Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Friday 17 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Hildegard of Bingen
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

The Catholic origins of trick-or-treating


Philip Kosloski - published on 10/17/18

Around October 31, European Catholics had a tradition of children visiting houses, begging for treats.

While the modern tradition of trick-or-treating is focused on giving children candy for no apparent reason, it is in fact based on an earlier tradition from European Catholics.

November 2 is known in the Catholic Church as “All Souls Day,” and is dedicated to praying for the souls in purgatory. On this day Catholics pray for their deceased relatives and friends, often visiting cemeteries to remember those who are no longer on this earth.

It is with this celebration that many local traditions were created and became mingled with the festivities of All Hallows’ Eve when immigrants started establishing themselves in the United States.

In various cultures in Europe there developed a tradition of “souling” and baking “soul cakes” in honor of the faithful departed. These cakes were baked on All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) and children would go out on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, begging door-to-door for these cakes in exchange for praying for deceased relatives and friends.


Read more:
Pray for the Holy Souls in purgatory using this fascinating rosary

Eventually this tradition was morphed in America with other customs, and after candy manufacturers caught wind of it, the holiday was monetized and developed into what it is today.

As in so many other cases, the religious origins have turned into something quite different and trick-or-treating is now entirely removed from praying for the deceased.

Read more:
The totally wrong, unofficial and full of blarney truth about the origins of the Jack O’Lantern


Read more:
Why Halloween is a deeply spiritual holiday

Devotions and FeastsHalloween

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Our favorite stories of celebrities who inspire us in daily life
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
As irmãs biológicas que se tornaram freiras no instituto Iesu Communio
Francisco Veneto
The 5 biological sisters who joined the religious life in just tw...
Philip Kosloski
Why is the feast of the Holy Cross celebrated on September 14?
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been known to f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.