The History of trick-or-treat

In North America, Halloween has not always been a moment of light-hearted fun. In the early 1900's, people played tricks that were not always so friendly. Children disguised themselves and went through the streets asking aggressively for "treats". And heaven help the skinflints!

The trick-or-treat tradition, going from door to door, only started in the 1930's. Similarly, witches only became part of the Halloween tradition in the 19th C. Until the 16th/17C the event was more closely related to the Roman Saturnalia when slaves became their masters' equals for a day, and manifest in a medieval Fool's Day or Feast of the Ass in France and Germany in particular, when local priests elected a simpleton as bishop and parodied Christian ritual to wild celebrations by the population at large.

In fact Halloween evolved steadily through the centuries to what it has become today, a day of magic and mystery, disguises, sweets and candy.

However, tradition would have it that the turbulent, rumbustious behaviour of evil spirits and witches in olden times is with us again today in that of the children who, following the tradition, are masked and disguised as phantoms and skeletons. Children thus appear to have taken over the role of the evil spirits, both in the disguises they choose and their behaviour!!

It is now their turn to play tricks that were originally played by the dead who came back amongst the living for one last time.


For more information : "Secrets et mystères d'Halloween"
édition Jacques Grancher, Paris, France