Turns out the origins of Trick or Treating are pretty dark

Not all about candy (OK, mostly)

trick or treating hocus pocus film still
Great hair all round
(Image credit: Everett/REX/Shutterstock)

Not all about candy (OK, mostly)

Aside from spending hours scrolling through celebrity Halloween costume ideas (we’re looking at you Queen-of-Halloween Heidi Klum), and then realising you only have a white sheet and black eyeliner to see you through, trick or treating is our favourite thing about All Hallows Eve.

You know, trick or treating? Held on the night of October 31st, it is the one night of the year you can legitimately knock on doors, ask for snacks and max out your weekly allotted sugar intake all in the name of tradition.

But where did trick or treating come from?

To put your mum’s favourite theory to rest (that ‘it was invented by a rich sugar overlord as a way to con people out of money, everything’s got so commercial nowadays blah blah…’), trick or treating actually pre-dates your mum, and your mum’s mum. It can actually be traced back to the Celts.

As with most traditions, the origins of trick or treating are a bit murky, but some say it began as a Celtic tradition whereby people would dress up in demonic costumes (presumably Eleven from Stranger Things wasn’t really a go-er back then), the thought being that when you met an IRL demon face-to-face, they wouldn’t be able to tell you were human. Camouflage against evil spirits, basically.

trick or treating barack obama

Someone get Barack a mini Mars...

But even before that, way back when in 1000 A.D., Christians honoured the dead during ‘All Souls Day’ in a kind of stripped back, old school trick-or-treat way. This consisted of the poor knocking on the doors of the wealthy and receiving a 'soul cake' in return for a positive prayer to respect the household's deceased relatives. Worth mentioning that no essence of human was used in the making of the soul cake, just flour, sugar and butter.

Trick or treating really went live in the 1920’s, with the first outing of the term being traced back to November 4, 1927 in a copy of Canada's Letbridge Herald. The paper wrote: ‘The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.’

History lesson over. Back to the sweets.

Holly Rains

Holly Rains is the digital editor of Marie Claire UK. She has over 10 years journalism experience, working as an editor and writer, specialising in digital media, content strategy and dog breeds. Prior to Marie Claire, she has held senior staff positions at ELLE UK, Grazia and Company magazine.

Holly is a frequent speaker, panelist and interviewer on a range of subjects including media trends, careers and entertainment. From working with Reuters to provide global red carpet coverage for events like the BAFTAs, to discussing fashion and beauty trends on network TV, she was also the host of the Marie Claire series ‘Holly’s First Dates’, where she regularly interviewed a mix of inspiring woman and A-list celebrities (including Jack Black, Dakota Fanning and Renée Zellweger)  - a series which garnered half a million views in its first two months. And was approved by The Rock.

Her love of office-based meetings means that the days of discovering the melting point of Cadbury's Flakes are long gone, but when she isn't dreaming of scheduling in meetings, she likes to think about social media, and how best to avoid it whilst still retaining the title of 'digital' editor. She also likes learning about emerging technology, Influencers and how to become a Financially Responsible Adult.

Contact Holly: holly.rains@futurenet.com