The History of Trick Or Treating Is Weirder Than You Thought
from Rose Eveleth; smithsonianmag. com; 10/18/13
It’s nearly that time of year when underaged kids get into costumes and traipse about the neighborhood ringing doorbells and begging for goodies. When you think about it, trick or treating is sort of a strange idea. Exactly where did it come from anyway?
Today I found out that the practice began with the Celtic tradition of celebrating the end of the year by dressing up as wicked spirits. The Celts believed that, as we moved from one year to the following, the dead and the living would overlap, and demons would roam the planet once more. So dressing up as demons was a defense process. If you stumbled upon a real demon roaming the Planet, they would think you were one of them.
Fast forward to when the Catholic Church was stealing everybody’s holidays and seeking to convert them. They turned the demon dress-up party into “All Hallows Eve, ” “All Soul’s Day, ” and “All Saints Day” and had people dress up as saints, angels and still a few demons.
As for the trick or treating, or “guising” (from “disguising”), customs, starting in the Middle-Ages, youngsters and occasionally poor grownups would dress up in the above mentioned costumes and go around door to door for the duration of Hallowmas begging for foodstuff or cash in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead. This was known as “souling” and the young children were referred to as “soulers”.
You might think that this practice then basically migrated along with Europeans to the United States. But trick or treating didn’t re-emerge until the 1920s and 1930s. It paused for a tiny bit while in World War II on account of sugar rations, and it’s currently back in full force.
The phrase “trick or treat” dates back to 1927.
The first known reference to “trick or treat”, seen in the November 4, 1927 edition of the Blackie, Alberta Canada Herald, talks of this.
Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for genuine intense enjoyment. No real harm was done apart from to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which embellished the front road. The young tormentors were at back entry and front demanding edible plunder by the expression “trick or treat” to which the inmates happily reacted and sent the robbers away rejoicing.
The British hate Halloween, apparently. In 2006, a study observed that more than one half of British home owners turn off their lights and pretend not to be home on Halloween. Yet one more reason by the United States is delighted to be free of British rule. Absolutely no funs.