What's the "trick" part of "treat or trick"?

I’m assuming that in the US Halloween tradition, you’re theorically assumed to have the choice between handing candies or being somehow “victimized” by the children.

So, does the “trick” part actually happen? (it could even be because the “victim” doesn’t mind the kids having some fun at his/her expense) Or did it use to happen? If so, what kind of “tricks” can/could be used?

Generally there isn’t much choice, other than whether you want to clean the eggs off your car and house today, or tomorrow when it’s dried out a little.

If somebody comes to your door, chances are they just want sugar, and not to scope out their next victim. YMMV.

We never played any tricks when I was a kid (1970s, rural NW Ohio), but we heard young adults at the time talking about themselves doing it. They remembered stuff like scattering corn on someone’s porch if they didn’t give you candy. There were other, “standard”, tricks, but I don’t remember them right now. I’ll post more if I do.

There’s always TPing, & shaving cream.

When my mother was a kid, back in the 1920s, when they went “trick or treating,” the kids were expected to perform a trick before they got their treat. Nothing major, but doing a cartwheel, performing a little dance step, balancing something, whatever.

When I was growing up in the 1930’s Halloween night was a time of minor, and sometimes not so minor, vandalism such as soaping windows, letting the air out of auto tires, tipping over outhouses, emptying garbage cans on the front porch, etc.

I believe the current “tricks or treats” was instituted, or maybe brought back, during WWII in order to curb such things.

Round my way the implied threat was a bit more of a PITA, like letting your car tyres down. Of course, these days, it’s probably escalated to taking family members hostage, ritually slaughtering pets etc :rolleyes:

Bologna on the car.

It’s extortion. “Give me a treat, or I’ll do something bad to you.” Of course, as with many traditions, “trick or treat” has largely lost its meaning. As Early Out said, many people misunderstood that the trick-or-treaters were expected to perform a “trick” in order to receive a treat. But the original meaning was “Give up the sweets, or you’ll find your haywagon on top of your barn in the morning.”

I think David Simmons is correct. Hallowe’en was originally (I think) celebrated by adults who would gather for seances and other party games. It was part aknowledging the departed spirits who would visit their living loved ones, part mocking the evil spirits and witches (“whistling past the graveyard”, as it were), and part harvest festival. In the 1950s (from what I’ve seen in documentaries) it became more of a day set aside for children. I think the idea was to give the children a safe outlet, rather than to let them roam the streets getting into mischief and committing acts of vandalism. (Caffeine deprivation: I wonder if that would work with terrorism? “Give us candy, or we’ll blow up your mailbox!” :stuck_out_tongue: )

Mexico has their “Day of the Dead” celebration. I don’t know much about it, but I think this is more in line with some of the earlier Hallowe’en practises where people remember their departed loved ones.

When we went Trick or Treating, my understanding was that if we didn’t get a treat, we’d play a trick. In fact, we always went out with an old bar of soap, so that if someone wasn’t home to give us a treat, we’d soap their windows. I even remember getting to some houses that already had soap on the windows, so we wouldn’t waste our time on those.

I ignored trick or treaters in England and they wrote F*** Off on my window with spray on snow.

When we soaped someone’s windows, we just made circular scribbles all over. We were young and so was the world, and we just wouldn’t write such naughty stuff all over a public window. Of course, since then we’ve become totally depraved and corrupted.

I’ve quoted EarlyOut’s post as that pretty much describes my idea of Hallowe’en. Child to perform any show - off thing - sing a song, sort of thing, and householder to reward child primarily with apples and nuts rather than sweets and choccy. Difference being that the quoted post refers to the 1920’s and the Celyn experience refers to the late 1960s.

What I’d like to ask is where does the trick thing comes from? In my tradition the whole "kids visiting houses " thing was called “guising” (although, sadly, kids-these-days (old fogey voice) can be heard calling it “trick or treating” (US influence via television :frowning: ). So I have often wondered where the “trick” tradition came from.

Did this originate in the USA? Or does the trick thing happens in other countries? (I supose, after all, all it takes is one crafty and revengful little kiddie…! :slight_smile:

My dad grew up in rural Georgia in the 1930s, and for his group of friends Halloween was a night of clever trickery. Once they shaved a neighbor’s mule. On another occasion they broke down a neighbor’s tractor and reassembled it in his barn loft.

And yeah, the basic idea was “Give us treats or you get a trick.”


Hmm. Maybe it was a wagon instead of a tractor (as suggested by JohnnyLA’s post). That makes more sense logistically. And apparently it must have been a standard trick in rural areas.

Also keep in mind that little kids often don’t even understand what they’re saying. My earliest memories are of going around saying “trickertreat” as if it was one word that you just said at the door to get candy. But mischief was definitely on tap as we go older.

And let’s not forget the flaming bag o’ poop. You take a standard brown paper lunch bag and insert excrement, most often of the canine variety. You then place said bag on the front steps of the victim’s house. You light the bag on fire, and ring the doorbell. Next, you hide yourself in the bushes or behind other cover. At this point, the victim opens the front door and sees a fire. Most victims will then attempt to extinquish the flames by stomping out the fire, sending the excrement flying off in all directions.

A true classic!

I have a totally different take on this.

When I was a kid, the “trick” part wasn’t a threat from the trick-or-treater. It was a choice for the person answering the door.

Either give out candy, or perform a trick. One time we went trick-or-treating and someone answered the door who had no candy. So he did some sort of acrobatic trick for us.

Until now, I never thought it was a threat.

‘Trick Or Treating’ origins lie in the Scots and/or Irish traditions of Guising. As pointed out, it originally had a requirement of the child doing a ‘party piece’. They had to sing a song, recite poetry, dance, whatever. This was the ‘trick’. I don’t believe the words ‘Trick’ or ‘Treat’ were ever used though. Not in my time anyway. It was always “guising”.

Somewhere along the line in America during the last century the ‘Trick And Treat’ barter became the ‘Trick Or Treat’ menace. There’s some kind of social commentry to be had there, but we’ll skip that for now. :slight_smile:

In the last 10-15 years, the ‘trick or treat’ usurper has begun to take root in Britain, surplanting guising in Scotland (don’t know about Ireland) and being a novelty in England & Wales. The last guiser I had just turned up at my door and expected rewards. No trick offered, good or bad. In my day he’d have been sent away with a few withering comments at his back, guaranteed to bring shame on him and his family throughout the village!

You can also be sure that, in my day, if anyone had tried ‘tricks’ they would have had quick trip home, a good hiding and an early night. Kids today…blah… blah… don’t know they’re born… blah blah… computer games … blah blah… spoilt rotten… blah blah…

One of the cleverest tricks I know of was one some of the older guys played on the neighborhood meanie.

He had a Chrysler, I think, and it had left-hand thread lug nuts on one side and right hand on the other. They bought a right-hand nut, scarred it up just enough to make it look a little used. They then took the hub cap off the left-hand thread side, removed one nut, dropped the right-hand nut in the hub cap and put it back on.

When meanie started to drive there was this rattle on one side so he stopped. After a few starts and stops he finally took of the hub cap, found the loose nut and an unused stud. As far as I know he is still trying to put the nut back on.