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The History of Trick Or Treating............

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The History of Trick Or Treating Is Weirder Than You Thought ghost2.gif

Smithsonian Article Link ~


Posted October 18, 2012 ~

It’s almost that time of year when underaged kids get into costume and traipse around the neighborhood ringing doorbells and begging for treats. When you think about it, trick or treating is kind of a weird thing. Where did it come from anyway?

Today I Found Out discovered that the practice began with the Celtic tradition of celebrating the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. The Celts believed that, as we moved from one year to the next, the dead and the living would overlap, and demons would roam the earth again. So dressing up as demons was a defense mechanism. If you encountered a real demon roaming the Earth, they would think you were one of them.

Fast forward to when the Catholic Church was stealing everybody’s holidays and trying 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. Today I Found Out writes:

As for the trick or treating, or “guising” (from “disguising”), traditions, beginning in the Middle-Ages, children and sometimes poor adults would dress up in the aforementioned costumes and go around door to door during Hallowmas begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers, often said on behalf of the dead. This was called “souling” and the children were called “soulers”.

You might think that this practice then simply 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 bit during World War II because of sugar rations, and it’s now back in full force.

The term “trick or treat” dates back to 1927. Today I Found Out explains:

The earliest known reference to “trick or treat”, printed in the November 4, 1927 edition of the Blackie, Alberta Canada
, talks of this,

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

The British hate Halloween, apparently. In 2006, a survey found that over half of British homeowners turn off their lights and pretend not to be home on Halloween. Yet another reason by the United States is happy to be free from British rule. No funs.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Wednesday Roundup: Phantoms, Costumes and Halloween Galore

Halloween Costume Ideas from the Collections

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"Time is too slow for those who wait; too swift for those who fear;

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The History of Trick Or Treating Is Weirder Than You Thought Smithsonian Article Link ~ http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2012/10/the-history-of-trick-or-treating-is-weirder-than-y

  • Elders (Admins)

That's an interesting article. I did know that the early Christian church took over pagan festivals and "christianised" them. That was the advice given by the then-Pope to St Augustine when the latter embarked on his project to bring Christianity to the British Isles. And that does make sense - better to reinvent ancient rituals because that gives a kind of continuity and comfort to people rather than insisting on a complete break from the past.

Another interesting thing is that the ancient festival represented the end of the year. That does make sense in that it was the end of the growing year, and it might have been a way of distributing food supplies around the community to ensure that as many people as possible survived the winter.

And, yes, generally here in England (it's probably different in Scotland) we don't like "trick or treating", because for too long it's been used as a means of extortion or threatening behaviour, especially against vulnerable or elderly people.


"Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape." Terry Pratchett

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  • Elders (Admins)

Not me! I love Halloween! We don't get any trick or treaters in recent years, but we always have some treats on hand for any small kids dressed up. I like to see them out with their parents standing in the background whist they knock, it's reassuring. Not so keen on yobbo teenagers doing it though.

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