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A trick-or-treater in Michigan in 1979

Trick-or-treating is a custom for children on Halloween. Children proceed in costume from house to house, asking for treats such as candy, or sometimes money, with the question, "trick or treat?" The "trick" is a (usually idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given.

In the United States and Canada, trick-or-treating is now one of the main traditions of Halloween and it has become socially expected that if one lives in a neighborhood with children one should purchase treats in preparation for trick-or-treaters. The National Confectioners Association reported in 2005 that 80 percent of adults in the United States planned to give out confectionery to trick-or-treaters,[1] and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.[2] The tradition of going from door to door receiving food already existed in Britain and Ireland, in the form of souling, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes.[3] Guising — children disguised in costumes going from door to door for food and coins — also predates trick or treat, and was traditional at Halloween in late 19th century Scotland and Ireland.[4] While going from door to door has remained popular among Scots and Irish, the North American custom of saying "trick or treat" has recently become common. The activity is prevalent in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and northwestern and central Mexico (where it is called calaverita, spanish for "little skull"; instead of "trick or treat", children ask ¿me da mi calaverita?, "can you give me my little skull?"). In the last twenty years, amid controversy, the custom has spread to other countries, such as Italy, Australia and New Zealand, possibly due to the ubiquity of U.S. American TV shows and movies in those countries.

Contents

History

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Origin

Two children trick-or-treating on Halloween in Arkansas

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain,[3] although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.[5] Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of "puling [whimpering or whining] like a beggar at Hallowmas."[6] The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them, in Scotland for instance where the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.[7][8]

American historian and author Ruth Edna Kelley of Massachusetts wrote the first book length history of the holiday in the US; The Book of Hallowe'en (1919), and references souling in the chapter "Hallowe'en in America";

The taste in Hallowe'en festivities now is to study old traditions, and hold a Scotch party, using Burn's poem Hallowe'en as a guide; or to go a-souling as the English used. In short, no custom that was once honored at Hallowe'en is out of fashion now. [9]

Kelley lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, a town with 4,500 Irish immigrants, 1,900 English immigrants, and 700 Scottish immigrants in 1920.[10] In her book, Kelley touches on customs that arrived from across the Atlantic; "Americans have fostered them, and are making this an occasion something like what it must have been in its best days overseas. All Hallowe'en customs in the United States are borrowed directly or adapted from those of other countries".[11]

At the time of substantial Scottish and Irish immigration to North America in the late 19th century, Halloween had a strong tradition of "guising" - children in Scotland and Ireland disguised in costumes going from door to door requesting food or coins.[4]

The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street "guising" (see below) on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs..[12] Another isolated reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920.[13]

The earliest known use in print of the term "trick or treat" appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, Canada:

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.[14]

The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating.[15] The editor of a collection of over 3,000 vintage Halloween postcards writes, "There are cards which mention the custom [of trick-or-treating] or show children in costumes at the doors, but as far as we can tell they were printed later than the 1920s and more than likely even the 1930s. Tricksters of various sorts are shown on the early postcards, but not the means of appeasing them".[16] Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the first U.S. appearances of the term in 1934,[17] and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.[18]

Increased popularity

Almost all pre-1940 uses of the term "trick-or-treat" are from the western United States and Canada.[19] Trick-or-treating spread from the western United States eastward, stalled by sugar rationing that began in April 1942 during World War II and did not end until June 1947.[20]

Magazine advertisement in 1962

Early national attention to trick-or-treating was given in October 1947 issues of the children's magazines Jack and Jill and Children's Activities,[21] and by Halloween episodes of the network radio programs The Baby Snooks Show in 1946 and The Jack Benny Show and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in 1948.[22] The custom had become firmly established in popular culture by 1952, when Walt Disney portrayed it in the cartoon Trick or Treat, and Ozzie and Harriet were besieged by trick-or-treaters on an episode of their television show.[23] In 1953 UNICEF first conducted a national campaign for children to raise funds for the charity while trick-or-treating.[24]

Although some popular histories of Halloween have characterized trick-or-treating as an adult invention to rechannel Halloween activities away from vandalism, nothing in the historical record supports this theory. To the contrary, adults, as reported in newspapers from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, typically saw it as a form of extortion, with reactions ranging from bemused indulgence to anger.[25] Likewise, as portrayed on radio shows, children would have to explain what trick-or-treating was to puzzled adults, and not the other way around. Sometimes even the children protested: for Halloween 1948, members of the Madison Square Boys Club in New York City carried a parade banner that read "American Boys Don't Beg."[26]

Introduction to the UK

Before the 1980s, the North American phrase "trick-or-treat" was little known in the UK and when introduced was often regarded as an unusual and even unwelcome import. Since the 80s it has become more widespread, but is still often viewed as an exotic and unwelcome commercialised import, referred to as "the Japanese knotweed of festivals" and "Making demands with menaces". [27]

Local variants

In Scotland and Ireland, guising (children going from house to house in disguise) is traditional, and the North American jocular threat is not widely practiced, as the traditional gift (in the form of "apples or nuts for the Halloween party", in more recent times chocolate) is given out to the children dressed up as ghosts and witches. Up until circa 1960 children used unusual clothing and face make-up for stunning effect,[citation needed] but with the growing commercialism, theme masks and theme outfits became more popular. In 19th and early 20th century Ireland the tricks were often a bit alarming— for example, slates were placed over the chimney-pots of houses filling the rooms with smoke and field gates were lifted off their hinges and hung from high tree branches.[citation needed]

Until the 1990s, Irish children said "Help the Halloween Party," but some are now more inclined to use the North American "Trick or treat" phrase, due to the influence of American movies, and television.

