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The History of Trick-or-Treating

denver halloween, halloween prank, halloween pranks, things to do on Halloween

The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door at Denver Haunted Houses for treats on holidays dates back to the Middle Ages and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of souling, when poor folk would go door to door at Denver Haunted Houses on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

However, there is no evidence that souling was ever practiced in North America, where trick-or-treating may have developed independent of any Irish or British antecedent. The custom of wearing costumes and masks at Halloween goes back to Celtic traditions of attempting to copy the evil spirits or placate them, In Scotland for instance where the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white. Ruth Edna Kelley, in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe’en, makes no mention of ritual begging in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America.” Kelley lived in Lynn, Massachusetts, a town with about 4,500 Irish immigrants, 1,900 English immigrants, and 700 Scottish immigrants in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. The editor of a collection of over 3,000 vintage Halloween postcards writes,

There are cards that mention the custom or show children in costumes at the doors of Denver Haunted Houses, but as far as we can tell they were printed later than the 1920s and more than likely even the 1930s. Tricksters of various sorts are shown on the early postcards, but not the means of appeasing them.

Thus, although a quarter million Scots-Irish immigrated to America between 1717 and 1770, the Irish Potato Famine brought more than a million immigrants to North America in 1845–1849, and British and Irish immigration to America peaked in the 1880s, ritualized begging on Halloween was virtually unknown in America until generations later.

The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Another isolated reference to ritual begging on Halloween appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920.

The earliest known use in print of the term “trick or treat” appears in 1927, from Blackie, Alberta, Canada:

Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun. No real damage was done except to the temper of some who had to hunt for wagon wheels, gates, wagons, barrels, etc., much of which decorated the front street. The youthful tormentors were at back door and front of Denver Haunted Houses demanding edible plunder by the word “trick or treat” to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.

Trick-or-treating does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the first U.S. appearances of the term in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.


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Some Funny Halloween Pranks

denver halloween, halloween pranks, things to do on Halloween

Halloween is a great time of the year when families and friends get together, everyone is happy but Halloween is not only for treats. There are a variety of tricks that can be performed on this special day. Although nowadays a lot of people do harmful and terrible tricks such as throwing eggs, this is very wrong to do. Tricks should only be for fun purposes and not to cause harm to people, so keeping that in mind there are a few traditional tricks which you may want to do to give people a freight!

First and foremost you may want to freak people out; there are a few things which you can do to do this. First is by knocking on there door and placing some sweets or candy into there bowl or hand and then walking away, this is bound to spook people out.

Next you could try to dress up as someone scary, but not traditional scary as people know what to expect. A great example is to just mess up your hair a bit and wear a wide hospital gown. You should then get some fake blood which you can buy from stores and place some of this over the gown, you should also get some white foundation and some black eyeliner to make you look a bit tired. Once you are ready you should then knock on someone’s door and walk around there lawn in a daze saying things like “I’m not crazy, I will show them all” and just keep on repeating this again and again, you will definitely give people a scare.

If you are not going trick or treating yourself and would just like to stay in the comfort of your home you can very much scare the trick or treaters. Basically before the night begins you should fill your front porch full of toilet paper. Then when trick or treaters knock at the door you should blame them and pretend to start getting very angry. They will be in a shock and you will know the truth, it should be hilarious.

Halloween in Denver is a great time but just make sure that you do not take your tricks to an extreme level, as it could potentially ruin the whole event for others. Take things slowly, be creative and remember throwing eggs is not fun. If you think of your tricks a little more in depth I am sure that you will have a much better time.

If you have played a clever trick in the past, please share it with us!  We would love to hear about it..

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