Could it be that trick-or-treating has a history that spans thousands of years?
Today, children are taken from door to door in their costumes where they cry out, “Trick or treat!” in exchange for candy. It’s a fun and simple activity that manages to keep kids out of trouble and helps to avoid too many tricks being played on October 31st. But the act of offering sweets as a way to dissuade a cruel prank is far more ancient than you might think.
In Halloween’s mother holiday, Samhain (pronounced sow-in), the Celts would leave out offerings of food to appease the spirits of the dead and to keep them from entering their homes. Of course, the Catholic Church didn’t love this idea and over time the offerings of food and sweets transformed into soul cakes.
During the All Soul’s Day celebrations of England, the poor citizens would go “a-souling,” and journey from door to door, begging for soul cakes. Families would offer the beggars the sweet pastries in exchange for the promise that the beggars would pray for their deceased family members’ souls. The Church saw the distribution of the soul cakes as the ideal way to encourage the Christian faith and also stamp out the ancient tradition of leaving food out for the roaming spirits.
Today, the act of trick-or-treating seems simple enough, but it has a long ancient history that reminds us that every aspect of Halloween–from bobbing for apples to dressing up in costumes and even trick-or-treating–draws its roots from Samhain.
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