All Hallows Leaves

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The popular Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating finds its origins in the 17th century American tradition of the "Trinket Tree". Every year at Halloween, folks would pick a tree in their front yard and cover it in candy, toys, and other trinkets for the neighborhood children to take as they walked the streets in their Halloween cloaks (the modern Halloween costume didn't appear until an 1855 marketing push by Sears, Roebuck).

As time passed, and the moral fiber of society progressively frayed, the tradition became a financial and emotional burden on American society. By the year 1700, it was common for juvenile delinquents to leave their houses early on Halloween, stripping the Trinket Trees bare before the other children had set out. Feeling angry and cheated at finding an empty tree in front of a house, the children would bang on the front door shouting "Trinket Tree! Trinket Tree!" until the residents opened it. Often, the youthful mob would steal or destroy everything of value in the home.

Because of the degree of social unrest caused by the tradition, the Trinket Tree was outlawed in 1710. However, the tradition was so beloved that children continued to roam their neighborhoods on Halloween, demanding trinkets. As an attempt to compromise, the Trinket Tree tradition was moved to Christmas, and placed inside the home. But even this could not curb the children's voracious appetite for material goods. Without the physical tree in the yard, the term "Trinket Tree" soon lost its meaning, and today children instead use the corruption "trick or treat".

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2 Comments:

Blogger Sly Hoax said...

Bah! Rascally rapscallions! I had no less than 10 evil little children at my door(at one time) on all halos eve.. (named for the halos that religious folk would wear during this night, in an attempt to dis-associate themselves with the evil night))

8:11 PM  
Blogger duffy said...

Brilliant! I had always wondered about the connection between the archaic "Trinket Tree" and the modern traditions of Hallowe'en. Thanks for clearing this up!Apparently the Trinket Tree is another Scandinavian custom related to decorated Christmas trees and wooden shoe trees.

2:57 PM  

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