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Mischief Night Celebrations : Mischief Night - Netglimse.com

Date of celebration: October 30

Mischief Night is a prankster's holiday in North America and the British Isles, celebrated on 30 October, the day before Halloween. This holiday appears to have emerged in the 19th century, and it was brought to North America by Irish immigrants. In accordance with legend, the pranks and mischief which take place on Mischief Night are blamed on fairies or spirits, rather than the people who actually perpetrate them. Typical Mischief Night pranks involve mild vandalism and pranks which are designed to get people to laugh. In many communities, the pranks are minimally damaging, as the goal is to have fun, rather than wreak havoc. Some communities also have specific Mischief Night traditions, like removing the gates from the fields or placing an outhouse on the courthouse lawn. In some regions, Mischief Night has turned more sinister, with serious acts of vandalism including arson. The origins of Mischief Night are rather unclear. The holiday goes by a plethora of alternate names including Gate Night, Mizzy Night, Trick Night, Goosey Night, and Devil's Night, and it is sometimes held on nights other than 30 October. Halloween, for example, is blended with Mischief Night in some places, and in England, people may reserve pranks and mischief for the eve of Guy Fawkes Day, which falls a few days after Halloween on the fifth of November. The holiday may have simply evolved as a way to allow people to work off excess steam with harmless hijinks, or it may be the remnant of an older pagan holiday. Children are usually the ones who are most engaged in Mischief Night pranks such as tapping on windows, toilet papering bushes or houses, and daubing sticky substances onto door knobs. Teens may organize themselves for more elaborate pranks, such as moving cars, and sometimes adults will get involved as well. In some areas with a Mischief Night tradition, local police turn a blind eye to benign pranks, although they may step in if serious property damage is going on, or if a prank appears to be dangerous. This traditional night of pranking is remarkably similar to the April Fools Day pranks played all over the world, and some regions of the world also have a Mischief Night around the beginning of May. The plethora of pranking holidays which provide a designated day and time for pranking may simply reflect a widespread appreciation among humans for jokes, pranks, and shenanigans. In many parts of Britain and Ireland Halloween used to be known as 'Mischief Night', which meant that people were free to go around the village playing pranks and getting up to any kind of mischief without fear of being punished. Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, ii, 370, states that in parts of Count Waterford: 'Hallow E'en is called oidhche na h-aimléise, "The night of mischief or con". It was a custom which survives still in places -- for the "boys" to assemble in gangs, and, headed by a few horn-blowers who were always selected for their strength of lungs, to visit all the farmers' houses in the district and levy a sort of blackmail, good humouredly asked for, and as cheerfully given. They afterward met at some point of rendezvous, and in merry revelry celebrated the festival of Samhain in their own way. When the distant winding of the horns was heard, the bean a' tigh [woman of the house] got prepared for their reception, and also for the money or builín (white bread) to be handed to them through the half-opened door. There was always a race amongst them to get possession of the latch. Whoever heard the wild scurry of their rush through a farm-yard to the kitchen-door -- will not question the propriety of the word aimiléis [mischief] applied to their proceedings. The leader of the band chaunted a sort of recitative in Gaelic, intoning it with a strong nasal twang to conceal his identity, in which the good-wife was called upon to do honour to Samhain..." In some parts of Yorkshire, Mischief Night falls on the 4 November. Children do tricks on adults which range from the minor to more serious such as taking doors off their hinges on this night. The doors were also often thrown into ponds, or taken a long way away. In recent years these tricks have, in some cases, turned into severe acts of vandalism and criminal damage including streetfires and destruction of private property. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, young people in America also observed Halloween by perpetrating minor acts of vandalism, such as overturning sheds or breaking windows. In Detroit, Michigan, Mischief Night—known there as Devil's Night—provided the occasion for waves of arson that sometimes destroyed whole city blocks during the 1970s and 1980s. As Stuart Schneider writes in 'Halloween in America' (1995), vandalism that had been limited to tipping outhouses; removing gates, soaping windows and switching shop signs, by the 1920’s had become nasty -- with real destruction of property and cruelty to animals and people. Schneider writes that neighborhood committees and local city clubs such as the Boy Scouts then mobilized to organize safe and fun alternatives to vandalism. School posters of the time call for a “Sane Halloween.” Good children were encouraged to go door to door and receive treats from homes and shop owners, thereby keeping troublemakers away. By the 1930’s, these “beggar’s nights” were enormously popular and being practiced nationwide, with the “trick or treat” greeting widespread from the late 1930’s.

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