The origins of Halloween are pretty well-known to most fans of anything even remotely other-worldly.
It’s technically “supposed” to be called Samhain (pronounced Sah-When) and is derived from the pagan Celtic festival which took place around the solstice.
Of course, other traditionally spooky celebrations such as Walpurgisnacht (although that’s in April) have been mixed in, and in recent years Halloween has become Christmas’ hyper-commercialized spooky brother.
But that’s another article.
The celebration of Halloween has today become inseparable from ghost hunts, revealing costumes, and binges of equal parts alcohol and horror flick.
Today, however, on this fantastic holiday, we will look at something a bit more kid-friendly: Trick-Or-Treating.
How long has it been a thing? And why?
Sit back, dear reader, for today we learn.
Trick-or-Treatise part I: The Conquering
The Holiday of Halloween, of course, has pagan roots. Samhain was celebrated on the first of November and was meant to venerate the harvest (and drink).
They also associated the darker half of the year… from fall to winter… with death and decay, and believed that the spirits would become active on the day before Samhain.
In an attempt to ward off the less kind of these ghosts, and to pay tribute to fallen relatives, they left out small meals and loaves of bread and other small treats.
Thus, Halloween has managed to stay true to its roots of horror and partying for millenia.
Near the end of the Roman Empire, great areas of Celt land were overtaken and conquered.
During these ages, the practice seemed to continue, such was the appeal of Halloween even in ancient times.
Trick-or-Treatise part II: The Souling
Near the 8th or 11th century, The Catholic Church had gained control of the area. The Church’s calendar contained two holidays, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
All Saints Day was intended to honor fallen saints, and observe the importance of their martyrdoms. A feast was mandated to be held on the 13th of May as commemoration.
All Souls Day, unsurprisingly, is meant to venerate passed loved ones and ancestors, and became linked with a practice known as “Souling”, which consisted of leaving out small sweets and treats on All Souls Night.
Incidentally, this is where the similar practices observed in South America (known as La Dia De Los Muertos) originated.
All Souls Day was originally observed sometime in the Spring, and later sometime in Winter, but always intentionally directly after the feast of All Saints.
This eventually led to the amalgamation of the two into All Hallow’s Eve, which occurred overlapping Samhain, likely because it was most convenient for all observers.
Trick-or-Treatise part III: The Guising
Since the Celts are wont to set trends for Halloween, the final piece of the Trick or Treat puzzle falls into place in the 16th century, based in the Scottish practice of “Guising”.
Guising is essentially the same as trick-or-treating as Americans would know it, with children donning outlandish costumes and going door-to-door to collect treats, with the exception that the child is often expected to actually perform a trick.
Associated rituals, such as “mumming” developed in other countries (and included essentially the same practices) but not necessarily set on Halloween.
However, in America, a phrase shouted by mischievous kids on their neighbor’s doorsteps became widespread and included reference to the other well-known Halloween practice of extreme pranking:
"Trick or Treat!"