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Opinion

Trick-or-treating almost here

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt

October 21, 2011

Are you a die-hard trick-or-treater? Do you believe you’re never too old for free candy? Once the stores start putting out the Halloween themed candy you can almost feel the candy weight of a hard night’s work in your hand. You get your crew together and plan out your route, determining when it’s best to go back and switch out costumes for another round; attempting to get more candy than you could possibly eat. That is enough to send you into a sugar coma at the very least.

Or do you revel in seeing the creative, spooky, or just plain adorable costumes and smiles from the trick-or-treaters as you pass out candy? Whatever your haunt; have you ever given thought to the origins behind the trick-or-treating aspect of Halloween? What gave someone the idea to go knock on people’s doors with the almost 100 percent chance of receiving candy?

Halloween goes back to the good old Middle Ages, or maybe not so good, and that’s why people needed to go house to house. It started with beggars and was called souling. On Nov. 1, a day they called Hallowmas, beggars would knock on people’s doors asking for food or money in return for prayers made to the dead the very next day, All Soul’s Day. This custom was seen throughout Europe and we can even find references in Shakespeare’s “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.”

House-goers began wearing costumes and masks as a Celtic tradition, in an attempt to appease the evil spirits by copying them. Some wore blackened or whitened faces to resemble the dead.

Another similar practice Halloween has borrowed from is Guising. Of Scottish origin, people would go about with lanterns (similar to our jacko’- lanterns) that were carved out of turnips and other such vegetables. As their treat, they would hope to receive cakes, fruit, or money. The practice of Guising was first seen in North America in Ontario, Canada, later spreading to the United States.

Trick-or-treating in the United States didn’t become popular until around the late 1950s. It spread from the west to the east. You may be surprised to find that different customs of celebrating or trick-or-treating can be found throughout different regions of the U.S. Some states don’t even call it Halloween. Instead some parts of Iowa, Ohio, and Massachusetts refer to it as Beggars’ Night; maintaining a little of its background from Europe, and celebrate on the night before Halloween. In St. Louis, the trick-or-treaters are expected to go through a little more work for their treat, performing a trick. So consider yourself lucky when you show up with a pillowcase and a haphazard costume and get a hand full of candy.

It took a little while for trick-or-treating to really become a common practice in the U.S., but once commercialized like many other holidays, Halloween spread like wildfire, resulting in massive amounts of candy, costume, and decoration sales.

There are trick-or-treaters in almost all neighborhoods as well as many stores. Two more weekends to go! Pull out those neighborhood maps, search the thrift stores for a clever costume, and start preparing. If you’re planning on passing out candy this year, be sure to read next week’s column to find out the favorite Halloween candies around campus so you’re stocked up with the right stuff.

Brittney Pfenning­-Wendt is a columnist for the Student Voice.