With Halloween approaching I thought it appropriate for me to include a little history into the tradition of Beggars’ Night in Des Moines, Iowa along with my photos. Back in the late 1930’s a woman by the name of Kathryn Krieg, who was director of recreation for the Des Moines Playground Commission working with the local police department set aside October 30 as Beggars’ Night. The police and Ms. Krieg hoped by doing so it would cut down on the numerous calls and arrests of children and youth who used Halloween as a reason to be mischievous and go on damage sprees. Beggars’ night would be on October 30, the night before Halloween. On that night children were allowed to go door to door and say the phrase “trick for eats”. Treats would only be issued if such a “trick as a song, a poem, a stunt or a musical number, either solo or in a group, is presented”. Over the years fewer and fewer arrests were made as Beggars’ night became more popular and eventually the term “trick or treat” came into existence. Children were still not to be given candy until they earned it “with a stunt, song or riddle”. By the time my young family moved back to Iowa and settled in Des Moines in the late 1970’s, children had adapted the tradition to only telling a riddle.
For some reason along the years I began to assume many communities across the country followed this same long standing tradition. After we moved to Oklahoma and my daughter to Colorado, I discovered that was not the case. Children actually trick or treated on Halloween day and many of them don’t even say “trick or treat” just thrust their over filled bags at you for their obligatory piece of candy. About the only enjoyment I get out of it now is seeing the creative costumes! I can’t tell you how many times I heard the joke “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!” I always played dumb so you could see the enjoyment on the children’s faces when they responded with the answer. What fun it was!