Every year, hordes of children in ghoulish costumes walk from house to house,collecting buckets of candy. For some, trick-or-treating is nothing more than an excuse to gather a lot of candy for free. However, there is more to the holiday tradition than an organized craving for candy. In fact, the origins of trick-or-treating are thought to date back hundreds of years.
The costumes used for modern day trick-or-treating are reminiscent of the outfits worn by European and Celtic groups hundreds of years ago during winter. Around the time of Halloween parties, many people believed that ghosts returned to walk amongst them. To deceive the unwanted, other-worldly guests, people would wear masks; they hoped they would be mistaken for ghosts and, as a result, left undisturbed.
The practice of collecting candy is believed to be a contemporary version of what happened in medieval England during All Souls’ Day. On this occasion, the poor and hungry went from house to house, begging for food in exchange for their prayers. Families would give the beggars “soul cakes,” a type of pastry. In return, the person who received the food would promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. Eventually this practice trickled down to neighborhood children who would visit nearby homes to get gifts, such as money or ale, from neighbors.
Europeans who settled in America brought knowledge of these old traditions with them and,around the 1940s, trick-or-treating started to sweep through the United States.By the 1970s, free candy was a staple of the holiday. Though trick-or-treating is now a modern and commercial occasion, as is Halloween, its roots hearken back to ancient superstitions and medieval social practices. So get ready and shop for your child Halloween costume today!