SEBRING — “Trick-or treat, smell my feet; give me something good to eat.” The well-used and well-known verse said in a sing-song voice is the infamous cry of children every where in any state, in America on Oct. 31, better known as Halloween. The rude but socially acceptable stanza is a warning to homeowners to cough up the goodies or else…
The question, however, is why? Why do youngsters in costumes both scary and fanciful go door-to-door asking strangers for sweets? Contrary to popular belief, it is not a conspiracy of dentists trying to drum up business. The answer lies in soul cakes and history.
Some 2,000 years ago, Celtics had a festival called Samhain, celebrated on Oct. 31, according to History.com. North Carolina State University shows the pronunciation as “sow-in” and said it means “end of summer.” People would light bonfires and pay their respects to the dead, who they believe returned to walk the earth that night.
The Celts would dress in animal skins and costumes to disguise themselves and leave out offerings of food and beverages to assuage the ghostly specters. “Mumming” was an afterthought by humans that dressed up and would take advantage of the food left out for the undead.
Christianity got thrown into the mix with All Saint’s Day, which is a day to celebrate the dead. There were still pagan roots such as bonfires that were lit and many traditions were carried forth. However, the poor of the community would descend upon the wealthy families and beg for “soul cakes.” These treats were given to the poor if they promised to pray for the souls of the family’s deceased members. The process was called “souling.” This certainly has some parallels to modern day trick-or-treating.
The practice continued to evolve with Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine in the 1840s, according to History.com. After a spike in not-so-innocent pranks, the Great Depression’s sugar rations put the kibosh on much of the treat part of trick-or-treating.
After World War II, commercialism started the trick-or-treating campaigning up again. The surge in Baby Boomers helped to reinstate the popular door-to-door begging for treats in costume. There may not be any more reason to chase off the un-dead but it sure is fun to make memories of the kiddos in costume.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an approximately $2.6 billion this year on Halloween candy. Yes, you read that right. Billion with a “B.”
So when will locals head out for their own trick-or-treat adventures this year?
AVON PARK: Neighborhood trick-or-treat is set from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.
LAKE PLACID: The town will hold its community event from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31 on Main Avenue and Interlake Boulevard.
SEBRING: Halloween on the Circle will take place Friday, Oct. 26 from 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. Neighborhood trick-or-treat is set from 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.