A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from September 18, 2008
“Trick or Treat” ("Trick or Treat for UNICEF")

The origin of the “trick or treat” ritual (children going from door-to-door on Halloween, asking for candy) derives from “guising” that was done in Scotland and Ireland. The phrase “trick or treat” first appears in Ontario, Canada, in 1917, and was popular in the 1920s in the Northwest (the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and then the earliest United States citations are from the states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Michigan).

“‘Tricks or treats’ you could hear the gangs call out” was printed in The Sault Daily Star (Sault Ste. Marie, ON) on November 1, 1917, “Treat or trick” was printed in the Owen Sound (ON) Sun on November 2, 1917. “Tricks and treats” was printed in The Daily Standard (Kingston, ON) on October 31, 1918.

“‘TREAT OR TRICKS’ HALLOWE’EN SLOGAN WAS OUT OF PLACE. ‘Treat up or tricks,’ the ultimatum on the part of young Canada which is usually associated with Hallowe’en was on Tuesday evening apparently in the same classification as those proclamations broadcasted to the Turks—no one took particular notice of it” was printed in the Edmonton (Alberta) Bulletin on November 2, 1922.

“Hallowe’en passed off very quietly here. ‘Treats’ not ‘tricks’ were the order of the evening” was printed in The Leader (Regina, Saskatchewan) on November 2, 1923. “Treat or Trick” was printed in the Red Deer (Alberta) Advocate on November 7, 1924. “Treats or tricks!"was printed in The Leader (Regina, Saskatchewan) on December 11, 1926.

Citations of “trick or treat” were published in the Calgary (Alberta) Daily Herald on November 3, 1927, and in the Lethbridge (Alberta, Canada) Herald on November 4, 1927. Both stories described the practice in Blackie, Alberta.

The New York City-based United Nations became associated with Halloween in 1952, when children in Philadelphia went trick-or-treating by asking for coins for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

A rhyming extension (cited in print since at least 1964) is “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat.” “Trick or treat, bags of sweets, ghosts are walking down the street” is another extension.

“Halloween apples!” is another shout that has been popular in Canada.

Wikipedia: Trick-or-treating
Trick-or-treating, is an activity for children on or around Halloween in which they proceed from house to house in costumes, asking for treats such as confectionery with the question, “Trick or treat?” The “trick” part of “trick or treat” is a threat to play a trick on the homeowner or his property if no treat is given. Trick-or-treating is one of the main traditions of Halloween. It has become socially expected that if one lives in a neighborhood with children one should purchase treats in preparation for trick-or-treaters. The National Confectioners Association reported in 2005 that 80 percent of adults in the United States planned to give out confectionery to trick-or-treaters, and that 93 percent of children planned to go trick-or-treating.
The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages, and includes Christmas wassailing. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland and Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy. Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”

Yet there is no evidence that souling was ever practiced in America, and trick-or-treating may have developed in America independent of any Irish or British antecedent. There is little primary documentation of masking or costuming on Halloween — in Ireland, the UK, or America — before 1900. The earliest known reference to ritual begging on Halloween in English speaking North America occurs in 1911, when a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario, near the border of upstate New York, reported that it was normal for the smaller children to go street guising (see below) on Halloween between 6 and 7 p.m., visiting shops and neighbors to be rewarded with nuts and candies for their rhymes and songs. Another isolated reference appears, place unknown, in 1915, with a third reference in Chicago in 1920. The thousands of Halloween postcards produced between the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s commonly show children but do not depict trick-or-treating. Ruth Edna Kelley, in her 1919 history of the holiday, The Book of Hallowe’en, makes no mention of such a custom in the chapter “Hallowe’en in America.” It does not seem to have become a widespread practice until the 1930s, with the earliest known uses in print of the term “trick or treat” appearing in 1934, and the first use in a national publication occurring in 1939.

The tradition of ‘Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF’ began in 1950 in the United States when Philadelphia school children first went door-to-door at Halloween collecting money in decorated milk cartons to help the world’s children.

They raised a grand total of $17, kicking off a campaign that has since brought in more than $188 million to provide medicine, better nutrition, clean water, education, emergency relief and other support to children in more than 160 countries.

1 November 1917, The Sault Daily Star (Sault Ste. Marie, ON), pg. 2, col. 5:
But Those Out Last Night Seemed to Hav Good Time
“Tricks or treats” you could hear the gangs call out, and if the householder passed out the “coin” for the “treats” his establishment would be immune from attack until another gang came along that knew not of or had no part in the agreement.

