Turns out the origins of Trick or Treating are pretty dark

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • 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.

    Reading now

    Popular entertainment stories