Let's Ride On. . .Halloween of Yesteryear


  • Author Mimi Brusa
  • Published November 3, 2019
  • Word count 540

For more than a century, children have been wearing costumes and ringing doorbells to ask for treats in the US and other countries. This tradition can be traced back to ancient Celtic festivals, Roman Catholics and British politics. Therefore, how did the trick or treat began?

The Celtics had a tradition of celebrating the end of the year by dressing up as evil spirits. This was due to a belief that as they moved from one year to the other, the dead and the living would overlap and thus the demons would roam the earth again! To avoid any problems with the demons, the Celtics would dress up as evil spirits (as a defense mechanism). They believed that in case you would encounter a real demon at that time, the demon would think you are one of them and it would not hurt you. The Celtics would gather to offer sacrifices, light bonfires and pay homage to the dead in an attempt to please them.

In the 19th century, Christianity spread into Celtic lands where it started blending with the pagan rites (traditions). November 2 was designated as All Soul’s Day/All Saints Day/ All Hallows Eve and people had to dress up as angels, saints and some as demons. This day was used to honor the dead and it was graced with bonfires and masquerades. On this day, poor people usually visited the houses of wealthier families to receive pastries (they were called soul cakes). In exchange, the poor people would promise to pray for the souls of the dead relatives to the homeowner. This practice was commonly known as Souling. With time, the children adopted this tradition and in exchange, they would get gifts such as ale, food, and money.

The young people in Scotland and Ireland took part in a tradition known as guising (from the word disguise). They would dress up in a costume and accept an offering from different households. However, instead of pledging to pray for the dead, they would recite a poem, sing a song, tell a joke or perform a trick and then collect the gift. The gift mainly consisted of nuts, coins or fruits. Since trick or treat is very common in the United States, you would think that the Europeans migrated with the culture to the country. But, trick or treat did not re-emerge until in the late 1920s and 1930s. In the early 20th century, the Scottish and Irish people revived souling and guising tradition in the United States. However, this led to sporadic acts of violence, vandalism, and physical assaults due to excessive pranks and wearing of costume during the Halloween day. After World War II started, sugar rationing became a problem thus halting the trick or treat tradition. Trick or treat and other Halloween customs returned after the World War and it is one of the traditions practiced by millions of people in the entire world. Candy companies usually launch national advertising campaigns aimed at Halloween in an attempt to make the day memorable while still making a profit.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend about $2.6 billion on candy on Halloween. As a result, this has made Halloween the second-largest commercial day in the US.

Mimi Brusa loves to write interesting bits for families in her spare time. She has a website wholly devoted to ride on toys for the entire family @ https://www.rideontoysplanet.com

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