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The Morning Boo: When "trick or treat" became a thing

It's Tuesday, AKA Halloween.

Origins of the trick or treat

Halloween has been around for millennia in some form. Celts had the festival Samuin which means "summer's end" and that's where many of today's traditions come from.

In the middle ages, poor children and adults would dress up in costumes and go door-to-door every autumn begging for food or money in exchange for songs and prayers. This practice was called "souling."

There are also some who believe there is a connection between modern trick or treating and Guy Fawkes Day in Britain. That holiday honors Guy Fawkes who was the author of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in 1605.

But when did "trick or treating" become a thing in North America? More recently than most might think.

One of the first references to it can be found in a November 4, 1927 edition of a Canadian newspaper:

"Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. 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."

Americans began trick or treating en-mass in the 1920s and that practice continued up until the war when sugar rationing became mandatory. It finally broke out as a regular tradition during the post-war baby boom years, reaching its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s.

It was, at least in part, an idea to curb Halloween night vandalism. According to some accounts, damage in excess of $100,000 was routine in many large cities.  But not everyone was on board. There are stories of some who terrorized early trick-or-treaters, including a woman in Boston who handed out hot coins.

Today, Halloween is a $6 billion business, though neighborhood trick or treating has given way to more organized events in recent decades. Americans spend about $75 on their costumes, according to CNN. About 64 percent plan to take part in at least one Halloween activity.

The best and worst of Halloween Candy

With a survey of 40,000 of its customers, takes a look at some of the best and worst of Halloween candies. There are old favorites, like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups but also the dreaded peanut butter kisses. 


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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›