A greeting used by kids all over the world, “trick or treat,” has become synonymous with October 31st – but where did it come from? According to historians, the phrase actually has Canadian roots, appearing in a southern Alberta newspaper for the very first time just over a century ago.
A tradition that can be traced back approximately 2,000 years, Halloween was originally a Celtic festival called Samhain (sow-in) in which people of all ages would dress up in hopes of blending in with the evil spirits who they believed roamed the earth.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, dark-age folk believed that, because this celebration bridged the gap between the previous year and the next, it was the only time that demons could roam amongst the living.
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By wearing a frightening face for the evening, the idea was that if in the presence of a ghoul they’d be ignored – though all of this later changed when “All Saints Day,” took its place.
Also known as “All Hallows Eve,” this celebration was similar in the sense that people still dressed up – but as an angel or saint instead.
As for the door-to-door bit, this was (sadly) only introduced because those less fortunate began asking their neighbors for food in exchange for songs or prayers on the holiday.
So what about the greeting? Well, according to the etymologist Barry Popik (who uncovered the mysteries of other unusual words and phrases like hot dog and Big Apple) Alberta is responsible!
Though it was described a year prior by the Saskatchewan’sThe Leader-Post as a night of “treats, tomfoolery, and tricks,” it was actually a November 1924 article in the Red Deer Advocate where we first saw the term as we know it now.
“Hallowe’en night was observed in the usual manner by the young “bloods” in Penhold. “Fun is fun, and tricks are tricks,” but when such public buildings as school and Memorial Hall are molested with no option for “Treat or Trick,” we can not see where either fun or trick is enjoyed by the participants,” the reporter wrote, according to Merriam-Webster.com.
So there you have it. Turns out, not only is Alberta responsible for ginger Beef, the Caesar, and the portable urinal – they’re also responsible for one of the most well-known phrases in modern history.
Now go forth and dazzle everyone with this new information – then thank us when it makes you the most interesting person at the dinner table. Happy chatting!
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