It was a similar practice in Maryland. Susan Collins from Riverdale also remembers Beggar’s Night. “Here in my part of P.G. County we’d go trick or treating on both nights, usually to different areas on each night,” she wrote. “And not with teeny-weeny little pumpkin buckets, but with grocery bags or pillowcases. We’d wind up having candy until Christmas!”
Joan Mulholland said that when she was growing up in Arlington in the mid-1940s, kids went trick-or-treating on Beggar’s Night, on Halloween and on an additional night. It was called Pennies’ Night and was when any leftover candy was handed out. Wrote Joan: “I think I got the names in the right order, but there were three nights: Halloween, and the nights either side of Halloween.”
A reader named Rebecca said they also had three nights of trick-or-treating when she grew up in Western New York state. In addition to Beggar’s Night and Halloween, there was what they called Garbage Night, celebrated on Nov. 1.
“The night after Halloween we all got the chance to scarf up the leftovers from adults that hated keeping and eating the rest,” she wrote. “Sure, the weather didn’t always cooperate but a little snow kept you moving!”
While Washington and its environs had Beggar’s Night, other cities east of the Mississippi had a more sinister moniker for Oct. 30: Mischief Night.
“No treats were sought,” wrote Virginia Stewart, who grew up in Wilmington, Del., in the 1930s. “There was only the mischief of such ‘tricks’ as soaping windows, ringing doorbells and running away, or decorating trees with rolls of toilet tissue,” wrote Virginia, who lives in Silver Spring now. “Halloween was celebrated on Oct. 31 by costumed beggars in search of treats.”
The same name — Mischief Night — was employed in Philadelphia, wrote Richard Ronollo, who grew up there in the late 1940s and early ’50s. “As the name implies, ringing front door bells, then running away, and soaping up car windows were common practices,” wrote Richard, who lives in Tysons now.
Twenty years later, Philly kids were still “celebrating” Mischief Night, wrote Ted Seale, who grew up in Bucks County, Pa. Kids toilet-papered yards and sprayed Silly String on doorways and cars. “At least that’s what I heard,” claimed Ted, who lives in Rockville now.
That would also have been familiar to Maureen Gallagher, who grew up in Westchester County, north of New York City: “In the 1960s-’70s we had what we called Mischief Night on the 30th,” she wrote. “It involved, soaping windows, toilet papering trees, and throwing eggs in some instances.”
Judy Martins added another term, one she and her peers in northern New Jersey used in the 1950s. “We called the night before Halloween Cabbage Night,” Judy wrote. “I don’t know why. That was the night we went out and soaped windows and did other dirty tricks.”
Boy, windows must have really been clean back then. All that soap!
Finally, I heard from the woman whose 1998 letter to The Post describing Beggar’s Night I quoted in my column. She was known then as Mary Page Cobb and is now Mary Page Drake. She turned 90 on May 24 and lives in Annapolis.
Mary said Beggar’s Night ended under pressure from local jurisdictions. “It was a request from the police all over,” she wrote. “They thought they would have less work to do if we, the public, would confine ourselves to the one date.”
George Hamlin of Clarksville grew up Des Moines, where Oct. 30 was the night for roaming the neighborhood — and where before World War II the exhortation wasn’t “trick or treat” but “soap or eats.” (“An unveiled threat if ever there was one,” he noted.)
George moved to the D.C. area in the 1960s. “Serious media discussions between the dates arose and eventually local governments began getting into the act, mandating which night the kids could go out,” he wrote. “Governments are like that; they can’t leave anything alone.”
Perhaps. But I wonder if television and other forms of mass communication are to blame. Once upon a time, every community had its own traditions, born and nurtured in isolation.
Then TV came into our homes, with its Halloween specials, its national advertisements and its homogenizing influence. Halloween was simplified, becoming a single night for tricking and treating, for beggars and mischief-makers.
That’s my theory, anyway.