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Did you know kids used to “Trick or Treat” on Thanksgiving as Ragamuffins?
Ah, the tales of old shared by my dear Grandmother, stirring the curiosity within my young mind. I remember the day she casually mentioned that kids used to go Trick or Treating on Thanksgiving. It was a peculiar notion that piqued my interest, and I couldn't resist pressing her for more details. However, her recollections remained somewhat vague, leaving me to wonder if she was merely pulling my leg, spinning tales to amuse me. Decades have passed since that conversation, and it was only recently that I stumbled upon a revelation that shed light on the mystery my Grandmother had alluded to. It appears there was indeed a tradition known as "Thanksgiving Ragamuffins" or "Ragamuffin Day."
I discovered a captivating video posted on YouTube by Robert Martens, offering a glimpse into 1940s New York. The footage depicted children dressed as paupers, their costumes resembling those of Halloween, with some even resembling playful clowns. These youngsters would embark on a unique form of "begging" by going door to door, not in search of candy but rather seeking monetary contributions.
Though the exact reasons for the demise of this intriguing tradition remain unclear, an article from the New York Public Library shed some light on the subject. It appears that adults, for various reasons, grew increasingly annoyed with the practice and actively sought its elimination. Furthermore, there seems to have been a degree of bias against the tradition, viewing it as something associated with lower-class communities or the outer boroughs of the city.
In their efforts to curb the Ragamuffin tradition, adults encouraged the establishment of official Thanksgiving parades. These parades soon gained popularity, eventually giving rise to the beloved and familiar traditions we still celebrate today, including the renowned Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
So, while the Ragamuffin tradition eventually faded into obscurity, it is important to recognize that its passing paved the way for something enduring. The birth of Thanksgiving parades, which we continue to cherish, brought about a new era of celebration and community engagement. It serves as a reminder that even as traditions evolve or disappear, they often leave behind a lasting legacy, shaping the way we commemorate special occasions.
So what would you do if kids, trying to restore this tradition, showed up on your doorstep on Thanksgiving in a tattered but colorful costume and asked if you could spare, “Anything for Thanksgiving?” Would you slam the door or dig in your pockets for a few coins?