Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Trick or treat' is a recent idea even in the USA

At this time of year it is traditional for Englishmen of a certain age to moan about the way that Halloween has supplanted Bonfire Night - here I am doing it in the Yorkshire Post a couple of years ago.

Part of this phenomenon is the way that 'trick or treat' has replaced 'penny for the guy'. But it turns out that 'trick or treat' has a shorter history than you might expect even in the US.

Here is Squidoo's Happy Halloween site:
Again, the first records of trick-or-treating or "guising" as it was sometimes called, came in 1895 with reports of immigrant children asking for money, fruit and sometimes sweets door-to-door on Halloween. 
However, the term trick-or-treat to describe the practice wasn't used until 1927 in Canada. In these times, trick-or-treating was only practiced by immigrants and didn't actually catch on with the majority of America until the late 1940s. 
It was with television shows like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and comic strips like Peanuts that brought trick-or-treating into a popular culture. Trick-or-treating only really became cemented as a widespread Halloween tradition in from around 1947 to 1952.


Gawain said...

Looking at your earlier piece, I suspect Mischief Night (which I recall from North Yorkshire in the late 1970s) has gone out partly because its antics seem pretty mundane and everyday to the average teenager - and because householders are accordingly less tolerant of once-annual, now-commonplace minor anti-social behaviour.

But I, too, remember doing Penny For the Guy, with my 8-9 year old friend, completely unsupervised, in the mid 70's. As a parent (albeit of girls) now, even in cosy SW London; unthinkable. A shame.

Anonymous said...

As a child I don't recall the term Halloween at all. It was ducking apple night and we had a bath of water in the middle of the living room full of water, and apples & peanuts floating in it. Then, with hands tied behind our backs we had to duck and pick them out with our teeth. I never had any idea what the point of it was. Apparently some places in the US also do this