Another treat I would like to share with you is the History of Beggars’ Night. As some of you know I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. Every October 30th, my sisters and I would get dressed up in our Halloween costumes and go door to door telling jokes (our tricks) to get our treats (candy).
For those of you not from Des Moines, you may be thinking what? You had to tell jokes? You didn’t just ring the door bell and say “trick-or-treat”
No, this was very creative. Each child had to tell a different joke or riddle. The jokes went something like this.
Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He didn’t have any guts.
Why did Dracula visit the blood bank?
He needed to make a withdrawal.
Growing up I thought that kids all over the country were doing the same thing. It wasn’t until after I graduated from Iowa State and moved to Chicago that I learned that this is a Des Moines tradition. My 1st Halloween in Chicago I asked my co-worker what jokes his kids were going to tell and he looked at me like I had 7 eyes. Jokes? What are you talking about? I asked “Don’t your kids have to tell jokes?” and he said no. I received the same response when I moved to Kansas City.
I did a little research to find out the history of this tradition. Beggars’ night was created in Des Moines in 1931 by Kathryn Krieg, a director of recreation for the Des Moines Playground Commission. She noticed that numerous youths were arrested for the pranks they played on Halloween. The flash point came on Halloween in 1938 when Des Moines police answered a record 550 calls concerning vandalism.
Krieg and another community group began a campaign to encourage less violent forms of Halloween fun.
They set aside Oct. 30 as Beggars’ Night and got the word out to the public that on that night – and only that night – children would be allowed to go door-to-door and say the phrase “tricks for eats.” The council urged that “eats should be given only if such a ‘trick’ as a song, a poem, a stunt or a musical number, either solo or in group participation, is presented.”
For the past 81 years the children of Greater Des Moines have put on their costumes and gone door to door on October 30th telling jokes and riddles. For the full story click here Des Moines Register
What is your favorite corny joke or knock-knock riddle?