When I was a kid, my Grandmother one time casually mentioned that she remembered when kids used to Trick or Treat on Thanksgiving. When I pressed her for details about it, she was vague, and it made me wonder if she was pulling my leg. It has been decades since she brought that up and I think I finally found out what she might have been talking about, it was a tradition called, “Thanksgiving Ragamuffins” or “Ragamuffin Day”.
Robert Martens posted this video on YouTube showing kids in 1940s New York, dressing up like paupers and going door to door “begging” for money. As you can see, their costumes are almost Halloween-like, some almost look like clowns.
I cannot find an explanation as to why the tradition went away completely. But this article from the New York Public Library, which has more info about this New York tradition, states that adults seem to be annoyed with the practice and actively wanted it to go away. It also hints at a bit of bias against the practice as lower-class or outer-borough.
In order to so so, they encouraged the creation of official Thanksgiving parades. Which gave rise to many familiar Thanksgiving Parade traditions, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
So while the Ragamuffin tradition died, in doing so it gave rise to something we still all celebrate today.
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?