In Quebec, Canada, children also go door to door on Halloween. However, in French speaking neighbourhoods, instead of "Trick or treat?", they will simply say "Halloween", though in tradition it used to be La charité s'il-vous-plaît ("Charity, please").[citation needed]

In some parts of Ohio, Iowa, Massachusetts and other states, the night designated for Trick-or-Treating is referred to as Beggars Night.

In Sweden children dress up as witches and go trick-or-treating on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter) while Danish children dress up in various attires and go trick-or-treating on Fastelavn (or the next day, Shrove Monday) and In Norway kids go trick-or-treating between Christmas and New Year's Eve. The Easter witch tradition is done on Palm Sunday in Finland. In parts of Flanders and some parts of the Netherlands and most areas of Germany and Austria, children go to houses with home made beet lanterns or with paper lanterns (which can hold a candle or electronic light), singing songs about St. Martin on St. Martin's Day (the 11th of November), in return for treats.[citation needed] In Northern Germany and Southern Denmark children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating on New Year's Eve in a tradition called "Rummelpott" [28].

Children of the St. Louis, Missouri area are expected to perform a joke, usually a simple Halloween-themed pun or riddle, before receiving any candy; this "trick" earns the "treat".[29]

Children in Des Moines, Iowa also tell jokes or otherwise perform before receiving their treat. This originated as well-organized campaign to reduce Halloween mischief-making. Des Moines trick-or-treating is also unusual in that it is actually done the night before Halloween, known locally as "Beggars' Night."[30]

Guising

In Scotland and parts of northern England, a similar tradition is called guising because of the disguises or costumes worn by the children. [31] Although traditions of seasonal guising stretch back at least as far as the Middle Ages, it wasn't until the late 19th century that Halloween had a strong tradition of "guising" - Scottish and Irish children disguised in costumes going from door to door for food.[4] However there is a significant difference from the way the practice has developed in the United States. In Scotland, the children are only supposed to receive treats if they perform tricks for the households they go to. This normally takes the form of singing a song or reciting a joke or a funny poem which the child has memorized before setting out. Occasionally a more talented child may do card tricks, play the mouth organ, or something even more impressive, but most children will earn plenty of treats even with something very simple, but they won't always have to do it. Guising although remaining popular well into the 20th century,[32] it is being replaced in some parts of the country with the North American form of saying "trick-or-treat". Such a practice is in use in certain regions of the United States, as well.

See also

References

  1. ^ Trick-or-treaters can expect Mom or Dad’s favorites in their bags this year, National Confectioners Association, 2005.
  2. ^ Fun Facts: Halloween, National Confectioners Association, 2004.
  3. ^ a b Roger, Nichola (2002). Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night october 31 6:00 to 8:00 no earlyer or no later or we'll come get u. Oxford University Press. pp. 28–30. ISBN 0-19-514691-3. 
  4. ^ a b c Rogers, Nicholas. (2002) "Festive Rights:Halloween in the British Isles". Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. p.48. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195146913
  5. ^ "Ask Anne", Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1948, p. S11.
  6. ^ Act 2, Scene 1.
  7. ^ Campbell, John Gregorson (1900, 1902, 2005) The Gaelic Otherworld. Edited by Ronald Black. Birlinn Ltd. ISBN 1-84158-207-7 pp.559-62
  8. ^ Arnold, Bettina (2001-10-31). "Halloween Customs in the Celtic World". University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. http://www.uwm.edu/~barnold/lectures/holloween.html. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  9. ^ Ruth Edna Kelley, The Book of Hallowe'en, Boston: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Co., 1919, chapter 15, p.127. "Hallowe'en in America."
  10. ^ U.S. Census, January 1, 1920, State of Massachusetts, City of Lynn.
  11. ^ Kelley, Ruth Edna. http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/boh/boh17.htm Hallowe'en in America
  12. ^ Rogers, Nicholas. (2002) "Coming Over:Halloween in North America". Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. p.76. Oxford University Press, 2002, ISBN 0195146913
  13. ^ Theo. E. Wright, "A Halloween Story," St. Nicholas, October 1915, p. 1144. Mae McGuire Telford, "What Shall We Do Halloween?" Ladies Home Journal, October 1920, p. 135.
  14. ^ "'Trick or Treat' Is Demand," Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta), November 4, 1927, p. 5, dateline Blackie, Alberta, Nov. 3.
  15. ^ For examples, see the websites Postcard & Greeting Card Museum: Halloween Gallery, Antique Hallowe'en Postcards, Vintage Halloween Postcards, and Morticia's Morgue Antique Halloween Postcards.
  16. ^ E-mail from Louise and Gary Carpentier, 29 May 2007, editors of Halloween Postcards Catalog (CD-ROM), G & L Postcards.
  17. ^ "Halloween Pranks Keep Police on Hop," Oregon Journal (Portland, Oregon), November 1, 1934:

    Other young goblins and ghosts, employing modern shakedown methods, successfully worked the "trick or treat" system in all parts of the city.

