Posted 3 years ago
There has always been something about the shift to the shorter days off Autumn and Winter that has made humans consider past and impending deaths. During Medieval times, at this time of year, folks would leave offerings of food on their doorsteps to appease the wandering ghosts. In the British Isles during the late 19th Century, masks were not enough and those seeking treats were expected to actually perform tricks (sing songs, recite poems) in order to receive a reward. Still, "trick-or-treat" as a slogan and "trick-or-treating" as an activity is really a modern development. A thriving post-war economy, the advent of television, the end to the sugar rationing, and a tendency for Americans to monetize everything, aside from being great fun for the children, drove 1950s door-to-door candy distribution into the world-wide big deal it has become.
I think it interesting that the tradition seems to be shifting a bit of late. Those giving out treats seem to be becoming the tricksters as well. The best porch is the one that gives visitors the creeps along with the candy.
Jack-o-lanterns, by the way, were not originally pumpkins. Pumpkins are a New World species. The lanterns were originally carved from turnips and mangel-wurzels (a sort of giant kohlrabi used as food for horses and mules).