HONOLULU (KHON2) — Trick-or-treating is one of the things that many keiki look forward to all season long.
Choosing the best costume and the candy bucket that accommodate the most amount of candy takes time and patience.
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But with so much excitement, have you ever wondered who invented this rite of passage?
KHON2.com decided to go on a wee journey through the legends that circulate around Halloween’s most important event.
As we know, the festival of Halloween has its roots in the ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on the night of October 31. This festival was created and celebrated by the Celts, who originated in central western Europe and migrated into the British Isles and Ireland around 2,000 years ago.
This people group is believed to have developed the sacred belief that the dead returned to Earth on Samhain. On this sacred night, people are gathered together to light bonfires, offer sacrifices and pay homage to their dead ancestors.
Around 1,000 years ago, the Vatican was able expand its power into the British Isles and Ireland. But rather than throw out the beliefs of the people, church leaders co-opted their Samhain celebrations in order to convert the peoples of the islands.
The actual act of trick-or-treating has its roots in class disparity. When the Christian colonizers invaded the British Isles and Ireland, they installed themselves as the de facto social, religious, economic, cultural and political leaders.
Hence, the poor people of the islands — aka the indigenous peoples — would go to the homes of the colonizers to receive pastries that were called ‘soul cakes‘. These were given in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives.
This was known as ‘souling’, and the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale.
The idea of trick in the trick-or-treating paradigm actually comes from Scotland. During the time of integrating indigenous beliefs with Christian theology, youth from Scotland would dress up in costumes and perform ‘tricks’ for the wealthy in exchange for ‘treats’ such as fruit, nuts or coins.
However, trick-or-treating came to the colonies for a different reason, the infamous gunpowder plot.
When colonists made their home in the conquered lands of Turtle Island (now known as North America), they celebrated the thwarting of Guy Fawkes who attempted to overthrow the British monarchy. This was in conjunction with the Irish who were making their way to the newly formed United States who celebrated Samhain.
The two coalesced into what Americans understand Halloween to be in our modern times. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that tricking in retaliation became a tradition.
With the crash of the stock market in 1929 and the subsequent decade of economic depression that followed, the tricking became a very important part of celebrating Halloween. It was due to the popularity of these trends that led communities to create organized efforts for trick-or-treating outings.
Halloween has grown each year since these events and the people’s reactions to them. It has grown so much so that Americans now spend $3.1 billion each October on candy.
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So, while you are out celebrating with your keiki over the Halloween weekend, spook them with stories on how trick-or-treating came to be.