Summary: Is Halloween itself a trick or a treat? Discover the truth about Halloween.
Trick or Treat
Back in October 1988, my wife at that time and I paid a visit to Western Pa. We subsequently moved up there. But we were amazed at all the wild Halloween decorations. You have never seen such decorations as this. There were ghosts. There were goblins. There were pumpkins. There were monsters. There were coffins. I had never seen Halloween decorations so elaborately displayed. To be frank, some of them were downright frightening. No doubt about it. Halloween was a big night in that neck of the woods.
But I wonder how much you have ever thought about Halloween? Is it a time of innocent pleasure and fun for the kids? Or is there something more sinister connected with the celebration of Halloween? When I was a boy there were Halloween parties and people would wear different costumes. There wasn’t any trick or treat in those days as I can remember. But we just took it for granted.
We might want to ask the question how Halloween got started in the first place. What does it mean? Halloween goes way back, even before Christian times. It goes back to the time of the Druids in Scotland. The Druids had two festivals for their two major gods, a sun god and a god of the dead, called Samhain. The festival in honor of Samhain, the god of the dead, was held on November 1, the beginning of their new year. On October 21, the evening before the festival in honor of Samhain, the god of the dead, the Druids held a celebration featuring ghosts and fairies, in which bonfires were built and futures were foretold and witches rode through the sky.
Later on in the 9th Century this festival for the dead on November 1 was incorporated into Christian ritual and became known as All Hallows Day. Later on, it became All Saints Day, a festival in honor of the dead. Halloween means the evening before All Hallows or All Saints Day. It really means All Hallows Eve. We can easily see how that became Halloween. Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day.
But the celebration of Halloween goes back to the days of the ancient Druids with their emphasis on death. Samhain, the lord of the dead, was given special homage on that evening. This is why death symbols such as coffins, tombstones, skeletons, skulls, and crossbones, ghosts, mummies, and graveyards are common Halloween decorations.
There are two well-known legends connected with Halloween. It was believed that the dead would rise out of their graves and wander the countryside on that night trying to return to their former homes. Frightened people tried to appease these spirits by offering them gifts of fruits and nuts. The villagers feared that if the spirits were not pleased, they would kill their flocks or destroy their property. This is where the custom of trick or treat originated.
The other legend that is part of the Halloween tradition is as the daylight grew shorter and the nights lengthened, the hoards of hell would roam the earth in a wild celebration of darkness and death, all in honor of Samhain, this lord of death. People who had to travel outside on this night would masquerade and disguise themselves as one of the demonic hoards in order to blend in unnoticed among them. This is were the custom of costumes and masquerades on Halloween originated. These Halloween traditions were taken by the Scots and Irish to America. In the late 19th Century, the Irish belief that the “little people” or fairies, played pranks on Halloween, led boys and young men to carry out practical jokes on that night. In the 20th Century, the custom of “trick or treat” was revived and became popular. Children dressed in costumes would go from door to door for “trick or treats.”