Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Welcome back to The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween, and today I thought we'd investigate some Halloween customs. Probably the best known of these is the custom of trick-or-treat, which is part of what Halloween really is about.

Halloween, or All Hallows' Eve, is the precursor to Hallowmas or All Saints' Day, normally observed on November 1. The custom of trick-or-treating has its roots in a late medieval practice conducted by the poor, known as souling. On Hallowmas, poor people would go from door to door and beg for food in exchange for prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day, which was celebrated on November 2. While this practice originated in Ireland and Britain, similar practices were also found as far south as Italy.

However, though many Celtic peoples such as Scots, Irish and English would eventually emigrate to America, the practice of souling did not become known in North America until many generations later, when a 1911 Kingston, Ontario newspaper noted that it was commonplace for young children to go street guising on Halloween in the early dusk. The children would dress up in a disguise and perform a song or rhyme for rewards of candies, fruit and nuts. Trick-or-treating gradually became more widespread as time went on, and evolved into the practice seen on Halloween today. (The trick, of course, was rarely practiced; it was simply more tradition than threat.) In 1950, five schoolchildren in Pennsylvania collected money during Halloween trick-or-treating to help children in post-World War II Europe, and donated the money to the United Nations' Childrens' Fund. This began the practice of Trick Or Treat For UNICEF, which is still conducted today, and has now raised over $188 million worldwide.

Today, many people trick-or-treat with their children and friends on Halloween. To help you take part in this old tradition, a few basic tips for trick-or-treat safety are as follows: Always be accompanied by an adult, wear a flame-retardant costume, and carry a working flashlight with you. Map out your route (your whole family should know what it is) and travel in neighborhoods you know (preferably your own). Walk instead of running, only trick-or-treat at houses with the lights on, and never trick-or-treat at strangers' houses. Parents should allow their children to use cell phones if possible and remind them to call home or 911 if there is an emergency, and should also check all their children's candy before allowing them to eat it. And stay away from pets, who can be easily frightened by costumes.

If you follow these basic safety tips, you can be assured of having a happy Halloween, with less tricks and more treats. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the next installment of The MonsterGrrls' 31 Days Of Halloween. We'll see you then, children of the candy corn...

POST-MORTEM: If you are interested in helping out with Trick Or Treat For UNICEF this Halloween season, you can find more information here. And don't forget to tell them the MonsterGrrls sent you!