The History of Trick-or-Treating

Braylin Martin, Staff

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Every Halloween night, children dress up as their favorite pop-culture characters and walk from house to house in their neighborhoods to get candy from their fellow neighbors by saying, “Trick-or-Treat.” Although this has been an American tradition for years, this tradition began in the early 9th century in Medieval Europe.

The Christian Church in Medieval Europe declared November 2 as All Souls’ Day, a day on which all of England would celebrate and honor the dead. During this day, poor people would visit rich people and receive soul cakes in exchange for a prayer for their dead loved ones; this was called souling. Children would later pick up this tradition by going from door to door asking for food and ale.

In Scotland and Ireland, young people would do a thing called guising in which, according to, “they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which typically consisted of fruit, nuts or coins” dressed in costumes.

In the United States, the Irish brought the tradition of guising to America when they migrated there from the Great Potato Famine in the mid-to-late 1840s. Their practice of guising made a huge impact to American children as they joined in their practice. Over the years, children guised in their neighborhoods in costumes made of wool asking for treats or they will pull pranks on the neighbors’ houses. Although it was paused during World War II because of sugar rationing, suburbanization in the 1950s helped make trick-or-treating a huge tradition in American Culture today.

With candy companies investing much on Halloween candy every year, it’s no surprise that children will go to their neighbors’ houses asking for the best candies they can find, or they will get rowdy and pull pranks. Dressed as their favorite characters from tv, movies, video games, comics, etc., they will come to your house on Halloween saying, “Trick-or-Treat.”

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The History of Trick-or-Treating