It’s the wonderful time of year. The leaves fall to the ground the air turns chilly and rain is on the horizon. This week let’s look at what makes Halloween…Halloween.
For starters where did Halloween come from? Halloween has its origins in the Celtic culture. The Irish and Scots brought a version of Halloween to the States. There are no known Celtic records describing the festival however some Roman documents describe it after the Romans conquered them. The festival was a celebration of their dead and a sacrificial offering usually with the burning of crops. The festival was in fact a Pagan celebration called Samhain (sow-in).
Christians did not want to celebrate a Pagan festival and instead created All Saints’ Day to allow the Christians to celebrate something they felt was a positive celebration, as Christianity spread over Europe All Saints Day became a replacement for Samhain.
As many already know the name Halloween is a derivative that has changed over time originally called All Hallow Evening, All Hallow Eve and eventually being shortened to Halloween.
What about our traditional Trick or Treating? Well this was actually a tactic started in the 19th century called guising where poor people would dress up during All Hallows Eve and beg for food and money in exchange for a song or some other return payment, much like caroling during Christmas, these people were called “soulers”.
Trick Or Treating as we know it today started in the late 20’s early 30’s with much of the same reasoning,
poor children would dress up and go door to door begging for foot, with one exception. Children no longer preformed a song for repayment in this new warped version the kids would vandalize or extort what they were asking for. For example here is one of the first articles referencing this practice:
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.
Printed in the November 4, 1927 edition of the Blackie, Alberta Canada Herald
During this time parents decided to try and detour the violence and havoc that kids had taken to and started implementing an outlet of a tradition taking their kids door to door to trick out treat. Des Moines, Iowa is one of the most recorded areas known to consciously try to deter child violence into a positive event.
After a major sugar ration during WWII was lifted in the late 1940’s trick or treating become more of what we know of it today. During that time most of the United States indulged in the holiday and even major companies embraced it such as Disney who portrayed the practice in their cartoons. In the early 50’s UNICEF cashed it by giving out bags to children to not only collect candy but also donations for their charity, this is still a practice today. Interestingly enough even though the holiday and practice of Trick Or Treating originated in Ireland, the new form of Trick Or Treating was not common until the early 1980’s and even today the British are known to despite the holiday where it is reported that more than half of them turn their lights off and do not answer the door compared to the average 80% of adults in the US take part. It is said that kids in Des Moines, Iowa and St. Luis, Missouri area are expected to tell a joke or perform in some way in order to receive a confection, so I have to end this Rest Stop by asking our very own Douglas Wicker who just happens to live in the St. Luis area…what did you do as a kid for Halloween?
Happy Halloween readers!