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

Assign to Google Classroom

It's almost that time of year when children 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, so 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 and 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, and then it paused for a bit during World War II because of sugar rations, but its 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 Herald, 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 fun.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 58 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What part of the history of trick or treating did you find most surprising? Why?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (60)
  • Stevenson,Baylee-rod
    10/28/2019 - 08:59 a.m.

    The part of history I found most surprising was how not many people realize the true meaning of Halloween. Halloween wasn't supposed to be getting candy from others but to celebrate the end of the year by dressing up as an evil spirit. This was a lot different than it would be today.

  • Gordon,Carolina-rod
    10/28/2019 - 08:59 a.m.

    What I find surprising is that people used to dress up as demons to protect themselves from the "demons"

  • Lynch,Avery-rod
    10/28/2019 - 08:59 a.m.

    I found that you dressed up as a demon to keep demons away was a very surprising origin story. This is surprising because I'd expect the origin to be like homeless kids beg for treats and came together and begged for candy and treats.

  • Simmons,Jayden-rod
    10/28/2019 - 08:59 a.m.

    The part of the history of trick or treating I found most surprising is that a lot of the British don't celebrate it because I would think at least British would try to have fun and make other people happy but they don't try to.

  • Correa,Jose-rod
    10/28/2019 - 09:00 a.m.

    Well the part I found most interesting was when it dated back in 1927. I did not know when Halloween was made.

  • McFaul,Adrienne-rod
    10/28/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    I found that when the British hate Halloween, that surprised me because it's just a fun time when you dress up and go knocking on doors to get candy witch is fun.

  • Chavez,Jeremiah-rod
    10/28/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    I found that most of the poor adults went around trick or treating too. I found this most surprising because usually it's only meant for the kids to go out trick or treating not adults,usually. But it was fascinating to find out that mostly all of the people go trick or treating in the history of trick or treating and not just kids.

  • Mines,Jordan-rod
    10/28/2019 - 09:01 a.m.

    The part of history I found most surprising was that the Catholic Church actually stole the holiday and tried to convert it. My reasoning for that is that I already knew most of everything else, but I never knew that the Catholic Church got involved with it. This revelation definitely was unexpected to me, and it really surprised me.

  • Arroyo,Caymon-rod
    10/28/2019 - 09:02 a.m.

    What I found out that was so surprising was that the Catholic Church was trying to steal everybody's holiday 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 why I think its surprising is because because when they converted the holiday they made it into a fun day

  • Willis,Cheyenne-rod
    10/28/2019 - 10:43 a.m.

    I found that this was very interesting and very surprising. The fact that it started because the Celtic thought that demons came to life was very interesting. And then started to simply start to progress forward from there and be remastered by person to person or from religion to religion. I think that the way Halloween is now is the best way it ever has been but it is very cool to know these new facts.

Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Leave a comment