Halloween traditions differ across America

Lily Naert
Contributing Write

Telling jokes to obtain candy on Halloween is one of unique traditions in St. Louis, but some don’t know that other cities across the country have their own uncommon traditions as well.

Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the world because it can be celebrated by both children and adults in different ways. The night where people get to play dress up, go trick or treating, carve jack-o’-lanterns, tell scary stories and eat lots of candy. Joke telling is special to St. Louis, however, the Des Moines, Iowa, tradition of Beggars Night is unknown to many who don’t live in there.

Over 80 years ago, Beggars Night began because violence and vandalism was at a high in Des Moines, and parents didn’t feel comfortable taking their children out on Halloween night. So began Beggars Night, it takes place Oct. 30, where children can feel safe going out and trick or treating the night before Halloween.

Jason Day, 47, was a resident of Des Moines, Iowa, for five and a half years, from 2015-2020. During this time, he learned from locals about Beggars Night.

“I witnessed it from afar because I don’t have children, but it seemed very odd to me,” Day said. Anyone born and raised in Des Moines knows exactly about Beggars Night and how it works, but it can be confusing to anyone who’s not a native.

“I cannot confirm or deny if Beggars Night is super fun, but I never heard any bad things about it. Anytime a kid came up to my door on Oct. 30, they trick or treated with the biggest smiles on their faces,” Day said about how he felt about the tradition. He went on to say how he respects Beggars Night because of the caring parents who just want to keep their children safe.

Of course, born and raised St. Louis residents grew up telling jokes for candy, but to some people it’s shocking to know that it’s only a St. Louis thing. Also, the intent behind it is often questioned, “Why make children work for their treat?”

Cadin Smith, junior, trick or treated his whole life before high school and each year made sure he had his own unique joke to make his neighbors laugh.

“It makes it a lot more fun for younger kids. It also shows kids that in order to get things in life they have to use their heads and think about something,” Smith said about the tradition.

Often, it’s wondered where this tradition comes from since it’s so unusual to non St. Louisans.

“People used to only do tricks on Halloween, so the tradition turned into telling jokes instead, so that it would be more appealing to children of younger ages,” Smith said about the potential origins.

Other cities have traditions on Halloween as well, like the Carnaval party thrown in West Hollywood, California. This huge celebration attracts over 500,000 people every year. Also, don’t forget about the annual Halloween parade that happens every year in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Also, in states close to the Mexican border, like Texas and New Mexico, they celebrate Dia De Los Muertos along with Halloween.

Wherever travelers go in the United States, they’ll find unique traditions within different towns. These traditions make each community unique and bring the people of that community together to be able to celebrate Halloween in their own way.


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