Trick-or-treat and the Unicef connection

Sir, – Some time in the mid 1960s, Michael Donnelly, a friend of mine, since deceased, was contacted by a representative of Unicef to promote the idea of “trick-or-treat” at Halloween.

This fundraising activity, which was already established in the United States, was a means to raise money for and also to promote the work for that organisation.

Up until then Halloween had a much lower profile in Ireland. There was no dressing up in ghoulish gear or visiting houses.

As a primary teacher I remember using the simple games then in vogue as aids in the lessons on “Oiche Shamhna”.


These activities were based on trying (without use of the hands) to bite an apple as it swung on a length of twine, or attempting to forecast events in the following 12 months using three saucers. Each saucer contained either earth, water or a ring.

The blindfolded participants were invited to touch one of the saucers. If they put their hand in the clay it was a sign that they would die, in the water that they would emigrate and if they touched the ring that they would be married. All harmless fun, not to be taken seriously.

These goings-on were house-centred and there was no question of wandering around the locality collecting any food or money. That was something for St Stephen’s Day and the wren boys. Money became an issue only if one walked down Dublin’s O’ Connell Street and was accosted by enterprising children who invited you to “help the Halloween party”.

Michael Donnelly asked me to help organise a trick-or-treat event in Dublin.

Some children dressed up in Halloween outfits, and, carrying collection boxes they were brought to the old Jury's Hotel in Dame Street for a meeting with the press. A photo of the group of us appeared in Dubliner's Diary in the Evening Press as part of an article on this new Halloween enterprise.

Of the outcome of this event I cannot remember anything. But trick-or-treat as a Halloween activity is now firmly established throughout Ireland.

I wonder if anybody remembers the Unicef connection?

Does any of the money collected help to fund Unicef or some other charities or does it all go to help the Halloween parties? – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.