Come the end of October, people across the country eagerly await the tricks and treats of Halloween. Plenty of fun is to be had on Oct. 31, when hordes of costume-clad children and adults scour neighborhoods on the hunt for the best candy. But prior to Halloween comes the trickery, jokes and gags of Mischief Night.
Mischief Night also may be referred to as Cabbage Night, Goosey Night, Moving Night, Mat Night, or Devil’s Night. In parts of the United Kingdom, it’s known as Mischievous Night, Miggy Night, Corn Night, or Trick Night.
Mischief Night is Oct. 30 (or Nov. 4 in some areas of the UK) and began as an informal holiday when friends pranked one another. While Halloween is all about the treats, Mischief Night is more about the tricks.
The earliest references to Mischief Night date back to 1790s Britain. But back then the mischief occurred right before May Day. During the Protestant Reformation, much of England set out to distance itself from the treat side of Halloween because it was connected to Catholic saints. Gags and pranks were transferred to the eve of Guy Fawkes Night, a holiday that celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British Parliament. However, in Ireland, Scotland and northern England, Halloween traditions – including good-natured pranks – were maintained. Immigrants from these areas ultimately brought these traditions with them to North America. By the 1930s and 1940s, Mischief Night became popular in the United States.
Ringing false alarms, covering trees in toilet paper, shaving cream fights, switching door mats or outdoor furniture, and ringing doorbells and running are some popular Mischief Night pranks. Much of the behavior consists of harmless fun, but Mischief Night has led to some unsavory acts, including more than 800 fires being lit in Detroit in 1984.
In order to curb destructive behavior, many communities will ban the sale of eggs and shaving cream to minors on Mischief Night. Others implement strict curfews. But that doesn’t mean people looking to engage in some good-natured mischief cannot have their fun. Neighbors can host backyard mischief parties in which kids contain their antics to one or two yards.
Mischief Night precedes Halloween and is still popular for many people. Keeping pranks fun and harmless ensures that this tradition can stick around for years to come.