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When Is Trick or Treat?

Updated on September 21, 2014

Trick or Treat Movies & CD's for Halloween

Trick or Treat Takes Place on the 31st October, Or Does It?

Everyone tends to think that trick or treat night takes place on the 31st October or Halloween night. Halloween being in fact a shortened version of the original title 'All Hallows Evening' which was a Western Christian feast called 'All Hallows'. The feast is believed by some to be a combination of pagan harvest festivals and festivals which honour the dead such as the Celtic Samhain. Although there are others that believe it is nothing to do with Samhain. I will let you decide who you think is right, but effectively for the USA and the UK, in modern times, trick or treat should take place on the 31st October; unfortunately things are never quite that straightforward.

There are, for example, different traditions in different countries and trick or treat night can take place on different nights or even different times of the year.

In Ohio, Iowa and Massachusetts the night designated for trick or treating is called Beggars Night and in some communities it takes place on the night before Halloween the 30th Octobe. There will other states that have adopted a similar practice as well.

In Sweden the equivalent night to trick or treat is Maunday Thursday, which is the Thursday before Easter. The children typically dress up as witches for their trick or treat occasion.

Denmark is different again, the children there can dress in what they like and go trick or treating either on Fastelavn or Shrove Monday. Fastelvan means 'carnival' and can be either the Sunday or Monday (Shrove Monday)before Ash Wednesday and takes place approximately 7 weeks before Easter.

In Finland the the witch tradition takes place on Palm Sunday.

In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, notably German speaking countries, the children go to houses with lanterns, either beet or paper, sing songs about St Martin and their day is 11th of November. Which is of course St Martin's day.

Going back to the Middle Ages, trick or treating can be associated with the medieval practice of 'souling' and this would take place on November 1st or Hallowmas.

So the poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas day and be rewarded with food on 'Souls Day', November 2nd. A soul cake (the typical reward) was a small round cake that was used to celebrate the dead, each cake eaten would represent a soul being freed from Purgatory.

Souling, as it was known then, originated in Ireland and Britain and the custom of wearing costumes and masks goes back to the Celtic tradition of trying to placate or copy the evil spirits. And as we all know the Celtic races were prevalent in Ireland Scotland and Wales.

The first record of Guising in North America was 1911, but Guising was also known to have been taking place in Scotland as far back as 1895. The tradition was that people in disguise and carrying lanterns visited other peoples homes and would be rewarded with cakes, fruit or money. In other words Guising was the first form of trick or treating and the first reference to 'trick or treat' that appeared in print was in 1927 in Blackie, Alberta.

So in summary, trick or treating takes place dependent on where you are in the world, but for the USA and UK the traditional day is the 31st October.

But even as I offer the 31st October to the masses, there is still a little twist to this particular assumption. This is because as 'trick or treat' night has become more and more commercialised, and has also had to be incorporated into busy working lives, the old traditions have begun to fade and many communities now defer the actually night to a Friday or Saturday night preceeding Halloween.

So in truth the only way to be absolutely sure when 'trick or treat' takes place is to follow your local news for your community. Sorry about that.

Reference Wikipedia

Image courtesy of PhotoXpress

Donald Duck Does Trick or Treat - 1952

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    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 4 years ago from France

      @goldenrulecomics: You are welcome :-)

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      Interesting facts. Thanks for sharing.