    "The Gangsters of Tomorrow", The Helena Independent (Helena, Montana), November 2, 1934, p. 4:

    Pretty Boy John Doe rang the door bells and his gang waited his signal. It was his plan to proceed cautiously at first and give a citizen every opportunity to comply with his demands before pulling any rough stuff. "Madam, we are here for the usual purpose, 'trick or treat.'" This is the old demand of the little people who go out to have some innocent fun. Many women have some apples, cookies or doughnuts for them, but they call rather early and the "treat" is given out gladly.

    The Chicago Tribune also mentioned door-to-door begging in Aurora, Illinois on Halloween in 1934, although not by the term "trick-or-treating." "Front Views and Profiles" (column), Chicago Tribune, Nov. 3, 1934, p. 17.
  18. ^ Doris Hudson Moss, "A Victim of the Window-Soaping Brigade?" The American Home, November 1939, p. 48. Moss was a California-based writer.
  19. ^ The Historical Newspaper Collection at Ancestry.com indexes more than 16 million pages from over 1,000 different newspapers across the U.S, U.K. and Canada dating back to the 1700s.
  20. ^ "One Lump Please", Time, March 30, 1942. "Decontrolled", Time, June 23, 1947.
  21. ^ Published in Indianapolis, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois, respectively.
  22. ^ The Baby Snooks Show, November 1, 1946, and The Jack Benny Show, October 31, 1948, both originating from NBC Radio City in Hollywood; and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, October 31, 1948, originating from CBS Columbia Square in Hollywood.
  23. ^ "Halloween Party," The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Oct. 31, 1952.
  24. ^ "A Barrel of Fun for Halloween Night," Parents Magazine, October 1953, p. 140. "They're Changing Halloween from a Pest to a Project," The Saturday Evening Post, October 12, 1957, p. 10.
  25. ^ Editorial, Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 6, 1935, p. 4:
    In plain fact it is straight New York or Chicago "graft" or "racket" in miniature. Certainly it wouldn't be a good idea for youngsters to go in extensively for this kind of petty "blackmail" on any other date than Halloween. Neither police nor public opinion would stand for that.
    "A. Mother", letter to the editor, The Fresno Bee, November 7, 1941, p. 20:
    As a mother of two children I wish to register indignation at the "trick or treat" racket imposed on residents on Hallowe'en night by the youngsters of this city.… This is pure and simple blackmail and it is a sad state of affairs when parents encourage their youngsters to participate in events of this kind.
    Mrs. B. G. McElwee, letter to the editor, Washington Post, Nov. 11, 1948, p. 12:
    The Commissioners and District of Columbia officials should enact a law to prohibit "beggars night" at Hallowe'en. It is making gangsters of children.… If the parents of these children were fined not less than $25 for putting their children out to beg, they would entertain their children at home.
    "M.E.G.", letter to column "Ask Anne", Washington Post, Nov. 21, 1948, p. S11:
    I have lived in some 20 other towns and cities and I never saw nor heard of the begging practice until about 1936.… The sooner it becomes obsolete here the better. I don't mind the tiny children who want to show off their costumes, but I resent the impudence of the older children.
    Lucy Powell Seay, letter to the editor, Washington Post, Oct. 29, 1949, p. 8:
    Another year has rolled around and the nightmare of having to put up with the "trick or treat" idea again fills me with dread.
  26. ^ Recalled a decade later by Martin Tolchin, "Halloween A Challenge To Parents," The New York Times, October 27, 1958, p. 35.
  27. ^ Sean Coughlan, "The Japanese knotweed of festivals", BBC News Magazine, 31 October 2007.
  28. ^ http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rummelpottlaufen
  29. ^ Trick-or-Treat tradition spooks St. Louis residents Truman State University Index 25 Oct. 2007.
  30. ^ Jokes set local Halloween apart Des Moines Register Oct. 31 2008.
  31. ^ Sarah Carpenter (December 2001). "Scottish Guising: Medieval And Modern Theatre Games". International Journal of Scottish Theatre vol. 2 no. 2. http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/ScotLit/ASLS/ijost/Volume2_no2/1_carpenter_s.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  32. ^ Bannatyne, Lesley Pratt (1998) Forerunners to HalloweenPelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1565543467 p.44

Further reading

  • Ben Truwe, The Halloween Catalog Collection. Portland, Oregon: Talky Tina Press, 2003. ISBN 0-9703448-5-6. Contains a particularly well-documented history of trick-or-treating in America.

External links


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