Why did Halloween not happen on Halloween?
October 30, 2009 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Why did we go trick-or-treating the night before (or the night after) Halloween one year when I was a kid?

One year in the late 70s or early 80s we went out trick or treating the night of October 30th rather than the 31st. It may have been on November 1st but I'm 98.3% sure it was the 30th. This was some sort of officially sanctioned thing, possibly promoted by the schools, government and/or media. It was not just limited to my family and friends. I don’t know if it was local to my town (Boston ‘burbs), the state, or national. I don’t think I’m imaging it because I remember The Cool Kids claimed they were going to go out on Halloween as well, to get double the candy. I’m pretty sure we got no trick-or-treaters on October 31st because everyone complied with the change of nights.

Do you also remember this? Was it only a local thing? What was the reason for it? Am I crazy?
posted by bondcliff to Society & Culture (27 answers total)
I can't speak to your incident particularly, but a lot of towns promote alternate days for various reasons. Perhaps they tried it that year as an experiment, and it didn't work out too well so they abandoned the idea for future Halloweens.
posted by mikepop at 8:09 AM on October 30, 2009

Various places have alternate events, sanctioned and unsanctioned.

In Montreal when I was a kid, Devil's Night was a night of mayhem, although not as rough as it got in Detroit.

On the other hand, parts of Ohio and probably other places have Beggars' Night.
Here in Ohio, they have “Beggars’ Night,” on the thinking that Halloween has been colonized by adults, who will have lots of drinks at their Halloween parties and then take to the road, not necessarily watching for tyke-sized ghosties and ghoulies out looking for treats.
posted by maudlin at 8:10 AM on October 30, 2009

Beggars' Night.

I just found out about this tradition from a friend in Ohio.
posted by muddgirl at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2009

My small town designated a day sometime around Halloween for trick-or-treating. The next town over would have the next day, etc. We'd hit two or three towns and get tons of candy. My friends' parents and mine would take turns herding the kids so they didn't each have to go all three nights.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2009

I remember this happening not too long ago in Austin. I think it might have had to do with Halloween being on a Monday, so they picked the Saturday or the Sunday before that. Or something.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2009

Huh. I was in Ohio, but I never heard it called Beggars' Night.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:12 AM on October 30, 2009

This was a pretty regular occurrence in my suburban town in the 80s. Part of it may have been to curb Mischief Night behavior in favor of more wholesome trick-or-treating (we also had a curfew for unattended children on the 30th and 31st for the same reason), and part of it might have been meant to shift the trick-or-treating to a time when more adults would have been home (weekend instead of week night) to give out candy or to supervise the children.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:12 AM on October 30, 2009

Reasons vary, but for trick-or-treaters it's often known as a "beggar's night," with a lot of cities not doing anything on the day of. I've heard a number of justifications, but it's really an issue of convenience to avoid a number of issues. For me, knowing that people going to Halloween parties will probably be driving around in-costume and possibly drinking is a decent reason to not have lots of kids wandering around outside.
posted by mikeh at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2009

The town I grew up in had a Halloween Parade, and they would have it on a Friday or Saturday, so trick-or-treating was that night, and the day before or after. Where I live now, the cities pick a day, and time for it--like 6:30-8:00--and publish it.

But here (Michigan) is something new to me. When I was a kid in Illinois, we would go to the house and ring the doorbell or knock. Where I live now, the tradition is kids just come on the porch and yell "Trick or Treat" and wait for people to open the door. The first year I lived here, I completely blew it.
posted by chocolatetiara at 8:19 AM on October 30, 2009

I remember this happening in my childhood because Halloween fell on a Sunday, and it was somehow seen as wrong to do Halloween on a Sunday. According to this perpetual calendar site, that would have been in 1976, when I was 12 and living in Virginia.
posted by JanetLand at 8:23 AM on October 30, 2009

I don't remember this happening when I was a kid in the 70s and early 80s, but it rings a bell for a little bit later, and had to do with some Mischief Night panic.
posted by desuetude at 8:27 AM on October 30, 2009

What other people said -- I lived in Nebraska and the small towns would have Halloween on different nights so people could come into Omaha on Halloween night itself. We also had Halloween postponed one year due to snow.
posted by Kimberly at 8:28 AM on October 30, 2009

