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Why Do We Trick-Or-Treat? The History of a Halloween Tradition

Have you ever wondered why kids transform into miniature ghosts every year with an endless request for candy? Today, we are diving into the old mystery of why trick-or-treating became a fundamental part of Halloween celebrations. So, grab your costumes and buckets as we embark on a journey to uncover the truth of going door to door for candy. 

When Did it Start? 

Trick-or-treating can be traced to an ancient Celtic tradition that took place over 2,000 years ago. During this festival, popularly called Samhain (it falls between October 31 and November 1), the locals believed the boundary between the living and dead was opened, allowing spirits in.  

Courtesy: Sky History 

To appease these spirits, they would leave food items and light bonfires. Over time, this tradition transformed into souling, a medieval tradition in which poor people go door-to-door to offer prayers in exchange for food or drinks. 

Where Did it Start?

Trick-or-treating took a different form back in different traditions. As mentioned earlier, souling was a form of trick-or-treat in medieval Europe. However, renowned Halloween history author Lisa Morton mentioned an entirely different view.

Courtesy: The Guardian 

In her book, she said trick-or-treat originated from a letter written by Queen Victoria about spending Halloween around a bonfire in 1869. Another source says it originated from belsnickling, a popular 18th century Christmas tradition. 

How is it Different Today?

Modern-day trick-or-treating became widespread during the Great Depression that occurred after the Second World War. This post-war era featured rapid housing development but low food rations. So, candy companies had to get creative by creating small-sized candies.

Courtesy: Shelf Life

Compared to today’s Halloween activities, the Halloween tradition in the late to mid-1920s featured vandalism and extreme pranks. These pranks were orchestrated by teenagers trick-and-treating. To solicit candies, these pranksters would demand treats, or else they trick or prank the defaulting house. 

How Did it Grow Popular?

Trick-or-treating became common in Europe and America, but children ringing the doorbell for treats didn’t start until the 1950s. The phrase “trick or treat” became very popular when a popular children’s comic series mentioned it in one of their episodes. 

Courtesy: History Channel 

This iconic comic is none other than “Peanuts,” a popular American comic strip that ran on Sundays. It ran Halloween-themed strips from October 29 – October 31, 1951. Producer Charles Schulz drew the guarantees in host costumes while they prepared for Halloween. 

Halloween Was Nearly Canceled In 1982

For a tradition that has stood the test of time, Halloween was almost canceled in 1982. On September 29, 1992, a 12-year-old woke up with a headache and was administered Tylenol. Minutes later, she dropped dead in her home due to an unknown cause.

Five people were proclaimed dead before the news could cover what was happening. Investigations showed that someone tampered with Tylenol, replacing it with harmful potassium cyanide capsules. This drove up the fear of candy poisonings in the country. 

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