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What is Trick-or-treating?  On Halloween night, children across North America and in other countries go from house to house in costumes, asking for treats with the question, "Trick or treat?" The "trick" part of "trick or treat" is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given.  Of course, many children are only interested in the Treat part!

Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag with pumpkin

The origins of Trick-or-Treating is hard to define.  Many cultures around the world have some type of fall festival that includes either begging for some type of treat, or doing something to earn the treat.

Chinese, the Egyptians, and Aztecs all believed that the dead required food, which was put outside as part of the custom.  

There was an old Irish peasant practice called for going door to door to collect money, bread cake, cheese, eggs, butter, nuts, or apples, preparation for the festival of St. Columbus Kill.  

In Britain, the poor would go begging and the housewives would give them special treats called "soulcakes". This was called "going a-souling", and the "soulers" would promise to say a prayer for the dead. In time, children became the beggars going from house to house asking for apples, buns, and money.   It even shows up in Shakespeare's play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona.  

As Europeans immigrated to North America, many different Halloween customs blended together to the current Halloween custom of Trick-or-Treating.  In 1911, a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, Canada reported that "it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs" 

Often our modern values compete with the trick-or treating customs of our childhood.  Many of us are concerned about environment.  It's hard to fit those values with the idea of buying sugary snacks, that are mass produced and could have traveled thousands of miles before reaching a store near you.

What are you going to give out to Trick-or-Treaters this Halloween? Creative Kids at Home has asked visitors to share some of their best ideas for creative Halloween Treats.

Comments (1)


The funny thing about trick or treating is the tricking...I cannot think of a single person who ever followed through on the 'threat'. Except, of course, on Devil's Night (October 30th).

BTW, this is something I found to be interesting. Seems nobody in the Pacific Northwest knows about Devil's Night. Must be a Midwest thing (I grew up there).

Thanks for the interesting history of Halloween. Next to Christmas, it is my favorite holiday. Reminds me a lot of being a kid and walking around at night with my friends. I loved it then and still do now!


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