Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Why are St. Louis children making jokes about Halloween?

Take a look at the timeless tradition.

People who move to St. Louis every Halloween are often confused by the small people dressed in scary costumes and bombarded with horrible jokes. St. Louisans who have moved elsewhere are shocked at the Halloween mannerisms of those children who insist on Reese’s or Snickers, without trying to stand up first.

All agree that trick-or-treat is a unique St. Louis phenomenon. It’s difficult to figure out why it’s such a unique St. Louis thing. His 2013 book St. John Oldani, a folklorist and author of Louis-isms in 2013, suggests that it was originated by Irish immigrants who celebrated Samhain, the Gaelic harvest festival. This is when the veil between the living & the dead was at its thinnest. The apotropaic practice in which ancient Celts dressed in costumes to deflect attention from ghosts was adopted by the Celts. During the festival procession through the village, people exchanged poems for food and celebrated the harvest. And that romantic old practice evolved into the joke-for-a-mini-Snickers swap that we know today.

It was about dealing with bored children engaging in petty criminality. This scenario is less uplifting, but perhaps more likely. NPR reported that St. Louis wasn’t the only city to have a tradition of Halloween jokes. Some claim it started in Des Moines during Depression to “curb hooliganism,” which involved upending trash cans and turning on fire hydrants. Public officials ordered that children could not go door to door asking for treats on October 30. However, they were required to use a song, poem, or joke in order to get it. It worked.

It is possible that St. Louis experienced something similar. As a post-Depression phenomenon, Halloween jokes are also recorded in history. Before that, newspapers were filled with stories about Halloween juvenile delinquency. However, St. Louis’ Halloween tradition had shifted to jokes and not pranks by the 1970s. Old habits can die quickly, and sometimes they evolve. The St. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that five teens wearing paper bag masks occupied a McPherson bar. They distracted the bartender with terrible jokes about Halloween.

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