I’m pretty sure every newspaper runs the same filler piece today about the origins of Halloween, with the All Hallows Day, so-on and so-forth. I know I’ve heard the story many times. What was new to me that I dug up was the origin of the phrase trick-or-treat.
The first recorded use of the phrase was in a 1934 newspaper article form Oregon, reporting on the pranks from Halloween the night before.
“Other young goblins and ghosts, employing modern shakedown methods, successfully worked the ‘trick or treat’ system in all parts of the city.”
Throughout the thirties in the US the newspapers continued to compare the ultimatum, “Trick, or Treat!” to the techniques used by the mafia. Essentially, it’s “pay up or you won’t like what we’ll do.” The Reno Gazette also reported on kids setting up a protection racket. They would save your house from getting vandalized (which in those days meant soap on the windows!) in exchange for candied fruits.
Generally, the homeowners were not at all impressed with this annual shakedown, to the point that some trick-or-treaters risked getting shot! Somehow or other, over the next few decades this mischievous practice spread across the US and Canada to become the most celebrated tradition of the whole holiday.
So consider your options carefully when that six-year-old unicorn comes to your door and makes you an offer you can’t refuse.