A Quick Look Into the Tradition of Trick-Or-Treating
Trick-or-treating as we know it really isn't that old.
It's Halloween night and for many of us that means hitting the streets to trick-or-treat. Young ones are anxious to get their fill of candy while parents are excited to create memories with their little ones. It's a simple concept in which kids dress in costumes and visit various houses to get candy as well as other treats.
What we have come to know as trick-or-treating has been around since about the 1950s. According to the History Channel, it became a staple in American culture after it was depicted in a 1951 Peanuts comic strip. The very next year, Disney produced a Donald Duck classic called "Trick or Treat" along with Huey, Louie and Dewey.
The act of visiting other houses however, reaches back to a pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain. This festival fell on October 31 when Celtic believed the dead would return to earth. To protect themselves from these spirits, people would dress in disguises so that they wouldn't be recognized. Large meals would also be cooked to feed the dead.
Those less fortunate would visit these homes and beg for food on Halloween night. The poor would ask for something to eat in exchange for prayers. They called it "souling."
Spreading from Ireland, the British celebrated Guy Fawkes Night in similar fashions to the festival of Samhain. Children would walk the streets, knocking on doors and begging for pennies. This tradition, according to Reader's Digest, made its way to America through Scottish and Irish immigrants and by the 1840s, Halloween was quite popular across the nation.
The Great Depression posed some problems for Halloween. A simple request for food became a threat and those who didn't comply would then become the victim of vandalism. Trick-or-treating began to take a more sweet approach to entice kids to stay out of trouble. World War II placed a bit of stress on Halloween as a sugar shortage meant less treats to be handed out. However, despite the hiccups the tradition carried on.
Although no one can pinpoint exactly where the term "trick-or-treat" comes from, it seems like a natural fit for the Halloween tradition when mischief runs amok and the only thing to stop it is something sweet.