Now, this is a question I really had to do a double-take to understand. My co-teacher and I planned a holiday-themed English Club on Thursday before Halloween, and we formally introduced the concept of trick-or-treating. Starting off with a PowerPoint showcasing the most emblematic symbols of Halloween (i.e. witches, ghosts, bats, black cats, vampires, werewolves, etc.), we also sang the "Five Little Pumpkins" song to get everyone speaking in English. The idea that kids as old as fifth grade will assemble in front of their schools for a Halloween parade and concert blew their mind—and struck them as beyond silly.
To show the importance of trick-or-treating and Halloween candy, I also showed them the Jimmy Kimmel "I told my kids I ate their Halloween candy" YouTube clip sensation. The students went WILD. Hearing their laughter was music to my ears because it meant that they actually understood what was going on, processing the English.
Back to the real question at hand, though. If kids go door to door and say “trick or treat!” what happens if they say trick? I guess this concept kind of gets lost in translation because as Americans, we generally view the phrase as an exclamation. But, long ago the meaning was more literal. Kids would dress up and threaten to trick (or maybe the trick is their costume?) if they weren’t given a treat! But to a non-native English speaker the phrase is truly posed as a question! Most obviously kids get candy, so the “treat” must win. But, what happens if its “trick?” It sounds like a no-brainer not even worthy of discussion, but to someone for whom the concept is new, it truly is a brain buster.
Nonetheless, we finished our English Club off with a trick-or-treat simulation. My co-teacher and I both stood on different sides of the room as different “houses.” Each student drew a piece of paper from a pile that indicated which Halloween character they were to act out. So, as our werewolf came crawling up to our door to ring the bell, howling and all, we had bags of candy for them to “trick-or-treat” from. They giggled at the concept and the whole way through, especially during the dialogue, which went something like this:
Me: (opens imaginary door) Oh wow, Happy Halloween! What a great costume! What are you supposed to be?
Student: I am a werewolf, *growls* Trick-or-treat!
Me: Very cool! Okay, take one piece of candy.
Student: Thanks! *takes handful* Happy Halloween!
^^Now this is truly what a trick-or-treat encounter sounds like back at home, but sounded awfully stupid doing it aloud. Really makes me question the whole custom. I was never really one for Halloween, so I was extremely content sitting out this year.
Because our English Club idea was such a hit, my co-teacher and I decided that we will now host one once a month and introduce American cultural holidays (i.e. Valentine's Day) and Jewish-American culture (i.e. Hanukkah in America) in an exciting way. This means that November will be Thanksgiving-themed so the planning starts now :)