Trick or Treat

Pumpkin Haven

Photo Credit: therapycatguardian
(Creative Commons)
If a child came up to you in the street and demanded that you give them a present or the'd do something nasty to you, the chances are you'd tell them to get lost or worse. Yet that is in essence the tradition of Trick or Treat that on Halloween night we find not only acceptable but cute. So what's it all about?

What Is Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat appears to be the modern version of an ancient pagan tradition with similar origins to Halloween itself.

It used to be believed that evil spirits could pass from the otherworld on the night of Halloween. It was common for people to leave out little gifts to placate the unwelcome spirits. Any householder foolish enough to forget such an offering would be on the end of some demonic trick.

This ritual was taken up in dramatic form with masked and costumed actors playing out the scenes, partly as entertainment and partly as warning. This may have provided the basis for the more active trick or treating we know today. It became really popular in the US in the early twentieth century. As with many things, its spread may well have been helped by improved communication and the avilability of pre-made acessories etc from stores.

It should go without saying that the "trick" element of trick or treating should never actually be carried out.


Halloween today is big, big busines in the US. Parents buy costumes for their children, or the parents and children together spend many hours making them. Coming up spooky Halloween costume ideas is likely to be a major task for a modern parent towards the end of October. On the receiving end of trick or treat many adults enjoy the visits and will often buy a stock of candy or treats to hand out to their evening visitors.

Safety is, of course, a major concern and younger children should be accompanied by a responsible adult. This also helps to avoid any temptation to carry out the "trick" element of the custom should the adult react with the Hallowen equivalent of "Bah, humbug".

The acceptance of trick or treating outside of America varies from country to country. Here in Scotland it's always been popuar and is known as guising (a reference to the wearing of disguises). The tradition used to be that children had to perform a chore or entertain in some way to earn their treat, however this is becoming less common nowadays.

In England trick or treating remains far less popular - even unwelcome in some places - although this is slowly changing.