Over at the Toronto Star there's an interesting article about the history of Halloween. As it turns out, the day served as an outlet for many inhabitants of the notoriously uptight city. (There was a reason, after all, that it was known as "Toronto the Good.") The article, which features reporting from the newspaper's extensive archives, features an amusing quote from an Orillia police constable. As the nonplussed lawman told a reporter in 1930, "there wasn’t even a good practical joker at work on the streets. Halloween isn’t what it used to be by a long shot."
Here's what I learned from the article:
- the mischievous game of "nicky nicky nine doors" was popular in Canada well before the outbreak of the First World War;
- in the 1880s, Halloween often involved streetfights between university students and the police;
- children in the early 1900s would go from door to door, tossing beans and peas and demanding tasty things to eat.
Contextualizing then and now is a quote from local historian Jack Webster, who noted in a 1999 interview that "These days, any night can be trouble. Back then, Halloween was the trouble night."
For more on the background of trick or treating (spoiler! the first usage of this term in print occurred in Canada), check out this article on the Smithsonian's website.