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Halloween: A tradition of more than just tricks and treats

photoTimes-Mirror File Photo/Beverly Denny Greg Adams and Linda Bowman turned the front yard of their Leesburg home into a smoky graveyard for Halloween in 2011, complete with a mechanical skeleton poking its head out of a coffin. The couple previously hosted a haunted house fundrasier in their backyard with 35 neighbors volunteering as actors. They raised about $10,000 for Interfaith Relief in 2005, the last year they did it.

It’s that time of year again when miniature-sized ghosts, goblins and ghouls knock on your door demanding tricks-or-treats.

And while the annual Leesburg Kiwanis parade has been canceled due to an anticipated Hurricane Sandy clean-up there are still events happening in the county.

Dulles Town Center beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Center Court will host Mall-o-Ween. Children’s group Rocknoceros will be on hand for a concert, following by store-to-store trick-or-treating.

Check http://www.shopdullestowncenter.com for changes in the schedule due to Hurricane Sandy.

But just how did this tradition of asking for treats in lieu of tricks start?

The tradition dates back to England’s All Souls’ Day parades. The poor during the parades would beg for food and in return were given “soul cakes” for a promise to pray for a family’s dead relative, according to “The Complete Victorian.”

The church encouraged the practice as a way to replace the tradition of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. 

The practice, called “going a-souling” eventually was taken on by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhoods. But these children didn’t receive sweets. Instead they were given ale, food and money.

Halloween night was sometimes referred to as “Nutcrack Night” or “Snap Apple Night” because families gathered together before the fire to tell stories of their deceased relatives while eating nuts and apples.

Still some believe trick-or-treating has Celtic roots.

According to “Trick or Treat” by Kimber Krochmal, a writer for superteacherworkshops.com, the Irish believed Halloween night to be a thin veil between our world and the spirit world.

On that night, ghosts could come back to visit their relatives, Krochmal wrote.

Still, they also believed that some of these spirits were angry and would come back just to frighten people. To ward off the evil spirits, the Irish would put bowls of milk and fruit on their doorsteps.

Over time, these traditions changed, with children replacing the spirits and asking for treats to avoid tricks.

The practice, according to Krochmal, was carried on into America by the Irish during the potato famine.

Trick-or-treating began to gain popularity in the United States in the 1950s.

Whatever your Halloween tradition, or where you believe it originated, make sure you have candy for the little goblins visiting your home on Halloween – or face the trick.

We will let our readers get back to us on what those tricks entailed.


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