Being Modern: Trick-or-treating

Say the words eggs and flour to the average householder and a fair proportion will doubtless respond, "Bake Off!" But mention those cakey basics on 31 October and they might equally induce feelings of dread. Eggs plus flour? That's a recipe for but one thing: a surprisingly hard-to-clean front door thanks to the dastardly menace of trick-or-treaters.

But this time of year has not always held such fears. Various Christian and pagan traditions relating to dressing in disguise, communing with the spirits of the deceased and asking for food can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages, in particular the practice of souling – soliciting gifts in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls' Day (2 November). The difference being that no one back then was doing it dressed as Snow White or Spider-Man.

That all changed around the start of the 1980s when, much as we did with The Cosby Show, Diff'rent Strokes and The A-Team on telly, we bought into the American lifestyle wholesale and imported the idea of kids banging on people's doors at all hours on All Hallows' Eve, demanding sweets in return for nothing more than a tacit agreement not to cause trouble.

Whither the charm of guising now, that late-19th-century tradition of children dressing up to perform jokes or dances in return for doughy comestibles? Nowhere, that's whither.

But we shouldn't knock trick-or-treating entirely. True, it does mean having to stock up on value packs of mini-chocs so you don't have to pretend to be out by hiding in the kitchen with the lights off. But isn't it also rather nice to see young children giving their parents' laundry an airing over their heads, feeling safe out and about on the streets because they're being accompanied by their older siblings, who aren't rioting, looting or getting drunk on White Lightning, but acting as sensible chaperones?

Mind you, responsible teenagers? It's almost enough to send a little shiver down the spine.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border