What is the “trick” in “trick or treat” for?
Who we asked: the Internet
Halloween can be traced back more than 2,000 years to the Bronze
Age Celts, an agrarian, tribal society which primarily occupied
Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and the Brittany region of
northern France. They were polytheistic, worshipping a variety of
gods of nature. Their two greatest religious celebrations were held
at the onset of winter (Nov. 1, Samhain, pronounced “sow in”) when
the herds were brought in to shelter, and at the onset of summer
(May 1st, Belthane) when the herds were released to the
pasturelands. Nov. 1 marked two things: the beginning of winter and
the New Year, when Saman, the lord of the dead and darkness,
reigned, and the end of the season of the sun, which the sun-god,
Baal, had ruled.
On the eve of Samhain (Oct. 31) the Celts believed that the
gates separating the living and the dead were opened, allowing evil
spirits and the souls of the previous year’s dead to return to the
earth to harm crops and animals and to threaten families. People
would dress up as “spirits” to fool wandering spirits into
mistaking them as their own, leaving them alone, or to lead the
demonic spirits to the edge of town. They would leave gifts of the
finest food outside their homes to appease the evil spirits and to
nourish the souls of their departed relatives.
The priests of the Celts, the Druids, were responsible for the
communion between the dead and the living. On the night of Oct. 31,
the Druids went house to house, demanding a child or virgin for
human sacrifice to appease the wandering spirits. The victim was
the Druids’ treat. In exchange for the human, they left a
Jock-O-Lantern with a lighted candle made of human fat. This was
supposed to prevent those inside the home from death demons that
night. When some unfortunate couldn’t meet the demands of the
Druids, then it was time for the trick. A symbolic hex was drawn on
the front door. That night Samhain or his demons would kill someone
in that home.
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