An illustration of the ‘Black Dog’ series by Dusty Crosley, a twisted Halloween tale of horror written by Terry Lambert.

Tricking and Treating Has a Long History

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In Ireland, people would walk the streets carrying candles in a hollowed-out turnip, the precursor of today’s  jack o’lantern , or the carved pumpkin.

When the tradition arrived in The U.S

Halloween, however, did not make its way to the United States until the 1840s, when waves of immigrants from the Celtic countries of Ireland and Scotland arrived. These immigrants brought with them their tradition of Halloween, including dancing, masquerading, fortune-telling games and – in some places – the practice of parading the neighborhood  asking for treats , such as nuts and fruits and coins.

By the late 19th century, some stores began offering  commercially made candy  for Halloween.

Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland, 1832. By Daniel Maclise.

Painting of a Halloween party in Ireland, 1832. By Daniel Maclise. ( public domain )

The North American observance of Halloween also  included everything from minor pranks to some major vandalism, as well as a lot of drinking. By the early 20th century, however, many municipalities and churches attempted to curb this behavior by turning Halloween into a family celebration with children’s parties and, eventually, trick-or-treating as we know it today.

Halloween today

Today, Halloween has become a  multi-million-dollar industry .

Candy sales, costumes, decorations, seasonal theme parks, annual television specials and October horror movie premieres are some of the many ways North Americans spend their money on the holiday.

But Halloween has come to mean many things to many people. Roman Catholics and many  mainline Protestants , for example,  continue to observe  All Saints’ Day for its spiritual significance. In the Catholic Church it is considered a holy day of obligation,  when people are required to go to Mass . All Souls’ Day is celebrated soon after. In fact, the entire month of November is set aside as a time to pray for the dead.

On the other hand, some people  reject Halloween  because of its pagan origins  and its perceived association with witchcraft and the devil. Others see it as  too commercial  or primarily for children .

Nonetheless, whether people see it as a children’s holiday, a sacred ritual, a harvest festival, a night of mischief, a sophisticated adult celebration or a way to make money, Halloween has become an integral part of North American culture.

Top image: An illustration of the ‘Black Dog’ series by Dusty Crosley, a twisted Halloween tale of horror written by Terry Lambert. Credit: Dusty Crosley. See how work here .

The article ‘ Tricking and treating has a history’ by Regina Hansen was originally published on The Conversation and has been republished under a Creative Commons license.

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