I know I promised this yesterday, I'm sorry but in a house with 7+ children I feel like Old Mother Hubbard and forget a few things! Well here it is today! Better late than never!
As the day grows nearer children everywhere start planning their costumes, getting their bags ready, and drawing up their routes. Parents start getting together planning groups and looking for safe areas. Parties are planned, candy is bought, make-up is applied. So much excitement and fun ahead. But do you know what the back story is on this fun tradition?
Trick-or-treating used to also be called "Guising". Children dress up in costumes and go door to door looking to be given candy, or treated, if no treats the children would leave a trick for the homeowner by performing some kind of mischief on them or their property.While the tradition has been a part of american life since the 1900's it goes even farther back in other countries. In Europe, especially Britain and Ireland, children and the poor would go door to door singing and praying for the souls of those who have passed in exchange for coins or food. In Ireland children would dress up as goblins, ghosts, and other mischievous spirits and carry lanterns of hollowed out turnips from door to door in order to beg for cakes, fruits, and money.
Dressing up in costumes goes back to the Celtic celebration of Samhain, a time when the old year is ending and the new year begins. It is believed on this night the spirits of the dead walk the lands and seek out loved ones or to finish business they had not finished. Some of these spirits were harmful. Carved turnips were placed around barns, homes, and walk ways to ward off the spirits along with offerings of food and drinks. Many believe that the dressing up was began either as a way of tricking the spirits into leaving them alone, believing they are spirits too, or by the poor and hungry to take the offerings left out.
During the 19th century in Ireland there was what is called a Lair Bhan, or White Mare, procession in which a person wearing a white sheet and a horses skull leads a procession of costumed children blowing horns from door to door. At each house the children would recite a verse and the people in the homes were expected to donate food and gifts to them. The greater the donation the greater the blessings. In some places the collectors were collecting treats for a Samhain feast. Since Samhain is the last harvest and the Pagan Thanksgiving, everyone was expected to share their bounty with others and to leave and offering for the spirits. In Moray, young boy would go door to door asking for fuel for the Samhain Bonfires. These are all ways Trick-or-Treating may have begun.
During the 1900's card and candy companies began to market their goods around this time of year to increase sales by suggesting that the trick-or-treating children be appeased with candy. Post cards and greetings cards depicted children in costumes going door to door. Over time this lead to the commercialization of the tradition and mainstream use of the term. Though many churches call trick-or treating evil they still throw fall festivals where children can dress up and attend for fun, they are in a sense celebrating the holiday in the old traditions!