Tonight, millions of kids around the world will partake in trick-or-treat to celebrate Halloween. For some reason, this makes a small subset of Australian adults irrationally angry. “That’s a stupid American custom,” they invariably grumble. To children. Before slamming the door in their tiny faces.
In reality, the practice of trick-or-treating predates the USA by hundreds of years. It’s no more “American” than Easter or Christmas. In short, let the kids have their fun and stop being a grumpy arsehole.
As you probably know, Halloween has its roots in ancient Celtic harvest festivals and has been observed by Christians for many hundreds of years. What you might not realise is that trick-or-treating also comes from our distant past.
Trick-or-treat’s origin can be traced back to medieval England, when groups of soulers and mummers would engage in merry parish crawls to ring in All Hallows’ Eve. Along the way, they would beg the rich for traditional Halloween cakes in exchange for praying for their immortal souls.
The modern version of trick-or-treat was first recorded in Ireland and Scotland in the 19th century. Then known as “guising“, the custom involved children dressing up in outlandish costumes, walking from door-to-door and asking for treats or money. By contrast, the first record of guising in North America did not occur until 1911.
In other words, trick-or-treating is not an American invention. You’ve been bitterly complaining about nothing.
While it’s true that the US is largely responsible for popularising and commercialising the practice, the same thing can be said about Christmas. (Just look at the modern interpretation of Santa Claus, which was practically invented by Coca-Cola.) Do you kick up a similar stink on December 25, I wonder? Surely not.
In conclusion, let Aussie kids enjoy trick-or-treat. It’s a bit of harmless fun and was a British tradition long before it came to America. If you must complain about it, at least blame the Poms. Accuracy matters.
This story has been updated since its original publication.