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
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It's almost that time of year. Children get into costume and walk around the neighborhood. They ring doorbells. They beg 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 a Celtic tradition. It celebrated the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. Here is what the Celts believed. As we move from one year to the next, the dead and the living would overlap. Demons would roam the earth again. Dressing up as demons was a defense mechanism. You might encounter a real demon roaming 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" and "All Soul's Day." And "All Saints Day." They had people dress up. They dressed as saints and angels. There were some people who still dressed as demons. Today I Found Out writes:

As for the trick or treating, or "guising" (from "disguising"), traditions, they began in the Middle Ages. Children would dress up in the aforementioned costumes. Sometimes poor adults did too.  They would go around door to door during Hallowmas. They'd beg for food or money. This was in exchange for songs and 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 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" 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 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. They used the word "trick or treat." To which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing."

The British hate Halloween. That's according to a 2006 survey. It found that over half of British homeowners turn off their lights. They pretend not to be home on Halloween. Yet another reason by the United States is happy to be free from British rule. No fun.

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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 (63)
  • Nolan K-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:33 a.m.

    that the purpose of halloween was to protect yourself from demons

  • Joseph K-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:39 a.m.

    The part I found surprising was that people went around begging for money and food in exchange for carols or ceartin songs they had to sing.

  • Haylee R-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:40 a.m.

    that whe you dress like a demon or devil that it defence you

  • Nicholas P-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:41 a.m.

    People would dress like demons so they look like one
    and it would be there defence against demons

  • Jacob L-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:43 a.m.

    People would turn there light off and at like they weren't home. The British hated Halloween

  • Maitlynn U-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:45 a.m.

    I found the section, the practice began with a Celtic tradition. It celebrated the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. The Celtics believed that as we transition from one year to the next, the dead and the living would overlap. Monsters would cruise the earth again. Dressing up was a defense mechanism, most interesting because I most likely would've never thought that.

  • Michael S-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:45 a.m.

    that British people hat Halloween and the people according to a 2006 survey. It found out that half out of the British homeowners turned off their light and acted like they were not home.

  • Miley C-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:47 a.m.

    I learned that the people in britain didn't like halloween.

  • Emily R-kla1
    10/28/2019 - 10:47 a.m.

    I think that the most surprising thing is that the british people don't like halloween! I find this the most surprising because it like getting "free" candy like who doesn't want that?

  • Keegan F-kla
    10/28/2019 - 10:50 a.m.

    what i found surprising is that catholic churches dressed up as demons and spirits and they thought demons and spirits would rome and if they dressed up the demons and spirits they would think they where one of them

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