Friday, October 2, 2009


Trick Or Treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat! Oh to hear that sound bouncing off the neighborhood sidewalks by little ghouls, ghosts, and girly princesses is probably one of the best parts of the autumn season.

The story behind trick or treating dates back to the earliest times, when people wore masks when droughts or diseases or other disasters struck. They believed that the hideous masks could frighten off the demons who brought about their misfortunes. The pagan festival of Samhain came at a time of year when the weather was turning chilly and the cold, envious ghosts outside were constantly trying to trick mortals into letting them in by the fire. People who went out after dark often wore masks to keep from being recognized.

Similar practices went on throughout Europe. In parts of England the poor once went to houses singing and begging for soul cakes or money. Until very recently children would dress up as ghosts and goblins to scare the neighbors, but there was no trick or treating. Around 40 years ago people began to offer treats to their costumed visitors Spanish people put cakes and nuts on graves on Halloween, to bribe the evil spirits.

The Irish brought Halloween to America in the 1840's although the custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have its origins in a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they promised to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. It was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, would expedite a soul's admittance into heaven.

Over time the custom changed and children became the beggars. As they went from house to house they would be given apples, buns, money, and other treats to insure that the ghosts or goblins didn't play tricks. (fabulousliving).

The sad part is that the trick or treating event that people recognize today is no longer only about fun, candy, and dressing in fun costumes. However statistics show that Halloween is now the most dangerous holiday for children. I don't know why people find it necessary to ruin everyone else's fun, but they do. Gone are the days of not checking candy, and being fearless when crossing the street. However in reality, in the past 50 years there have been fewer than 90 reported cases of candy tampering and a good number of those 90 were proven to be hoaxes.

Trick or Treating is a time of fun, fright, and candy. My family and I would brainstorm in June about what I would wear in October. It's honestly one of my favorite childhood memories. Without this event, it just wouldn't be Halloween.

5 comment(s):

Lily Strange said...

When I was a young kid, my father would take my brother and I to the houses in our neighborhood. When we got older we went together without my father. The last year I trick-or-treated I was fourteen. I went with a friend. I remember that we ended up going down into a ditch to pee and hoped that this car going by couldn't see us from the road.
As an adult, I took my son to the Children's Museum to trick or treat. We didn't live in the kinds of neighborhoods that really worked for doing so.

B-Sol said...

The trick or treating tradition has been ruined, and for NO GOOD REASON. Panic and paranoia spread by the media. So sad.

The Curious Cat said...

Halloween is my favourite holiday! I can't wait for it again this year! xxx

Anonymous said...

Nice read, i enjoyed the history. i think it has to do with child predators being more televised, so every parent thinks their kid will be the next kidnapped. I'm not sure. Maybe mental illness from the day to day grind is increased. anyways good post. ;)
Two Voices | Two Guys

RayRay said...

I have come to believe that the stories of candy tampering, etc., are urban legends. However, these stories, at least in my memory, became popular at around the same time as the very real medicine tampering crimes were committed. Coupling these, along with the anxieties of the modern world and the ever increasingly shrill "if it bleeds it leads" news reporting, and it is obvious that Halloween has been compromised.

On the other hand, and on the upside, where I live is an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and last year there were many trick or treaters coming to my house of all ages and all types: European, East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin. And this gave me some hope of the renewal of the holiday in these times.

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