Beggar’s Night, Iowa’s Halloween for Children

Why don’t people believe this big cat when he tells you something? He is LION!

Here is a repost from a year ago. Call it laziness, but I like to attribute this to the neighborhood I live in, that has filled out in the last year with new neighbors from out of state. And since they are unaccustomed to the Iowa ways, I wanted to share a local tradition.

First things first, most communities in Iowa do not have trick or treaters walking around on Halloween. Instead each town and city will choose an evening around that date for the kids to go door to door for their candy. This is called Beggar’s Night. And since each town can set up their own time for this, it is not uncommon for a child to go out 2-3 nights in different areas of the Des Moines metro.

Next things next, Iowa trick-or-treaters are loosely expected to share a joke before getting candy. The hint for this is for the homeowner to ask the kids if they have any tricks. Nobody withholds the candy for lack of a joke, but the child and their parents are known to be transplants and not native central Iowans. We take pride in our local culture here and appreciate it when transplants learn the customs and share in them with us. It’s neighborly. It’s a reciprocity of “Iowa nice.” And I am a little saddened to see the practice fading away. Fewer and fewer kids each year have any jokes to share.

Here’s a story shamefully lifted from the Des Moines Register. If you click through to it, you will come to a page with video and sound that plays automatically.

Detroit has Hell Night.

Carbondale, Ill., used to have Fright Night.

When it comes to bizarre local Halloween traditions, however, few communities can match the Des Moines metro area and its 60-plus-year-old ritual of – well, let’s just call it Bad Joke Night.

In most places, the Halloween tradition goes like this: The kid says, “Trick-or-treat.” The homeowner gives him candy.

In Des Moines and surrounding suburbs, it’s more like this: The kid says, “Trick or treat.” The homeowner says “What’s your trick?” Then the kid tells a joke of the sort usually found on Bazooka gum wrappers.

Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?
He didn’t have any guts.

Whether or not the homeowner is amused, the kid gets candy.

A note about Pokemon Go

gplus229009618My friend, we’ll refer to her as “Pam” because that’s her name, recently put up a post about Pokemon Go players disrespecting certain places such as cemeteries and private properties when they play their game. She rightly pointed out that it is inappropriate to chase after virtual monsters in a solemn place or on another person’s property without permission. As someone with a little knowledge of how the game was constructed, I decided to share a little bit of insight.

Niantic had (has) another game called Ingress as well as a neat “personal tour” app called Field Trip. Both of these are also location based and have been around for a few years. Why does this matter? Because Google used the data from Ingress to find interesting places that were friendly to walking (opposed to driving).

Ingress began by mapping all fire stations, libraries and post offices and placing a game spot (portal) on each one. Then, gradually, more portals were added to the game through a laborious user submission process. Eventually, the Ingress app added an easy way to submit any location in seconds from your phone. And the portals blew up! Many of them interesting, some of them inappropriate for game play.

Here’s the connection: Pokemon Go used the data from Ingress to place their game spots. I think they’re called “gyms” in Pokemon Go. Niantic should have trimmed their list of game locations better. Much better. A lot of the garbage portals in Ingress have been removed, but not all. Ingress attracts players who are typically in their 20’s and older. Pokemon Go attracts more children. There are exceptions to both of these age group generalizations.

1. Children are more likely to play their game on someone’s yard or burial site than adults.
2. There are MANY more people playing Pokemon than Ingress could have imagined.

That is why a lot of the problems are happening. The game developers didn’t do more to clean up the game locations and the players are not being respectful of others as they play. So Niantic is responsible for causing part of the problem and responsible for exposing the other part of the problem. Fix either one and the problems would dissipate into occasional annoyances. Changing the game locations is the easier fix. Changing a culture that sends out children who don’t know about certain societal norms of decency or private property without adult supervision is a tougher solution.