Turkey, Pie, Football, Costumes and Trick-or-Treat! Wait.
November 23, 2014 6:17 PM   Subscribe

Halloween and Thanksgiving are two of the slipperiest holidays in the American tradition. Costumed masquerading and trick-or-treating used to happen on Thanksgiving, while Halloween was mostly devoted to vandalism. As Americans did they best to stamp out the vandalism, they also cleaned up the unruly traditions of Turkey Day, banishing the Thanksgiving Ragamuffins to October.

It wasn't until I finally saw the Halloween sequence in Meet Me in St. Louis that I could understand a bit about what my grandmother was talking about when she talked about Halloween.
posted by Miko (10 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
"...Then there is the night called "door-bell night" when boys go about sticking pins in door-bells, thus locking the bells and causing prolonged ringing."

(Googles door bell electrocutions 1937-1967)
posted by clavdivs at 6:48 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was a kid in the 70s ( in Cranbrook, BC) I remember the night before Halloween was "damage night" and older kids went around egging houses etc. I remember my mom saying the town wanted to get rid of it. I've often wondered if my memory was incorrect because no one i knew had similar stories. Now I think I'm not so crazy after all!
posted by chapps at 7:05 PM on November 23, 2014

I guess I'm old...because I remember "Devil's Night" (the night before Halloween) in Inner Cities back in the 70s/80s.

Lots of arson and drinking and crazy destructo stuff.

Especially in Detroit.
posted by CrowGoat at 7:37 PM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

You might be crazy chapps but there is tradition of fear associated with halloween. When I was a kid collecting candy in the 70's in Seattle what you feared were the "bag snatchers" - teenagers - too cool to wear a costume. I never stole candy but I did do a fair bit of egging. I got caught once and the man whose house we had all egged - though I was the only caught [the man was fast and sneaky and I was a bit less so] - made me clean it up - kinda - I think he was having a bit of fun and didn't really care.

I had a paper route back when kids had a paper route and we stole as many fire extinguishers as we could carry from a building on my paper route. They were dry ABC chemical extinguishers. My crazy friend Ian, who in later years had a party in the houseboat that he lived in with his mom underneath the Aurora Bridge where the weight of teenagers exceeded the bouyancy of the houseboat such that there was an inch of water throughout, emptied one of the aforementioned fire extinguishers into a car via the wing window. It looked like the car was full of milk.

I paid for this decades later when I lived in Iowa and pissed off some teenagers. Egg is really difficult to clean from the dashboard of your convertible, which presents a nice target when you leave the roof open on a warm night.

In Iowa and a few other places they have "Beggars Night" which is never on Halloween. The kids come and tell you a joke or propose a riddle. The explanation is that Halloween is too dangerous but really it's because Halloween is for the Devil.
posted by vapidave at 8:01 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Francie and Neely wear masks and make the rounds of the local shops on Thanksgiving in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Many shops in NY give candy or something made in-house to trick or treating kids on Halloween. I haven't seen it anywhere else in the country.
posted by brujita at 8:23 PM on November 23, 2014

I remember "Devil's Night"...Especially in Detroit.
posted by CrowGoat

posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:43 PM on November 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Francie and Neely wear masks and make the rounds of the local shops on Thanksgiving in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I actually re-read that this fall and that's what made me post this when I saw the NPR piece. I had meant to do some more research on it. Maybe for a future project.

As for the candy, the last few towns I've lived in have a business trick-or-treat afternoon where kids can go shop to shop and get candy.
posted by Miko at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2014

In Ann Arbor, a lot of business folk did not give out candy or other good things like tops or a nickel. But some did like Sids' and the Tobacco shop in the Arcade. The real trick was finding all the best digs because everyone went to the spook house at old hospitals morgue. Well one year we went to the new hospital morgue stoned on snickers then doubled back and went by the closed shop that was named Dharma.
I remember a flash and I woke up in Boarders books with a purple index card and the distinct notion of geographic certainty.

I love the layout of this post

posted by clavdivs at 10:02 PM on November 23, 2014

Short version: Your grandparents were jerks, and our greatest holidays are the direct result of giving in to extortion.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 9:10 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your grandparents were jerks

I like to think of them as "scrappy."
posted by Miko at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

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