2 November 1917, Owen Sound (ON) Sun, “Chatsworth,” pg. 2, col. 5:
The usual number of boys and girls were out on Wednesday evening ringing door bells, etc., but nothing more formidable than a few false faces and “treat or trick” greeted me, on going to the door.

31 October 1918, The Daily Standard (Kingston, ON), pg. 1, col. 5:
Children’s Festival Will Likely be Quiet for Several Reasons
In many homes Hallowe’en parties will be held, at which games, tricks and treats will be in order, but on the whole, it is likely that the evening will be passed quietly.

3 November 1921, Owen Sound (ON) Sun-Times, pg. 3, col. 3:
Chatsworth Boys and Girls Were on Good Behavior That Night
Hallowe’en, on the whole, passed off very quietly here. The small boys and girls too, were out in large numbers, with their customer false faces, etc., calling on many of the citizens, wit the salutation “treat or a trick.”

2 November 1922, Edmonton (Alberta) Bulletin, pg. 6, col. 4:
(The Morning Bulletin is the newspaper title on the first page, but Edmonton Bulletin is at the top of this page.—ed.)
“Treat up or tricks,” the ultimatum on the part of young Canada which is usually associated with Hallowe’en was on Tuesday evening apparently in the same classification as those proclamations broadcasted to the Turks—no one took particular notice of it.

2 November 1923, The Leader (Regina, Saskatchewan), pg. 3, col. 5:
Hallowe’en passed off very quietly here. “Treats” not “tricks” were the order of the evening.

3 November 1923, Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) Daily Star, “Hallowe’en Celebrations,” pg. 24, col. 4:
ROSETOWN.—Hallowe’en was celebrated here in a lively fashion. Numerous parties were held throughout the town and the usual battalions of children covered all sections of the town demanding treats or else suffering the dire penalty of tricks for refusal.

31 October 1924, Edmonton (Alberta) Bulletin, pg. 3, col. 2:
The familiar Hallowe’en ultimatum of “Treat up—or tricks” is to be more or less a back number this season.

7 November 1924, Red Deer (Alberta) Advocate, pg. 4, col. 2:
Hallowe’en night was observed in the usual manner by the young “bloods” in Penhold. “Fun is fun, and tricks are tricks,” but when such public buildings as school and Memorial Hall are molested with no option for “Treat or Trick,” we can not see where either fun or trick is enjoyed by the participants.

4 November 1925, Red Deer (Alberta) News, pg. 7, col. 2:
Spooks, witches goblins black cats and all their kindred associations were out in full force on Saturday to play their usual Hallowe’en pranks. Hordes of juveniles in a variety of make-ups made house-to-house canvass of the city, and in most cases, in response to their time-honored threat of “trick or treat” were regaled with plentiful supplies of candy, peanuts, apples, etc., by the householders—discretion this time being considered the better part of valor.

6 November 1925, Chehalis (WA) Bee-Nugget, pg. 2, col. 3:
A little folks party was given at the home of Clias, Westerland, Saturday afternoon for Charlotte Dunn, who entertained her little guests with Halloween treats and tricks during the afternoon.

11 December 1926, The Leader (Regina, Saskatchewan), “Torchbearers’ Letters,” Torchbearers’ Magazine, pg. 6, col. 1:
Dear Torchies:
We had a dandy time on Hallowe’en. A bunch of us went out together and it wasn’t very long before we had a real crowd. We played tricks and also yelled “Treats or tricks!” and usually we got the treats, which were apples, peanuts, candy, or gum.
Wilcox, Sask.

3 November 1927, Calgary (Alberta) Daily Herald, “High River News,” pg. 22, col. 4:
(Special Dispatch to The Herald)
HIGH RIVER, Nov. 3.—T. D. Colcord of Minot, South Dakota, proprietor of the newspaper “The Independent,” spent some time this fall with his brother-in-law, Mr. Jack Evans of Blackie. He was much interested in this country and since his return to Minot has devoted several columns in his newspaper to records of his trip, extolling the virtues of South Alberta and giving very complete statistics on the achievements of this country.

Hallowe’en came and went and was observed most circumspectly in town, without the usual depredations. The greatest activity was manifested by the very young, who wandered in droves from door to door, heavily disguised and demanding “trick or treat.” To treat was to be untricked, and the youthful hold-up men soon returned home bowed down with treats.