Putting on a costume and getting free candy on Halloween is one of childhood’s greatest perks. There’s nothing more fun than dressing up and knocking on a neighbor’s door so they can give you sugar. But how did this tradition become ingrained into American culture? Who started it? Read on to learn about the strange and bizarre history of trick-or-treating.
A Celtic Festival
Most historians point to Samhain, a Celtic festival, as one of the main influences on today’s Halloween. The festival was held on November 1 and was at the same time as the village harvest. People believed that dead spirits walked among them during this time, so they sometimes dressed as ghosts to scare the spirits away.
On the night before Samhain, October 31, people left food and drinks out in front of their homes, hoping to appease the dead spirits.
Catholic Influence On The Day
As Christianity spread throughout Europe, it replaced Samhain with All Saints Day. The Catholic Church also transformed the night before All Saints Day into Hallowtide.
In addition to the Church renaming the days, the poor influenced the new holiday as well. Since the Catholics believed in purgatory, poor people would go to their neighbors’ homes on Hallowtide and offer prayers for the deceased. The more prayers your dead relative received, the faster they could leave purgatory.
Coming To America
As the years passed, children became more involved with the renamed Halloween. Instead of their parents, it was the children who went to their neighbors’ homes, presumably to offer prayers and receive food. Since kids were just doing it for the food, adults knew it was a “trick” and the young ones usually did a little dance or performance to earn their goodies.
Over time, more Europeans moved across the Atlantic to start a new life in America. While they left most of their customs and traditions back home, they brought some of them to the new country, including Halloween. The celebration evolved over the years, to the point where kids merely wore costumes in exchange for their treats.