‘Fess up … do you fling open your door and greet Halloween visitors with feigned amazement at their creative costumes? OR, are you the Halloween Grinch, porch light off, with only the television light flickering in the shadows?
TRICK-OR-TREAT!: traditional greeting used by a Trick-or-Treater; orig. used with the meaning ‘give me a treat or I will play a trick on you!’
Uttered by millions of children masquerading as anything other than a child, Trick-or-Treat! aims to trick a few pieces of sweetness from you. Not particularly weird … but, why do we say it at all? Trick-or-Treat!Smell my Feet! And follow me …
Recalling the Gaelic and British heritage of Halloween, “guising” and “souling.” are the archaic names for the shenanigans of All Hallow’s Eve. In modern use around the late 1800s, these traditions were recorded as early as the Middle Ages.
Of course, guising is fairly self-explanatory – it’s a short trip to “disguising” – for gifts of food or money. But souling adds another element to it. Reportedly a Christian custom, soulers received food (usually “soul cake”) on Hallowmas as tokens for their prayers for the dead.
Speaking of dead, do you conjure the spirit of Shakespeare at Halloween? His 1593 comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona alludes to souling in Act 2. Speed chastises his master for "puling [groveling] like a beggar at Hallowmas."
Not until the 1920s did trick-or-treating traditions noticeably increase in the U.S. The custom was slow to become widespread because tricksters of the era tended to take their fun too seriously, which escalated in the stress of the Depression Era. With the 1940s and World War II’s sugar rationing, trick-or-treating all but disappeared.
The advent of television sugarcoated the 1950s and helped revive a more benign trick-or-treating ritual. Halloween traditions enjoyed a popular surge which helped establish the first Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF in 1950; still a popular charity event.
By 1952, Disney’s Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, canteredTrick or Treat” animated capers. And of course, children everywhere mimicked the silly, lovable ducks.
Sadly, due to the basest traits of human nature, Trick-or-Treating has again fallen out of favor, mostly with parents concerned over their children’s safety. Since the 1990s some communities and churches have sponsored “Trunk-or-Treat” events that utilize parking lots and the parents’ parked cars.
Halloween tailgating opens trunks to reveal treasure troves of sweets, often including games and wicked Halloween decorations, and youngsters rush from car-to-car, rather than door-to-door.
Are you channeling a bit of famous Irish writer, Bram Stoker as Dracula, for Halloween? How he might have said Trick or Treat: Cleas nó cóir (class noh koh-ir).
No matter where you’re from or what your faith, the fun and frolic of Halloween lurks in every store aisle. Brave the night and scare the spirits away; then munch on their chocolate skeletons. Trick-or-treat! Boo!
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