What’s so Funny about a Joke?

This is why St. Louis is the only place that tells jokes while trick-or-treating.


Christina English

St. Louis and its connection with jokes. Image created by Christina English.

For as long as I can remember, during Halloween, I would always be asked to tell a joke. If I would do this, then I would get candy. Then, about three to four years ago, it came to my attention that St. Louis is the only place that tells jokes to get candy, and it made me wonder: why exactly is St. Louis the only place that tells jokes in order to get candy?

Well, some people believe that this cultural phenomenon started from St. Louis’s Irish roots. In the late 19th century, Irish immigrants came to the U.S., and with them they brought their cultural traditions such as trick-or-treating and the holiday Samhain that was celebrated on October 31.

“In the nights before Samhain, revelers would don costumes, travel to their neighbor’s homes, sing songs for the dead and exchange cakes,” says Isis Davis-Marks, writer at Smithsonian Magazine.

The Celtics would also trade poems for food to divide up wealth and to celebrate harvest. From there, it developed into telling jokes and receiving candy as a reward.

However, there is another belief about why St. Louis tells jokes on Halloween that seems more logical. It was discovered that during the Great Depression, in Des Moines, Iowa, they would also tell jokes, but they would do it on October 30 and call it “Beggars Night”. The reason they did this was because of the increase of crime that happened due to kids being bored.

“…public officials mandated that on October 30, kids could go door-to-door to ask for treats, but only if they worked for it with a song, a poem, a cartwheel, or a joke—because idle hands are the devil’s playthings, etc. It worked,” explained St. Louis Sage from St. Louis Magazine.

This event possibly occurred in St. Louis as well since telling jokes while trick-or-treating spiked after the Great Depression too. There were also stories about children and teenagers wrecking havoc during Halloween.

Now, because of some children’s crazy antics, we have to work hard to earn delicious treats during Halloween.