JOPLIN, Mo. (KSNF/KODE) — For many children, going door-to-door in costume and asking for candy is what Halloween is all about, and there’s one phrase that’s become synonymous with the October 31st holiday, especially when the time comes for kids to collect candy — or as it’s commonly called, “trick-or-treating.”
The origin of this Halloween tradition can be traced back several millennia, however the phrase “trick-or-treat” wasn’t coined until fairly recently — and many say it’s all thanks to one cartoon.
History of Halloween — Rituals From a Celtic Festival
To understand where the phrase “trick-or-treat” comes from, it’s important to start with the history of Halloween. Halloween as we know it today originated with rituals from the ancient Celtic harvest festival called “Samhain,” which dates back more than 2,000 years. The feast of Samhain was named from the Celtic lord of death.
The eve of Samhain — October 31 — was a time of Celtic pagan sacrifice, and Samhain allowed the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes that evening. During the festival, people would light bonfires and dress up as animals or monsters, as a means of keeping evil spirits away.
Around 700 A.D. — Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints (now known as “All Saints’ Day“). Since November 1st also marked the start of Samhain, the evening before (October 31st) was called “All Hallows’ Eve,” and later Halloween.
As time went on, many of the original Samhain traditions evolved. On Halloween, people continued to dress in costume while dances were performed as a way to scare off evil spirits. All this was done in exchange for food and drink. This is how the “trick” part of “trick-or-treat” was born.
While some were dressing up and dancing for food and drink on this particular night of All Hallows’ Eve — those in need of food went door-to-door. In exchange for the food, prayers were said for the souls of those who were fortunate enough to have food, or were wealthy. This is where the “treat” portion of “trick-or-treat” came to be.
The Phrase “Trick-Or-Treat” Is Born
According to History.com, the phrase “trick-or-treat” is a creation far more recent, and is often linked to the cartoon character, Charlie Brown from the Peanuts gang.
It wasn’t until the 1950s, when a Peanuts comic strip about trick-or-treating, when children began saying the phrase “trick-or-treat,” after ringing a doorbell for candy on Halloween night. Thanks to Charlie Brown and his trick-or-treat bag full of rocks from the cartoon, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, the key to candy lies with three simple words on Halloween: “Trick-or-Treat!”