Trick Or Treating Question!

I have always assumed that St. Louis celebrates Halloween the same way as every other US city, but it’s come to my attention that we might be unique in a very fun way. I was wondering if you guys could clear this up.

In St. Louis, when kids go Trick or Treating, they go the door and ask folks, “Trick or treat?”

The grown up says “Trick.” Then the kid has to tell them a joke in order to get a piece of candy.

It’s fun when you’re a kid because you get to feel clever and get rewarded in the process. It’s even more fun when you’re a grown-up because you get treated to gems such as:

How do you mend a broken Jack-o-Lantern?
With a pumpkin patch

Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?
Because it didn’t have the guts!

Why was the mummy so tense?
Because he was wound up!

During a meeting yesterday, someone remarked that they didn’t tell jokes when they were younger – that this is just a St. Louis thing.

“Then what does the ‘Trick or Treat’ mean?” we asked.

“It’s like, ‘Give me candy or I’ll egg your house,’” he said.

“Oh. So it’s like a threat?”


I suppose that, grammar wise, it makes more sense your way. But I loved preparing my “set” of jokes when I was younger. And it makes the grown-up side fun, too – I love hearing kids tell me stupid jokes. It never gets old.

So my very long-winded question is:

What is the tradition in your town? Do you guys tell jokes? If you are from STL, find someone who isn’t and ask them for me, please.

Also, what was everybody for Halloween???

Here are some more Halloween jokes!

What do you call someone who poisons breakfast?
A cereal killer!

What do birds give away on Halloween?

What kind of mistakes do ghosts make?

Why do witches wear nametags?
So they can tell which witch is which.

And here’s one for Ron, who gave me an Algebra 2 test last week that I failed miserably:

What is the ratio of a pumpkin’s circumference to its diameter?
Pumpkin Pi.


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26 responses to “Trick Or Treating Question!

  1. Heather N.

    Why does St. Louis have to be the odd-ball all of the time? We tell jokes for candy, eat breaded ravioli, obsess over high schools, and speak with the ellogence of a drunk Wisconsonite who desperately wants to sound like they’re from New York.

    Lucky for me I had an older brother who would arm me with lots and lots of jokes. The best: How did Hitler tie his shoes?


    In little Nazis.


  2. The Captain

    You are correct, the tell a joke for candy thing must be a St. Louis original. I handed out candy to probably 200 kids down here in Florida, and I asked the first few for a joke. The kids looked at me like I was crazy. After getting confused looks from the first ten to fifteen kids, I gave up asking. It bummed me out, I was looking forward to some Laffy Taffy quality jokes. I remember buying those cheeseball books full of Halloween jokes out of Scholastic mail-order just so I would have enough jokes.

    I did see a new tradition down here in Florida, parents driving their kids around in golf carts to trick or treat. How friggin lazy is that! We had to hoof it when we were young. Walking 6-10 miles burned off the calories of the junk food I was about to eat. No wonder childhood obesity is at an all time high.

  3. RØB

    What kind of shoes do amphibians wear? Open-TOAD.

    Yeah dude jokes are king on Halloween. I don’t know how universal it really is, but the Wikipedia article on Trick-or-Treating suggests that similar joke-telling or other performance-based trick-or-treating is common in Scotland and parts of Northern England?

  4. Heather J

    Ah yes, Canadian halloween trick or treating. Well since I don’t have kids, and me and the hubby got married on halloween, the custom for us is to go down to niagra falls, and get a honeymoon suite, and supply ourselves with greenery, and chocolate turtles. We usually buy an “anniversary” gift for ourselves. Last year it was a hookah, this year it was gutiar Hero 3. Due to a death in the family, we decided to go to the haloween haunt at Canada’s Wonderland, where this year it was on the brink of raining the entire time. No, they do not serve flatty cakes there.

    Texan trick or treat customs, uh not exactly sure, we always left our lights off so we didn’t have kids bothering us, and the dog.

    Did i mention my bitch of a sister in law, who got married on the 25th of october at niagra falls. Is it wrong that i want to write a snarky email to her?

  5. Yeah so far the only city I found that tells jokes besides us is Des Moines.
    AND I found another article about this that includes my favorite riddle of all time!! Serious flashback: One dark night in the middle of the day / two dead boys got out to play. / Back to back they faced each other / drew their swords and shot each other. / A deaf policeman heard the noise. / He got up and shot those two dead boys. / If you don’t believe this lie is true / ask the blind man, he saw it, too.

  6. Jen

    Confirmed with my cubby neighbor that there was no joke telling on Halloween when she was trick or treating back in Mississippi. Get on board Mississippi, you are missing out.

  7. RØB

    I love that riddle too, but I knew the first part as “One bright day, as dark as night/Two dead boys got up to fight.” All the rest is the same, though. I think it was in a book by Alvin Schwartz (of SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK fame) called TOMFOOLERY.

