Trick or Treat

Thu Oct 31 21:14:43 UTC 2002

        How old is "trick or treat"?  It seems to have been universally observed in the United States by the 1950s.  According to Nicholas Rogers, Halloween:  From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (reviewed in the most recent New York Times Review of Books), it was introduced in the U.S. only about 1939.  It must have spread rapidly.

        The OED takes "trick or treat" back only to October 1947.  I can antedate that slightly.  This case doesn't say which Halloween was involved, but it necessarily was before 1947:

        >>It was Halloween and spirits walked. Little children were eager, excited, and gay, and their oldsters joined in the merriment. Little Dorothy and her sister Betty, age seven, were enjoying the childish sport of 'trick or treat' among the neighbors of the Burtons in the city of Los Angeles.<<

Burton v. Los Angeles Ry. Corp., 79 Cal.App.2d 605, 608, 180 P.2d 367, 368 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. May 12, 1947).

John Baker

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