To be clear, I'm not talking about the annual night of mayhem on October 30th, what we in the New England area called "Cabbage Night" (others call it Devil's Night). It was a one-time occurrence of an alternate trick-or-treat night and I"m pretty sure we still called it Halloween.
posted by bondcliff at 8:28 AM on October 30, 2009

FWIW I live (and grew up) in New England and have never heard of this "Cabbage Night" you speak of.
posted by reptile at 8:45 AM on October 30, 2009

Did Halloween fall on a Sunday that year? When I grew up in a predominantly religious area, people would go trick or treating on Saturday night if Halloween fell on a Sunday, since it wasn't considered proper to dress like a goblin on the Lord's day. If the community is religious enough, this could become community-sanctioned, and schools, media, etc. would support it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2009

Yeah, I think this was done in my home town some years when it was convenient to move Trick Or Treating to a non-school night. ??
posted by theRussian at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in W.Va., trick or treat was never on Halloween. The reason being that they (as in the powers that designate trick or treat days) were afraid people were more likely to be drinking and driving on Halloween coming to and from parties/bars. The best part about this was that different towns would have different trick or treat nights, and we would go to a different trick or treat every night for like, a week. It. was. awesome. And all I had to do to convince my mom to take me to different towns was give her all my KitKats. A fair trade.
posted by kerning at 9:14 AM on October 30, 2009

FWIW I live (and grew up) in New England and have never heard of this "Cabbage Night" you speak of.
posted by reptile at 11:45 AM on October 30

My early childhood was spent in northern NJ. We had cabbage night on 10/30 - mostly minor mischief like rolling trees and soaping windows.
posted by workerant at 9:18 AM on October 30, 2009

When I was young, we would occasionally go Trick-or-Treating on the Friday or Saturday closest to Halloween, if it fell on a school-night. I only remember doing this once or twice, and I believe it was a neighborhood-only thing.
posted by AtomicBee at 9:41 AM on October 30, 2009

When I was a kid in Chicago in the early 1970s, I remember them changing Halloween to an earlier night at least once because it would somehow be "safer." I thought the reason had something to do with tricking the bad guys who supposedly put razors in apples and such. If the bad guys didn't know that trick-or-treating was happening a day early, they wouldn't prepare their tainted food in time. Confused people answered their door wondering why trick-or-treaters were a day early, which just confirmed my conspiracy theory that the change was a secret to protect us from poisoners. I ended up with a lot of coins that year instead of food.
posted by PatoPata at 9:47 AM on October 30, 2009

Can you check the local papers for the days around Halloween in those years to see if there's anything mentioned about when and why?
posted by katemonster at 12:14 PM on October 30, 2009

In most municipalities in Harrisburg PA and the surrounding area, trick or treat night is always the Thursday closest to (maybe always the Thursday before?) Halloween, and has been as long as I can remember (mid-80s?). I've always assumed it was to keep the little kids' fun separate from the teenagers' revelry and mischief and drunk driving and general up-to-no-goodery. But that's just an assumption.
posted by jessenoonan at 2:30 PM on October 30, 2009

I know Columbus's official trick-or-treat night was Thursday - I guess some cities change the date.

No clue why it was moved from a non-school night to a school-night. Maybe to avoid local university shenanigans overlapping with lots of little kids outside.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2009

Here in Utah it's generally accepted that if Halloween is on a Sunday, most of the trick-or-treating will happen on Saturday. In practice we'd expect people both nights.
posted by mmoncur at 5:17 AM on October 31, 2009

I live and grew up in Western Mass and I remember that happening in the either the 60;s or 70's as well, so you're not imagining it. Unfortunately, I don't recall the reason for it either...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2009

I agree with the above posters that we didn't trick-or-treat on Sunday. Not because we ourselves were religious, but because the LDS community in my hometown put the word out that they would not be answering their doors on Halloween Sunday. So many folks went out on Saturday. There was lots of confusion that year!
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2009

Well, Southern California girl here, and I remember quite distinctly going out trick or treating the day before Halloween one year (during the day, no less), which had something to do with the Tylenol Tampering case in 1982. I think it was because the killer hadn't been discovered by the time Halloween rolled around. I remember there being lots of rumors that the killer was going to poison Halloween candy as well. Why that would push Halloween a day forward and into the daytime continues to elude my own particular brand of logic.
posted by msali at 1:03 PM on November 2, 2009

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