When Did Trick or Treat Start?

Trick or treating started in the 15th century with the Christian tradition of sharing soul cakes. During the time of Halloween, poor people and kids would go from door to door and offer their prayers in exchange for cookies. This custom was first practiced in England, south Germany and Austria. Over the course of centuries, it spread across the rest of the planet and established a new hotspot in the U.S.

What is Souling?

People led by three men souling through the streets on London
Souling in the old times

Souling is the Christian version of trick or treating. In the 9th century, Christian church adopted the Celtic Halloween and renamed it into All Saints Day. Adopting heathen customs that could not be exterminated and adjusting them to the image of Jesus was the usual practice of the Catholic church. Since Celtic ancient Halloween known as Samhain was an unerasable tradition of Celtic England and Ireland, the church invented its own way to appease the dead. The second November was proclaimed into the All Saints Day and ever since was reserved to pay respect to the dead.

When Did Souling Start?

Records of ‘souling’ date back to 15th century A.D. People believed that in the time of Halloween the veil between two worlds would get so thin that spirits of the dead could come to the world of the living. The roaming souls of the deceased ones needed to be appeased. Otherwise, they would start interfering in people’s lives and making problems. Impersonating spirits and souls of the dead was one of the ways to repel after-life abominations away. Such acts also brought benefits of taking offerings on their behalfs. It is how the foundation of trick or treating was born in the first place. During the night of Halloween, poor people and kids would go from door to door as representatives of the dead or ones who are willing to pray for the deceased souls from that house. Either way, they would receive a prize in the form of soul cakes. However, if the owners of households would decide to give no treat, it was believed that their family members who died were not going to find peace and bestow their wrath upon the living.

Amalgam of soul cakes that were given to ones who promised to pray for dead souls of the house owner
Soul Cakes

When and Where did Wearing of Masks Start?

Masks were a part of the ancient Samhain celebration that roots back to the old era. Celts would wrap up in animal tides and cover their faces with color and skulls and dance around the bonfires. However, when it comes to trick or treating and wearing masks, the tradition developed a lot later. The wearing of masks during trick or treat was first recorded in Scotland during the 16th century. Soon after, the custom started appearing in other parts of Britain and Ireland. What later became the tradition is even mentioned in Shakspeare’s comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona when servant accuses his master of whimpering like a beggar at Hallowmas. In Scotland, youths went from house to house in white with masked, painted, or blackened faces. They recited rhymes in exchange for a treat. If a treat would be omitted youths would implement some mischief. This is highly resemblant to a modern trick or treating. Some experts even like to observe it as a modified souling as it possesses crucial features of the Christian tradition:

  • Service provided: in ‘souling’ it was prayer, in Scotland it is was recitation.
  • Reward: soul cakes or some other treat.
  • Punishment if the reward was omitted. According to ‘souling’ partitioners, the souls of the host who declined cakes would not find peace. With Scottish youths, things functioned a bit differently as they were the ones who would implement some mischief and punish the family that chose to give them nothing.

In Ireland, man would dress in a white mare and lead youths from door to door. If house-hold would donate food it would mean a good fortune but if nothing would be given it was believed that bad luck was going to be bestowed upon the family that lived there. In the 19th century, costumes became much more versatile. Parties of masked children would go around farms and cottages, sing songs and beg for soul cakes, apples, or any other kind of gift.

Trick or Treating Comes in America

Halloween was the most prominent tradition in Ireland. It is there that the custom of pumpkin carving was born from the folk tale of Stingy Jack who managed to trick even Satan himself. Irish migrations to America are considered crucial from planting seeds of modern Halloween in the U.S. soils. It is esteemed that between 1820 and 1930 more than 4.5 million Irish migrated to America. They are considered to be the reason for Halloween being what it is today.

When Did Trick or Treat Appeared First Time?

The first recorded time someone said “Trick or Treat” was in 1927 in Canada. Hamlet called Blackie in Alberta is the precise place where the tradition was officially born. The newspaper of this little village wrote:

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

Fatal Feature of Trick or Treating – It Can Be Deadly!

Kids in police costumes trick or treating around the neighborhood dangerously close to the cars passing by
Children trick or treating

While trick or treating is related to fun it can also be very dangerous. The custom of trick or treating makes Halloween the deadliest pedestrian day for kids in the whole year. The survey shows that it is almost three times more likely that kid occupied with running across the streets and collecting candies is going to get hit by a car than any other day of the year. Due to this fact, a whole new question of how to protect your kids during Halloween became very popular. While this is a very broad topic, abbreviated advice is to either follow them during their trick or treat adventures or provide them with a glowing costume or glowing flag. When combined with public appeals given to drivers to lower their speed as much as possible, kids that are easy to spot will probably result in a lowering number of accidents to a minimal degree.

The Maddest Example of Trick or Treating

Trick or treating is known to be capable of going too far. One such example happened in Frederica, Delaware, in 2005. The decoration of a human corpse was hanging from the tree. People passing by admired it stating that such a realistic decoration was never seen before. However, later it turned out that it wasn’t the decoration but a real body. Police established that it was word about the 42-year-old woman who committed suicide by hanging her self for the rope tied on the tree branch. Her legs dangled 15 feet above the ground as the cars and kids in costumes passed below. She remained hanging all night. When the morning came neighbors thought it’s just another prank. However, a few hours after breakfast some of them found it suspicious no one still removed the decoration. They called the police and allowed the truth to be revealed just before the rotting was supposed to start.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *