TRICK OR TREAT!
The custom of Trick-or-Treating (dressing in costumes and going door-to-door to beg for goodies) is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a 9th-century European custom called "souling."
On November 2nd, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants.
The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors.
At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.
The Irish explanation of our trick-or-treating custom, is that it started as a reenactment of Irish beggars going to the homes of the rich on All Hallows Eve to ask for food or money. If the rich refused, evil spirits -- so the beggars said -- would destroy their homes.
Trick-or-treating became widespread in America in the 1940s, according to Lucille Recht Penner in Celebration (Simon & Schuster, 1993). Costumed children went house-to-house asking for small handouts, usually candy. In return, no tricks would be played.
In today's times, families focus on safety, trick-or-treating only at the homes of people they know. Many communities put the emphasis on costume parades, school parties, and controlled "haunted" houses.
Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF
2003-2006 marks the 51st anniversary of trick-or-treating for UNICEF. In 1950, a group of youngsters in Philadelphia used decorated milk cartons to collect money. The kids sent the money to UNICEF to help the world's other children. The tradition still carries on today. To learn more about giving, visit the UNICEF Web site.