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Halloween History

tags: history
Posted by: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 12:00:00 am

What a weird holiday, eh? Dress up, go door-to-door, demand candy under threat of some sort of vandalism, go to next house, repeat. Sounds a little like extortion to us. We here at TBL HQ decided we’d do some research on this wild and weird tradition.

What we found out is you’d better put down that devil costume! It turns out Halloween, or as you may have seen it spelled, “Hallowe’en,” has its roots in a religious observance known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Allhalloween.” What does this mean? Basically, “All Hallows Eve” means “The Evening Before All Hallows’ Day,” or, in other words, “The Evening Before All Saints’ Day.” All Saints’ Day is celebrated in many churches in the west on Nov. 1 in honor of all the unknown and known saints in heaven (Shakespeare and others have used the term “Hallowmas” to describe All Saints’ Day / All Hallows’ Day). Oct. 31 is the day before All Hallows’ Day, hence, Hallowe’en or Halloween.

But what about the trick-or-treating? In England and Ireland, (possibly going as far back as the Middle Ages), a tradition developed on the day before All Saints’ Day wherein children and the poor would go door-to-door asking for “soul cakes,” small cakes filled with appropriately-timed fall spices and nuts and topped with a cross, all while singing and saying prayers for the dead, an activity known as “souling.” In Scotland and Ireland, this practice morphed into “guising,” where kids in costumes or “disguises” went around asking for fruit, cakes and coins. “Guising” made its way to North America by the early 20th century (the first recorded mention was 1911 in a Canadian newspaper), and before you know it, we’re over here trick-or-treating until our feet give out. So, go easy on the house that didn’t have any candy for you. Maybe they’re just at church!

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