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What Is Trick-Or-Treating?

Ah Halloween, that time of year where we celebrate all the strange, creepy, and ghoulish things about the world. Where we scare ourselves silly with horror movie marathons, dress up in our bloodiest outfits for parties, and send children into the streets to ask for sweets.

Trick-or-treating is one of the more bizzare traditions our society has, but also one of the loveliest. A tradition mainly for children and teenagers, we adults all come together as a community to provide youngsters having fun with sweet treats and pretend to be scared at the costumes they so excitedly donned that evening. Children roam the streets with their friends and parents, pretending to be a magical witch or cursed werewolf for the night, on the hunt for sugar and fun.

Many people think trick-or-treating is an entirely modern tradition pushed by sweet companies to encourage sales, but that simply isn’t true. Trick-or-treating is almost as old as All Hallows Eve itself, has had many different names, and has been loved by children for generations. Keep reading to find out where trick-or-treating came from, and discover some terrifying tips on making Halloween extra fun for your little ones this year.

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Why do we Trick-or-Treat?

Halloween evolved from an old Celtic holiday named Samhain, and its well known that during this night the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. From Celtic times through to the middle ages, people would dress up in scary costumes to either scare off or blend in with the horrible spirits that walked the Earth. This confused and appeased the spirits, protecting the living for another year. Early on, it seemed some intelligent and mischievous children and their poor relatives recognised the possibilities of this night, and would use their disguise as spirits to beg for food from well-off villagers. The children would perform songs, poems, or funny routines for the adults, who in return would pay them with food or even money.

As belief in spirits died throughout the Victorian era, this tradition stayed, and poorer communities continued to dress up as creepy creatures and trade strange songs for food and treats. For many centuries, this practice was known as Guising throughout much of Britain.

The term trick-or-treating eventually popped up in America after World War II, when Americans revived their Halloween spirit and began their own version of the tradition. As food production became easier and more plentiful, adults began to hand out food and sweets more freely, not demanding a song and dance in return. A few kids took this as a right to play a trick on anyone who didn’t offer them goodies, but mostly the new phrase ‘trick or treat?!’ was a call back to an older time of trading tricks for a treat, and the choice between one or the other was more light-hearted. 

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Make trick-or-treating extra special for kids

  • Bring a real creepy, magical, or other-worldly vibe to your kids costume by making it yourself! Using face paints, wigs, and tattering up some old clothes, you can pull together some truly terrifying costumes that are sure to be one of a kind amongst their friends. Alternatively, if you don’t consider yourself too crafty, mix and match accessories and add them to a pre-made outfit to make sure there’s still some personalisation!

  • Get the kids in the mood beforehand with the Halloween-themed baking! These will be great treats for trick-or-treaters later on in the night (although make sure you keep a few back for your own little one).

  • Only go out trick-or-treating once the sun has set. It will really set the atmosphere of leaving the safety of your home and venturing out into streets suddenly full of spirits, zombies, monsters, and ghosts. Of course, you and your child will feel safe knowing that you are disguised as one of these creatures, and they will not harm you on your quest for treats. Check up on your local trick-or-treating curfew (usually around 9pm), and make sure you get back home before then as this stops your kid getting too tired or cold, lets them enjoy a couple of sweets before bedtime, as well as being respectful of all your neighbours.

  • If you don’t have any children to take trick-or-treating, you can still join in on the fun! Decorate the front of your home so children know they are welcome to knock at your door. Carved pumpkins are always a favourite, and some spooky lights or laughing witches are sure to bring about bounds of squealing giggles. Make sure you dress up yourself as well! Kids will love it if a real evil witch or undead zombie opened the door to them on Halloween night!

Make sure you get all your diabolical decorations and cower-inducing costumes ready before All Hallows Eve arrives, so you’re ready to join the spirits as soon as the sun sets! And make sure to check out our Tips for a Spooktakular Home and Guide To Carving Pumpkins articles to get some more eerie ideas to make this Halloween truly horrific!

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