The history of trick or treating is weirder than you thought
The history of trick or treating is weirder than you thought Service members and their families attend the Army's 229th Military Intelligence Battalion hosted by the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center "Trunk or Treat" event at Soldier Field, Oct. 28, 2016. (Presidio of Monterey/Neefer Duir/Flickr)
The history of trick or treating is weirder than you thought
Lexile: 320L

Assign to Google Classroom

It's almost that time of year. Children get into costume. They walk around the neighborhood. They ring doorbells. They beg for treats. Trick or treating is kind of strange. Where did it come from?

Today I Found Out took a look. It found that it began with a Celtic tradition. It celebrated the end of the year. People dressed up. They dressed as evil spirits. Here is what the Celts believed. We move from one year to the next. And the dead and the living overlap. Demons would roam the earth again. Dressing up as demons was a defense tool. You might encounter a real demon. It might roam the Earth. If you were dressed up they would think you were one of them.

Fast forward to when the Catholic Church was stealing everybody's holidays. They were trying to convert them. They turned the demon dress-up party into "All Hallows Eve." It's also known as "All Soul's Day." And it is called "All Saints Day." They had people dress up. They dressed as saints. They dressed as angels. There were some people who still dressed as demons. 

Trick or treating is known as "guising." It comes from "disguising." These traditions began in the Middle Ages. Children would dress up. They would wear the costumes mentioned above. Sometimes poor adults did too.  They would go around. They would go from door to door. This was during Hallowmas. They'd beg for food. They'd beg for money. This was in exchange for songs. It was also in exchange for prayers. They were often said on behalf of the dead.  This was called "souling." The children were called "soulers".

You might think that this practice then simply moved 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. That was during World War II. It was because of sugar rations. But it is now back in full force.

The term "trick or treat" dates back to 1927. Today I Found Out explained.
The earliest known reference to "trick or treat" was printed on November 4, 1927. It was in an edition of the Blackie, Alberta Canada Herald.

"Hallowe'en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done. Except to the temper of some. They had to hunt for wagon wheels. Gates. Wagons. Barrels. Much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front. They were demanding edible plunder. They used the word "trick or treat." The inmates gladly responded. And sent the robbers away rejoicing."

The British hate Halloween. That's according to a survey. It found that over half of British homeowners turn off their lights. They pretend not to be home. That's on Halloween. 

Source URL:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 104 times
What part of the history of trick or treating did you find most surprising? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • TzarS-bad
    10/28/2019 - 11:07 a.m.

    I find the reason for wearing costumes the most interesting. I had no idea that people wore costumes to disguise themselves from demons.

  • MaP-eri
    11/06/2019 - 07:58 a.m.

    We can wear costumes because we want to have some candy

  • FranA-eri
    11/06/2019 - 09:34 a.m.

    The part of the history of trick or treating I find almost surprising is children get into costume.They walk around the neighborhood because in my country they don't care about Halloween also they don't care about trick or treating ,too.That mean they don't have candy.So,that is strange with my country and me.

  • VuT-eri
    11/09/2019 - 11:24 p.m.

    About the costume, because they will have us to chase away from the demon.

  • KimS-eri
    11/13/2019 - 08:06 a.m.

    We wearing a costume because we want some candy

  • ErickS-tho
    11/18/2019 - 11:27 a.m.

    people put stuff in the candy today in this would people don't cacen.

  • 26jdmoli
    12/03/2019 - 10:39 a.m.

    The part that i found most surprising was That the british hated halloween THey would turn off their lights like they where not home.

  • DuongT-eri
    12/16/2019 - 09:08 a.m.

    they were waering custome to scard the demons

  • PhanG-eri
    2/18/2020 - 07:11 a.m.

    The part that I have be surprising is: Trick or treating is know as"guising".It comes from"disguising".These tradition began in the Middle Ages.Children would dress up.They would wear the costumes mentioned above.Sometime poor adults did too.They wuold go around.They wuold go from door to door.This was during hallowmas.They'd beg for food and money.

  • KarmenW-rho
    4/09/2020 - 12:57 a.m.

    That it was a souls day

Leave a comment
Leave a comment