Trick or Treat

07 Oct


31 Days of Ghost celebrates Halloween and all things that go bump in the night.  Today, a more historical look at the day.

Ever wonder where the term Trick or Treat came fromÉ

Today, it`s meaning stems from children going door to door in their neighbourhood, dressed in spooky costumes, or costumes based on whatever popular franchise happens to be that year (The Avengers, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and so on).  But it`s history goes back a long, long time.

Also called guising, the tradition in North America began in the 1950`s and typically ran from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm on October 31.  If October 31 landed on a Sunday, often the tradition of trick or treating was moved to Saturday night previous.  Home owners who would participate in the tradition would decorate their homes in fake cobwebs, plastic spiders, and even carved pumpkins, or jack o`lanterns.

The tradition dates back even further in Britain, Scotland and Ireland, and was often called souling.  Guising children, or children disguised in costume, would go door to door asking for food or coins.  It`s recorded in Scotland in 1895 where costumed children would go door to door carrying lanterns made of scooped out turnips and would be rewarded with cakes, fruit or money.

But the practice goes back even further to the middle ages, and includes the Christian tradition of Christmas Wassailing.  Called souling in the middle ages, the tradition took place on Halloween, which was actually recorded as November 1.  People who guised themselves would receive food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

The custom of costuming one`s self is a Celtic tradition, where those going door to door would try to copy evil spirits in order to placate them.  In Scotland, for instance, young men would wear masks or paint their faces black and wear white in order to impersonate the dead.  The practice of guising at Halloween was first recorded in Kingston, Ontario in 1919 when the newspaper reported children going about the town guising.

This tradition is actually recorded in Ruth Edna Kelley`s full length historical book The Book of Hallowe`en.  Kelley, who lived in Massachusetts, references souling in the chapter Hallowe`en in America.

The taste in Hallowe’en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn’s poem Hallowe’en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe’en is out of fashion now.

The very first reference of Trick or Treating came from Blackie, Alberta.

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.

In the 1920`s, various postcards were sold depicting children going from door to door, but does not use the term trick or treating.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 7, 2013 in 31 Days Of Ghosts, Weird facts


Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: