Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat – How'd That Happen?

Howdy Folks,

Sitting in the barn with Kessy and the critters enjoying our rainy morning Coffee Clutch yesterday, I got to thinking about Halloween. Ravishin' Robbie and I had been chatting about her pumpkin tree, yup, her pumpkin tree. One of Robbie's pumpkin plants had climbed high up a tree, and hanging way up there are three big ol' pumpkins. Her pumpkin tree is a sight to see and made me wonder if the tree was going trick-or-treating as a pumpkin patch, or the pumpkin vine was going as a tree? Neither answered me, and their silence made me wonder, how did trick-or-treat ever get started?

So I asked Mr. Google. That's what our Granddaughter says. She's seven. Mr. Google did offer a few suggestions.

Seems Trick-or-Treat has been around for a long time. A really long time. Some say it can trace its roots all the way to the Celts who lived in an area that is now the UK, Ireland and Northern France, more than 2,000 years ago and celebrated the night of Oct 31, in a festival they called Samhain. They believed the dead could return during Samhain and they gathered for bonfires and feasts. But to ward off the unwelcomed dead they would dress in costumes of animal hide and set out bowls of food to offer treats.
Samhain celebration
By the ninth century Christianity had moved into Celtic lands and began to blend with the ancient pagan beliefs. Around 1,000 AD the church designated Nov 2 as "Old Souls Day" a celebration of the dead. In a modification of the Samhain festival, poor people would visit the homes of wealthy people and offer to pray for the dead relatives in exchange for, "soul cakes." That evolved over time to "souling" when children would go door to door asking for food and money. Children in Scotland would dress up for a night of "guising" and visit homes not offering to pray for the dead, but sing songs in exchange for treats such as milk, fruits or coins.

Then there's also the Guy Fawkes Night celebration – Nov 5 – In 1605 Guy Fawks hatched a plan to blow up Parliament with the King's gunpowder and remove King James I (a Protestant) from power. His Catholic led plot was foiled and Guy Fawks executed. This gave birth to an annual celebration of "BoneFires" where in effigy; the bones of the Pope are burned each Nov 5. By the 19th century children carried Fawks dolls through the streets on Nov 5 asking for "a penny for the Guy."
Guy Fawks Day
Along with the early colonists coming to America came versions of these celebrations; including the popular Scottish custom of, "Guising" – children went door to door in disguise seeking gifts and food. In the early 20th century some Scottish immigrates even revived the practice of souling. By the roaring twenties "Halloweening" including pranks had begun to become popular.
It seems the first use of the phrase "Trick-Or-Treat" might have been in an Alberta newspaper in 1927. Almost all pre-1940 uses of the phrase, "trick or treat" come from western US and Canada. The children's magazine, "Jack and Jill" may have been the first to launch national recognition of the term, and practice, when they featured "trick or treating," in their Oct 1947 issue. Trick or treating was featured in the Peanuts comic strip in 1951. Walt Disney featured it in a 1952 comic strip, and by then it so firmly established as an American tradition even the Ozzie and Harriet show was beset by hordes of "trick or treaters" that same year. 
One quarter of all candy sold in the US is purchased for Halloween.
So there ya have it. Mr. Google, The History Channel Blog, and Wikipedia have helped us learn a bit about what has now become our second biggest holiday. 

Gitty Up & TRICK-OR-TREAT ~ Dutch Henry

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