Halloween History – From Pagans to Trick-or-Treaters

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – According to Lucy van Pelt, the Lucy of the Charlie Brown cartoon, “All you have to do is walk up to a house, ring the doorbell, and say ‘tricks or treats.” But, where did that tradition begin?

Halloween is generally though to have it’s origins in the pagan Celtic festival of Sowen, which marked the passing of dead souls into the next world, so how did it become associated with a holiday where kids beg for candy?

By the middle ages, Sowen had blended into the Christian All Saints Day, where people would go in disguise from home to home, and this was done with some humor, would expect some sort of reward of food or drink. And it was this custom, says Bowling Green University Professor Jack Santino, that the Irish brought to America in the 19th century.

Still it would take urbanization and industrialization in the 20th century to turn Halloween into the event we know today.

“You’re getting this large scale, massive industry of packaged foods and candies and you create a market with children,” Santino says.

And with people packing into urban centers, and later post-World War Two suburbia, community leaders wanted to keep the peace.

“They institutionalized trick-or-treating as a kind of alternative for children other than pranks, which would traditionally be done,” he says.

Ironically, the tainted candy scares of the 1970’s resulted in fewer parents allowing their kids to ring neighbors doorbells. Still, that has not stopped America’s children or adults from celebrating on October 31st. Retailers expect more than $9 billion in sales this year for Halloween costumes, candy, and parties.

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