Purim is the holiday of candy. Ask any kid.

Okay, so there are lots of deeper meanings. But we’re too hopped up on candy to care. The mitzvah of mishloach manot is to give each other foods that are ready to eat, so the general minhag is to give candy. Candy doesn’t go bad, it doesn’t need refrigeration, and it comes in lots of pretty colors that aren’t found anywhere else in the so-called “natural” world. It also comes in lots of fun shapes to go with your “theme”. Even if your theme is, “We accidentally bought the big mishloach manot bags, and now we have to fill them.” Some people eat so much candy that they can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai. (HINT: Haman is the one with the giant cookie on his head.)

Some people eat so much candy that they can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai.

So maybe you’re in the store, shopping for candies to give out, or maybe you’ve come home from delivering mishloach mano to find eighteen bags on your doorstep, none of which has any label to tell you who they’re from, and some of which have candies that you’ve never seen before and that seem to have been designed by people who were so hopped up on candy they didn’t know what to do with themselves. All you know is that your kids are very excited. Hence this field guide:

SUCKING CANDIES – This is your basic type of candy, popular with kids who have figured out that their parents will happily give them one whenever they want one, as long as their throat hurts (which is why they’re always using their outside voice for no reason). Apparently, sucking candies are magic.

LOLLYPOPS – were invented by someone who said, “Sucking candies are good, but what’s missing is a big paper stick.”

The function of the stick, apparently, is to keep people from accidentally choking on the candy. But if that’s the case, then explain gum lollies. If the stick is there so the person won’t choke, why put a piece of chewed gum in the middle? What kid is choking on sucking candies, but you’re still willing to let him have gum?

GUM – Gum is useful for people who need to keep their mouths moving at all times. You might think it’s disgusting, but it’s better than having them constantly talking. This field guide loves all candy unequivocally, with the exception of popcorn jelly beans, but when it comes to gum, we draw the line. The issue with gum, in this field guide’s opinion, is that it loses its flavor. And once it loses its flavor, there’s no appeal. Sure, there are gums whose flavor lasts longer, such as Israeli Bazooka, which comes with a little joke written in tiny Hebrew handwriting that, when you figure out what it’s saying, is not actually funny. Am I supposed to be laughing? The guy’s missing an eye! But the truth is that it doesn’t matter how long the flavor lasts, because the gum will still eventually lose its flavor, unless you swallow it first, in which case you’re inviting a whole other set of problems. There’s also:

BIG GUMBALLS – which are silly, because it’s not like they’re going to last longer because they’re bigger. Also, in general, comically large candies are not all they’re cracked up to be. It’s never the good tasting candies they make comically large. It’s just jawbreakers, and those lollies on those wooden sticks that take like a week to eat, and you end up with a big sticky line all the way to your ears. It’s like the companies said, “Well, this doesn’t taste good. How do we sell it anyway?” “I don’t know. Let’s make it bigger!”

TAFFY – is like gum for people with shorter attention spans. Also, there’s something called:

TAFFY POPS – which are taffies with lolly stick in them. Because the one thing taffy was missing was the big paper stick, so you can bite into it while chewing the taffy.

JUST PLAIN FIZZ – Yes, that’s it. It’s like the companies just gave up, and said, “Look, it’s all sugar anyway. Why are we fooling ourselves? Why bother coming up with candy? The kids are going to eat it anyway.” It’s like the person who was supposed to come up with a new candy was sick that day. “Here, stick some fizz in these straws, and seal the ends. And in these little plastic bottles. And in these containers shaped like fruit.” They also shape fizz into:

CANDY NECKLACES, because we have to wear our candy now, although the rubber bands aren’t quite stretchy enough, and if you try to put them over your head, the band rips, sending candies flying everywhere, 4 weeks before Pesach. And speaking of candy jewelry, which is a big market, in case you’re looking to get your wife a little something for your anniversary, there’s also:

RING POPS, so you don’t have to hold your lollies. You can be free to drive, or whatever. And if you don’t like holding your candy, there’s also:

CANDY SPRAY, which is for people who are too lazy to even eat the candy. They’re like, “I’m too tired. Just spray it directly into my mouth.”

And of course there are the classics, like:

FRUIT ROLL-UPS – which came from someone saying, “What if we invented a candy wrapper MADE OUT OF CANDY?”

LICORICE – which is mostly for people who don’t like candy. We’re pretty sure it’s not even a candy at all. It’s some kind of root. Another candy for people who don’t like candy is:

MINTS – and especially after-dinner mints, which we’ve never seen people actually eat after dinner.

A large part of the candy world is governed by shape. For example, there’s:

JELLY BEANS – although we don’t know why someone decided that the most appetizing form for a candy is the bean shape. “Kids love beans! Let’s do that!” And it was pretty successful. Who knew? This field guide has the same question about:

CHOCOLATE LENTILS – because if there’s one thing that kids love more than beans, it’s lentils. But there are also lots of other:

JELLY SHAPES – like bears and worms and fish and balls and rings and alphabet and cubes and fruit slices and cherries and “jacks” and teeth that look like healthy teeth, rather than how your teeth are going to look after you eat the jelly shapes, and little fat guys in blue and pink. Because apparently, a lot of candy-buying consumers were saying, “Well, I like jellies, but I don’t like the shape. Beans? Really?”

This field guide can’t imagine why it’s necessary to have so many shapes that all taste basically the same. The only reason we can come up with is: mishloach manot. (See? We got back to it.) Like if you decide to go with a “bear” theme because you have bear costumes, and so far you’ve come up with honey and teddy grahams and of course beer, and you’re out of ideas.

So you need 75 different candies shaped like bears that technically have nothing to do with bears. Even though arguably, honey has nothing to do with bears either. Why, because bears eat honey? They eat lots of things. They also eat fish, mushrooms, and small mammals. There’s a healthy shalach manot. Also, they drink water, not beer. And actually, people eat honey too, so honey isn’t specifically a bear thing. Though the truth is that it doesn’t actually matter that your theme matches your costumes, because half the people you go to aren’t going to see your costumes anyway. You’re just going to leave the package on their doorstep, because they’re out bringing you your mishloach manot. Which is why you’re not going to see their costumes, or even necessarily realize that their package had a theme in the first place. It’s just one of eighteen packages you’re going to bring inside at once and dump on the table so you can make piles based on which things have to be finished before Pesach, as if it’s not ALL going to be finished before Pesach. But there’s no way you’re going to remember what came with what. You don’t even know what half the things are, although that’s not going to stop you from eating them. (We’ve been writing for Jewlarious for six years, and we still have no idea what halvah is, but our friends keep sending it to us, because they think it’s funny.)

So now at least you have this field guide.