Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.
the term "trick or treat," appeared in print only around
1939, its origins could be traced back over 2000 years.
Celts - as well as among the Chinese, the Egyptians, and even the
Aztecs - it was thought that the spirits of the dead required food
and drink. During the festival of Samhain (discussed in greater
detail in the article on Halloween History), the people would
leave various articles of food outside to placate the spirits.
This was very important, for only the finest mutton legs,
vegetables, eggs and poultry - as well as honey and wine - were
left outside for the spirits to consume on their way to the
netherworld. To supply nothing meant that the hungry and possibly
irritated spirit might intrude upon one's house and help itself to
one's belongings. Leaving out food that had spoiled was also
considered an open invitation to disaster. Therefore, families who
faced uncertain diets, often of very low quality, gave what was
most precious to them: food. This takes on added implications when
we recall that, at that time, food was very difficult to preserve.
Moreover, Halloween marked winter's beginning, when food was at
its scarcest, and starvation not uncommon. Thus the roaming from
door-to-door demanding treats can be traced to the Celtic period
and the first few centuries of Christianity when it was thought
that the souls of the dead were out and around, along with
fairies, witches, and demons. Food and drink were left to placate
centuries wore on, people began dressing as these dreadful
creatures and performing antics in exchange for offerings of food
and drink. This practice, called mumming, evolved into our present
trick or treating. To this day, witches, ghosts, and skeleton
figures of the dead are among the favorite disguises."
the Celtic traditions seems to be the main root, there are probably
several origins, mostly Irish. An old Irish peasant practice called
for going door to door to collect money, bread cake, cheese, eggs, butter, nuts,
apples, etc., in preparation for the festival of St. Columbus Kill.
custom was the begging for soul cakes, which can be traced back to the early
celebrations of All Soul's Day in Britain. The poor would go
begging and the housewives would give them special treats called
"soulcakes". This was called "going a-souling",
and the "soulers" would promise to say a prayer for the
dead. Over time the custom changed and the town's children became
the beggars. As they went from house to house they would be given
apples, buns, and money.
immigrants came to America, they brought their varied Halloween
customs with them. As the beliefs and customs of different
European ethnic groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a
distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. In the
second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with
new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of
Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine of 1846, helped to
popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from
Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in
costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a
practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat"
was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share
the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent
tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children
with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has
continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6.9
billion annually on Halloween, making it the country's second
largest commercial holiday.