Halloween is so much fun. It signals the beginning of Fall festivities, cooler weather and the countdown to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our kids get excited about dressing up and filling their pails with candy. It’s become such a popular holiday that Americans are estimated to spend a whopping $2.5 billion this season on Halloween candy alone!
Almost all of us celebrate to one extent or another, but have you ever wondered how Trick-or-Treating came to be? Disguising our children and allowing them to beg candy from strangers is, well, a little strange. Chocology wanted to know the history, so we went on a mission to find out how Trick-or-Treating on Halloween came to be.
Halloween came about as a celebration of All Hallows Eve (the day before All Saints Day), a Christian holiday in which the dead are remembered, particularly martyrs and saints. All Saints Day coincided with a Celtic celebration called Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). For the Celts, Samhain was a time in which the spirits of the dead swept through the earth, mingling with living beings. Bonfires and sacrifices were made to keep the spirits moving on their journey to the otherworld and keep them away from the their tribes and animals. Samhain became the Halloween we celebrate today when Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celtic people. Rather than eradicate their pagan practices completely, Christian missionaries transformed Celtic ceremonies little by little to coincide with the Christian holiday of All Saints Day. Mingling Christian beliefs and customs with Celtic traditions helped the Celts to slowly convert to Christianity.
Trick-or Treating is actually a fairly new practice. Before the 1940’s All Hallows Eve was celebrated by holding small parties with cakes or fruit. It wasn’t until the late 1940’s that trick-or-treating was recognized throughout most of the U.S. and even then candy was not the treat of choice. In the 1940’s and early 1950’s, trick-or-treaters were more likely to receive homemade treats, coins, fruit or even little toys rather than candy. Today, Halloween is the candy industry’s most profitable holiday, falling behind Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
In the 1960’s it was still fairly acceptable to hand out homemade treats. But in the 1970’s, fear of those homemade treats being tampered with or even poisoned, led people to feel that the store bought, individually wrapped candies were a safer option. As the number of children trick-or-treating swelled, the candy industry saw this as a perfect marketing opportunity to raise sales of their confections in the Fall. The marketing of small individually wrapped candies took off in the 1970’s and candy became the official “treat” for trick-or-treaters.
Despite the fact that Trick-or-Treating is a fairly recent phenomenon, it does resemble a medieval practice called “souling”. Poor folks would go door to door on November 1 (All Saints Day) offering prayers for the dead in exchange for food.
Although popular historical rumors explain that trick-or-treating was invented by adults as a plan to stifle youthful pranks on Halloween, there is no real documented evidence of this. In the late 1940’s, Jack and Jill magazine mentioned a fun game called trick-or-treating. After that, television shows portraying children trick-or-treating got national attention. For the most part, it was the children who had to explain the practice of trick-or-treating to bewildered adults. Many adults felt it was an act of extortion and did not approve. Despite the push back from some adults, however, trick-or-treating on Hallows Eve took hold and it slowly became the tradition that many of us enjoy each year.
It was so interesting researching all of the ancient traditions that led to our modern day Halloween celebrations. What are your customs for Halloween and All Saints Day? Do you have a special tradition or practice? Chocology would love to hear about it. Tell us what you are doing this holiday season or better yet, send us some pictures on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Chocology wishes you a safe Halloween this year with lots of fun with friends and family! Happy Halloween!