The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades an even more macabre twist.But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn’t the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. “Trick or treat” is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics.But the French dressed up on All Souls, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up.How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry.Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween and never allowed All Damned Day into the Church calendar. Our traditions on this holiday centers around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn’t Irish at all.Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries.
It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife.
But, by the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten.
Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. And in America, trick or treat wasn’t limited to Catholics.
More Masses were said on All Souls’ Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality.
We know these representations as the “Dance Macabre” or “Dance of Death,” which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls’ Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life.
Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival.