We have Charlie Brown to thank for the holiday's famous phrase.
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One of my favorite memories as a kid was planning my yearly costume and proudly modeling it as I went door-to-door asking for chocolates on Halloween night. As an adult, I’ve always wondered where the trick-or-treat tradition came from. Why do families go door-to-door asking for candy, and where did the idea of "trick-or-treat" come from?

I recently learned that the tradition dates almost as far back as the holiday itself, and the story behind it is fascinating. It turns out, it wasn't always about performing tricks for the neighbors or carrying around a pumpkin-shaped bucket to collect handfuls of Reese's Cups and Hershey's bars. In fact, the phrase “trick-or-treat” wasn’t coined until fairly recently. 

Before you get into costume and head out with your family this Halloween, read up on the history of this iconic celebration.  

kids trick or treat buckets
Credit: Wholly Owned ISUnited Kingdom/Getty Images

Why Do We Go Trick-or-Treating?

Today's Halloween rituals are based on an ancient Celtic celebration called Samhain, which dates back more than 2,000 years. As it spread to England in the first century, Samhain morphed into two separate holidays: Halloween on October 31, and what is now known as All Saints Day, celebrated at the beginning of November. Those who celebrated Samhain believed that the souls of dead relatives would reappear on this holiday, but they also believed evil spirits would be present, too. 

To scare off the evil spirits, residents would dress up as animals or monsters, and that’s why we wear costumes for Halloween today. Volunteers would dress in costume and perform dances to scare off the spirits in exchange for food and drink. This is where the “trick” part of “trick-or-treat” was born. 

Around the same time, those in need of food would go door-to-door and ask for “soul cakes” (a pastry of sorts). In exchange for the food, they’d pray for the souls of the wealthy. This is how the “treat” portion of “trick-or-treat” came to be. 

Why Do We Say 'Trick-or-Treat?'

The practice of trick-or-treating dates back several centuries, though we’ve swapped “soul cakes” for candy bars and gummy bears over the years. The phrase “trick-or-treat,” on the other hand, has a far more recent creation—one that’s linked to beloved comic strip character Charlie Brown. That’s right: We have the Peanuts gang (and their creator Charles Schulz) to thank for this sweet Halloween saying. 

Trick-or-treating was a common practice in Europe and America, but children didn’t ring the doorbell and say “trick-or-treat” until the early 1950s, when a Peanuts comic strip ran a cartoon about trick-or-treating. The phrase had been used here and there but wasn't popularized until the cartoon. So next time you watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, you can thank Charlie Brown and his trick-or-treat bag full of rocks for this Halloween tradition. 

What You Need for Trick-or-Treating

cauldron bucket for halloween
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Festive Candy Bowl

If you're handing out treats this year, a festive candy bowl is a must. This 9-inch candy bucket resembles a witch's cauldron, and can be left on the front step filled with treats if you plan to be out and about in the neighborhood rather than answering the door.

Buy It: Halloween Cauldron Bucket ($13, Amazon)

orange pumpkin buckets
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Candy-Collecting Buckets

Make sure your little monsters are well prepared to collect as many candies and treats as possible with these classic pumpkin-theme buckets. This comes as a set of six so you can grab one for everyone in your family or share with the neighborhood kids.

Buy It: Pumpkin Trick-or-Treat Buckets ($13 for six, Amazon)

teal pumpkin for halloween
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Teal Pumpkin Bucket

Not everyone can have candy on Halloween! If your child is sensitive to food items, consider participating in the teal pumpkin project this season. A teal pumpkin on the front porch means that houses have non-food treats, and a teal bucket will let people know not to add candy to your child's bucket.

Buy It: Teal Pumpkin Trick-or-Treat Bucket ($9, Amazon)

fruit snacks for halloween
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Sweet Treats

Filling your candy bowl for trick-or-treaters doesn't have to break your budget! Look for bulk items like these Halloween-theme fruit snacks, which come in a pack of 90.

Buy It: Halloween Fruit Snacks ($15 for 90, Amazon)

halloween toys
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Non-Candy Treats

If you'd like to provide non-food options as part of the teal pumpkin project, grab a bulk pack of festive toys ahead of the holiday. This box comes with 120 assorted toys, including spider rings, plastic witch fingers, stamps, and other trinkets.

Buy It: 120-Piece Assorted Halloween Toys ($26, Amazon)


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