How Did Trick-or-Treating Come Into Being?

The spookiest time of the year is about to knock at our doors. Yes, we are talking about none other than the festival of Halloween. In no time, you will find kids dressed in spooky, silly & freaky costumes, knocking door to door and exclaiming ‘Trick or Treat’. The trick-or-treat tradition is something unique to this festival. Though today it’s a treat-only affair, have you ever wondered where the words ‘Trick or Treat’ come from anyway? The tradition has a long history and is said to originate during a Celtic holiday in medieval Europe. Keep reading to know why we go trick-or-treating.

How Did Trick-or-Treating Come Into Being

Ancient Origins of Trick-or-Treating

Here's a look at the detailed timeline of trick-or-treating.

  • The phrase ‘trick or treat’ dates back to ancient times - to a Celtic tradition called ‘Samhain’ or the beginning of winter or the end of the harvest season. People believed that the dead souls come back into the world on Halloween. Therefore, they were appeased by people dressing up as ghosts/demons, dancing around bonfires and offering food & drinks.
  • Some reports state that during the Celtic celebrations, the villagers would dress themselves up in costumes made of animal skins to chase away evil spirits. They would also put up a table with edible offerings to pacify the souls and ghosts.
  • Come the middle ages, people continued this tradition but included the food exchange part. They would dress up as ghosts, wizards, witches, demons and other unfriendly creatures, performing tricks in exchange for treats. Here the crux was that all these ‘exchanges’ were made on behalf of the dead.
  • Candy wasn’t introduced as a part of the Halloween celebrations until about the 1920s. However, people would hand out round pastries called ‘Soul Cake’ to the beggars.

Modern Trick-or-Treating

In Ireland and Scotland, young people would participate in ‘guising’ where they would dress up in various costumes and go door-to-door asking for delicacies. However, rather than praying for dead souls, they would sing a song, tell a joke or perform light-hearted tricks to earn treats. This period is most likely the time where the term ‘trick or treat’ originated from as we know it in the modern day.

So keep your wands ready because it’s time for spooky shenanigans and the season of buying Halloween gifts online!