Nowadays people go Trick-or-Treating everywhere, but it is usually considered an American tradition. On Hallowe’en night, groups of children dress up as ghosts and vampires, knock on doors and ask ‘Trick or Treat’. Usually they’re lucky and receive cakes and sweets as a treat. But like Hallowe’en itself, the tradition is much older and dates back to Celtic times. It was originally the Irish who took their customs and traditions to North America when they moved there. These included a mix of Catholic and Celtic Hallowe’en practices.

Dressing up in costumes probably goes back to the times when the Celts celebrated the festival of Samhain. They used to dress in white, with black faces to scare bad spirits. This dressing up continued in 11th century Britain, with a tradition called souling. Children used to dress up as angels or demons and went from house to house asking for something called soul cakes. These sweet cakes represented the spirits of dead people. When they were eaten, people believed that the spirit was freed from purgatory. These beliefs are very far from the modern festival we call Hallowe’en, but they explain lots of the things we still do when we celebrate it.

 

Illustration by Alberto Stefani, taken from Project Vampire by Victoria Heward, Green Apple Step One (A2)