988, rather than the ‘90s — but I mean, how can you not include holiday-themed Crunchberries
on a list like this? Like most “sugar cereals,” Captain Crunch never really
tasted like much to me other than sweet; the red and green Crunchberries made
this one work, though.
4. Hershey’s Christmas Kisses
Obviously these are still around today — but much like the
Coke ads, the Christmas Hershey’s Kisses ads are almost more important than the
treats themselves. The stop motion bell choir ad seen here first appeared on
television screens nationwide in 1989, making them a huge part of the holiday
season for any ‘90s kid. It’s also the longest-running ad Hershey has ever
5. Holiday Kid Cuisine
This one is another cheat; the earliest version of it I could find was from the early ‘00s. But Kid Cuisine itself has been around since 1990 — I remember when it first appeared — so I’m pretty sure that at least one seasonally-appropriate version took the stage at some point during that decade. In any event, according to now-defunct nostalgia site X-Entertainment (it’s since been reincarnated as Dinosaur Dracula), the 2003 version featured reindeer-shaped chicken nuggets, corn, mac and cheese, and some kind of chocolate pudding thing that looks a little like Christmas sneezed all over it. It’s not super appetizing; then again, though, the point of Kid Cuisine wasn’t to be delicious. It was to be food that was OK to play with.
6. Holiday Happy Meals
While we’re on the subject of terrible-for-you entrees, let’s
not forget McDonald’s holiday-themed Happy Meals. There wasn’t anything
particular notable about the food... but the toys? Well, who wouldn’t want to find a seasonally
appropriate Polly Pocket waiting for them along with their dinner?
7. Holiday Lucky Charms
I’m not exactly sure why so many breakfast cereals feel the need to give themselves Christmas-themed makeovers, but Lucky Charms joined the party in 1991. The green and red marshmallows were shaped like stars, stockings, trees, and bells — and as an added bonus, the box came with things like free peel-off ornaments and gift tags you could cut out.
8. Pepsi Holiday Spice
While Coke may not actually change up the soda itself for
the holidays, Pepsi offered a cinnamon-spiked version of its classic cola recipe
in 2004. They called it Pepsi Holiday Spice; poured over a scoop of vanilla ice
cream, it made one helluva Pepsi float. Man, I wish that stuff still existed.
9. Wild Strawberry Pop-Tarts with Holiday Sprinkles
That’s a weirdly specific Pop-Tarts flavor, isn’t it? From
what I can gather, they were promoted as a tie-in with The Grinch’s theatrical release; as such, they were probably on the
market during the 2000 holiday season. I can’t say I typically like my
strawberry Pop-Tarts frosted with radioactive green, but I suppose at least it
looks kind of like the green top of a strawberry once you get to the red goo
inside. Or something.
10. Bedrock Blizzard Pebbles
Although this 1998 offering was really just a box of Pebbles
with snow-like sprinkles on them, it’s kind of hard to pass up something with a
name as awesome as “Bedrock Blizzard.” Cocoa Pebbles were always my sugar
cereal of choice, but there was a red and green Fruity Pebbles version, too.