- History & Culture
The history of trick-or-treating, and how it became a Halloween tradition
Children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door for treats is a relatively modern tradition—but its origins can be traced to the Celts and even a long-lost Christmas tradition.
Every year on October 31, adults listen for the sound of a knock on their door from costumed children, arms outstretched with a bag open for candy. In modern times, trick-or-treating has become a nearly sacred Halloween tradition in the United States.
Yet historians say the origins of kids begging their neighbors for food may date back to ancient Celtic celebrations or even a long-lost Christmas custom. And the phrase itself dates back to the 1920s, when Halloween pranks once set entire cities on edge. Here’s how trick-or-treating evolved.
Halloween is thought to date back more than 2,000 years to Samhain, a Celtic New Year’s Day that fell on November 1. Demons, fairies, and spirits of the dead were thought to walk