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Halloween; NO! Beggar’s Night!

30 October 2006

There’s a lot to love about Iowa*, you know. Today’s post, however, will highlight one of those things that confirm I will never be able to consider myself an Iowan:

In many towns around Iowa, Halloween is celebrated on a day other than October 31st.

[?????!]

And why is Beggar’s Night (from 6 pm to 8 pm ONLY, no less) celebrated on a day other than Halloween? No one is exactly clear on that. There was an article in the paper the first year we lived here that mentioned something about how during World War I there were young hoodlums who would go out on Halloween and do mischief (kick over trash cans, you know, that sort of thing). So the Town Fathers decided the best way to stop these hoodlums was to move the celebration to the night before—that way, when the hoodlums (who, in some mysterious manner, would not have been told about this change) would go out on October 31st to do their naughty stuff, it wouldn’t … I don’t know, uh, have the same panache?

You chuckle.

I know. Like I said, I don’t get it either. There are so many weaknesses in this explanation (and that’s assuming that the reason the paper published was the true one! Perhaps this is all a Star Chamber sort of deal, and we will never know the truth). First off, what do hoodlums care whether it is Halloween or not? They’ll do damage whenever, wherever, right? And, if it really was supposed to trick them, then who would really believe that this would work more than one year? Even hoodlums have a collective memory.

Lucky for us, the news media post lists of when each township will be “celebrating” Halloween. So tonight, as most of you will still have 24 hours to buy candy, hem the costume your child tore when trying it on, or scramble to collect bits and ends of cardboard and duct tape to create a costume for yourself or someone who depends on you, most of us folks in Iowa will be roaming the streets, scoping out which houses seem to be giving out the best goodies, and doing our little tricks* for the homeowners. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow is just another day, and we’ll be one day ahead of you in stomach aches and cavities.

* In fact, here is something I love about trick-or-treating here in Iowa (and never came across anywhere else): When a costumed celebrant rings a doorbell and says “Trick or treat!” the treat-giver has the right—nay, is expected to—respond, “OK, what’s your trick?” The costumed celebrant is then required to recite a rhyme, tell a joke, do a somersault, sing a ditty—in other words, perform for their treat. Fantastic!

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