The History Of Trick-Or-Treating: From The 16th Century To Today

By | October 21, 2019

test article image
Children trick or treating at Halloween. Source: (Photo by Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Trick-or-treating is such a big part of the Halloween tradition that it is often hard to separate the two, but the practice of trick-or-treating originated from several different customs, from the ancient Celts to the Roman Catholics to British Parliament. Let's go back in time and trace the origins of trick-or-treating. 

test article image
Bonfires were an important part of the Samhain celebration. Source: (

Samhain, an Ancient Celtic Celebration

Long before Christianity spread to the British Isles, the ancient Celts were worshiping their own way, as they had been for more than 2,000 years. One of the Celts' most important annual festivals, celebrated on the evening of October 31, was called Samhain. On this night, the Celts believed that their dead ancestors returned as ghostly spirits to revisit the Earth. To honor them, revelers produced a feast of food that was given as a gift to the spirits. Some of the ghostly visitors, however, were not benevolent. To frighten them away, the festival-goers wore costumes to disguise themselves as fellow demons and gathered around huge fires, called bone fires, that were fed with animal bones as well as wood. It was from these fires that we get the word "bonfire," although the ones we enjoy today are decidedly less morbid.