Trick-or-Treat Guide 2023
Modern Practice of Trick or Treating: Halloween in America Today
As the leaves fall and the nights grow longer, it's that time again: Halloween is just around the corner. In America, this means preparing for the annual tradition of trick or treating. But what exactly happens on this spooky evening? Let's take a look at the modern practice of trick or treating in the U.S.
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Preparing for the Big Day
Preparations for trick or treating often begin weeks in advance. Kids decide on a costume they want to wear for Halloween. Everything from superheroes to fairy tale characters to spooky ghosts and ghouls are represented. Homes are festively and often very creatively decorated with glowing pumpkins, fake tombstones, and spider webs.
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The Trick or Treat Evening
On the evening of October 31, the fun begins: accompanied by their parents or in groups, kids go from door to door. At each house, they ring the doorbell and shout "Trick or Treat", which essentially means "Give me a treat, or I'll play a trick on you". The residents of the house then give the children candy. Those who don't give out candy might be subjected to a minor prank, but this is very rare in practice and is usually only playfully threatened.
Safety During Trick or Treat
Safety is a big topic during trick or treat. Parents ensure their kids only ask for candy in well-lit areas and neighborhoods they are familiar with. Many communities also block off sections of streets to provide safe routes for the children. And of course, the loot is checked by parents at the end of the night before it's eaten.
About Community and Tradition
Trick or treating is more than just a candy collection activity. It's an opportunity to experience community and uphold traditions. It strengthens the sense of neighborhood when everyone stands together at the door laughing, and it allows the children to immerse themselves a little into the fantastic world of ghosts and monsters.
Origins of "Trick or Treat"
Celtic Roots: "Trick or Treat," as we know it, likely has its roots in ancient Celtic customs, particularly the festival of Samhain.
This festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. The Celts believed that on this night, the boundaries between the world of the living and the world of the dead blurred. To ward off evil spirits, people dressed in creepy costumes.
Medieval Souling: The Early European Roots of Trick or Treat
As early as the ninth century, the disadvantaged in Europe went from door to door, from village to village, asking for soul cakes (typically a square piece of bread with berries), soul tip bread, or the soul braid.
These offerings were accepted on behalf of deceased souls, accompanied by the plea "Bitt' gar schön um a Seelenstuck!" (Politely ask for a soul cake!).
In return, they promised to pray for the deceased of the benefactors ("to help and comfort the departed"), which was believed to aid the souls on their path of purification and accelerate their transition from purgatory to the kingdom of heaven.
The Threats and Blessings of Soul Collection
If a soul collector is denied his bread, threats and curses may be the result. Over time, the poor gathered into entire begging processions on All Souls' Day, which became increasingly demanding and loud.
In due course, entire communities, including guilds and towns, would take on the task and donate bread, wine, and clothing to the poor. The traditional response to the donation was typically "Thank God for the poor souls." This final blessing of the donor was probably a significant motivation for the generous donation practice.
A popular saying was that many "Vergelt’s Gott!" or "God will repay it!" were required to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Regional Variations and Transformation into Children's Customs in Europe
In South Tyrol, groups dressed in white sang in remembrance of the poor souls, hoping for soul bread. In the same region, during the Krapfenlottern tradition, men disguised their voice to ask for a bite of a donut.
Over time, these begging processions of the poor gradually transformed into children's customs. For example, in the Paderborn region, children paraded through the village on the eve of All Saints' Day, asking for apples and nuts.
Variations of "Trick or Treat" Worldwide
United Kingdom and Ireland
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the practice of "trick or treating" is similar to the U.S., although it has only gained popularity there in recent decades. However, in some parts of Scotland and Ireland, there is a similar tradition called "guising" where children dress up and go door to door to collect treats. Instead of simply asking for candy, they often have to sing a song, recite a poem, or tell a joke to earn their reward.
Mexico and Latin America
In Mexico and many parts of Latin America, instead of Halloween, they celebrate the "Day of the Dead" (Día de los Muertos), a joyful and colorful festival in honor of the deceased. Children and adults dress in colorful costumes and skull masks and participate in parades and parties. Instead of saying "trick or treat," children often ask for a "calaverita" (a little skull), which means a small candy or gift.
In Japan, Halloween is becoming increasingly popular, especially in larger cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Instead of going house to house, many children participate in organized Halloween events and parades where they can collect candy in costumes.
In the Philippines, the tradition of "Pangangaluwa" is similar to trick or treat. Children go from door to door singing songs to appease the souls of the deceased. In exchange, they receive money or candy. However, this tradition is losing popularity and is increasingly being replaced by western Halloween customs.
Australia and New Zealand
In Australia and New Zealand, too, Halloween is becoming increasingly popular, and many children now participate in "trick or treat". However, there is also criticism and resistance to the adoption of this tradition considered "too American".
Although "trick or treat" exists in some form in many parts of the world, the exact customs and traditions often differ significantly, depending on local cultures and customs. However, the basic idea remains the same: children (and often adults too) dress up, celebrate and enjoy treats, and the community comes together to have a good time.
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