Oct 28, 2021 - Things to Do
Halloween: Why Des Moines celebrates Beggars' Night
A ghost doing stand-up comedy.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Des Moines is quirky for a plethora of reasons, but one of the most notable ones is Beggars' Night.

  • We make kids trick or treat the night before Halloween, and they don't just get candy. They have to earn it by telling a Laffy Taffy-level joke.

Flashback: The tradition stems as far back as World War II, according to the Des Moines Public Library.

  • Back then, Des Moines' Parks and Rec Department was figuring out a way to dissuade kids from causing mayhem like breaking windows and setting things on fire.
  • In 1938, the solution — Beggars' Night — was born. Kids wouldn't get candy unless they performed a trick or a riddle. And it tamed Halloween mischief by spacing out festivities over two days.

Thought bubble: Making kids earn their candy is called Midwest humility, baby.

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