With Samhaim hard upon us with its various celebrations including the ritualized begging-with-an-edge called “trick or treating” (essentially repurposed wassailing), the New York Times has regaled us with accounts of a related custom called “Raggamuffin Day” (which J.G. Frazier would likely have classed with other holidays of “misrule” like Saturnalia in Roman times, office Christmas parties today, etc).
“Q. Before Halloween trick-or-treating caught on, wasn’t there a different holiday in New York in which costumed children went around asking for treats?
“A. Yes, and many New Yorkers who are 70 or older still remember participating. It was called Ragamuffin Day, and it was held not on Halloween but on Thanksgiving.
“Ragamuffin Day started a few years after President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving an official holiday.
“’People have documented it going back to around 1870,’ said Carmen Nigro, the coordinator of research services for maps, local history and genealogy at the New York Public Library.
“The costumes weren’t quite as colorful as the ones worn by today’s trick-or-treaters — there were no vampire or President Ulysses S. Grant ragamuffins — but the goal was the same: collecting as much swag as possible.”
Read up! Thanks to Soror Amy for the tip!