  8. Here is a direct”expert” quote from the anthropologist they interviewed:

    “That is totally cool,” said Erickson, who has conducted research on Halloween customs in the United States. “I never heard of that before. That is totally fun.”

    (He must not be a very good anthropologist, as he is from the University of Missouri. Maybe he’s from the Rolla or Columbia campus.)

    It sounds like we merged the customs of “Beggars Night” (which is practiced in other parts of the country & Europe) with the Halloween customs everyone else practices.

  9. Emily McMahon

    No joke telling in Florida or Los Angeles. Sigh. I would have loved that. There are lots of haunted houses in Tallahassee though… and spooky ghost tours of downtown…

  10. You guys are so awesome with this inside info and Halloween homework!

    I am still waiting on the Jersey Boys for the East Coast report. My roommate is from High Ridge which is 15 MINUTES away from STL, and they don;t tell jokes.

    Yo Kebbin! Do they have Halloween in South Korea?

  11. Steve

    Here in Jersey, you would say “Trick or Treat”. Typically, the person would give you candy. Sometimes you’d get the silly old man who would tell you a joke or pull a quarter out from behind your ear. I guess that was supposed to be a trick. But c’mon…me tell the joke? F that. I’m already doing the hard work by walking to your damn house. Now give me a “fun size” butterfinger and do it fast.

  12. I just found this out too. It came up several times last week at Kenrick. Many of the non-local guys described our tradition as “weird.” Whatever, jerks. Go back to, like, Omaha and stuff.

    What do pirate earrings cost? A buck an ear. (joke most effective if told by someone wearing a pirate costume)

  13. RØB

    I should note that this joke-telling/performance-based Trick-Or-Treating was commonly practiced in both Chesterfield and Wildwood, which are each about half an hour from St. Louis. I happen to know that it is also common (or at very least, understood and accepted) in Town & Country, about 15-20 minutes from St. Louis.

    I am actually shocked to learn what I am learning here! We’ve been so sheltered (but in the best way possible!)!

  14. Well, I am counting STL county, which Town & Country, Chesterfield and Wildwood are a part of. If you grew up in West County (which I did but don’t tell anybody, haha), those three spots are super close. Town and Country was within walking distance from my parent’s house.

    High Ridge is Jefferson County. Let’s ask more Jeff Co people (who can remain anonymous!)

    I am making a map!

  15. just checking in

    hey shortcake–haven’t checked in for a while and just wanted to say hi and hope all is well. just read this first post. here we don’t do the joke telling. it’s the east coast–we apparently value threats of mayhem more than creativity. you midwesterners believe in making the kids earn it.

  16. Oh yay, hello! I was wondering what kids did in that part of the country, but I had no one to ask. Thank you so much for the scoop, and I hope all is well with you, too!

    Here’s some extra Your State/Missouri trivia – we loooove to end sentences with prepositions, which I demonstrated in my last comment.

    You guys, I just got so overwhelmed with love for my country and all its regional quirks. America, F**k yeah!

  17. RØB

    I know some JeffCo people I can ask.

    No need to be embarrassed about being from West County. It’s not like you (we) had a choice! Anyone worth impressing (or otherwise interacting with–CLAUSE-ENDING PREPOSITION ALERT!!!) will understand that. Don’t hide, show yer pride! We’re all Missourians, and that’s what’s important (I should ask some more Metro East-raised friends, too, now that I think of it).

  18. Moyno

    I found this out this year as well. It is confirmed in Califorina, Washington State, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama that they do not tell joke. I called just about everyone I know outside the St Louis area, and they all thought I was crazy.

    What do you do if someone runs over your foot? Call a toe truck.

    Why was tigger in the toliet? He was looking for Pooh!!

  19. Quick Mini Survey:

    Cindy – from Pennsylvania, where the celebrate Halloween for 2 days (Beggar’s Day and Halloween) and don’t tell jokes.

    Linda – Her husband is from the city (STL) and get this: he had to SING.

    Jaime – Co-worker told her in Illinois they trick or treat on the 30th, and have a parade on the 31st.

    Monica – “In WashMO, the only people who expect you to actually do anything to earn your candy are Catholic grade school nuns who wear wigs, which makes it lame.”

  20. RØB

    Talked to my friend from work who trick-or-treated in Collinsville and O’Fallon (Illinois) areas. NEVER HEARD OF joke-telling for TOT-time. Collinsville and O’Fallon are not even as far away from St. Louis (proper) as Wildwood and Chesterfield are, so I am inclined to think that maybe it’s a St. Louis thing, with emphasis on surrounding Missouri-state-counties. Maybe?

    I love that you brought this up, it is such an eye-opener and a great mystery for the solvin’. WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING ALL THIS TIME!? It’s awesome.

  21. Kevin

    On Halloween Mon and I ran into some kids who asked for candy so I guess they were trick or treating. We went to 7 11 and i bought them each a twix bar. They all had lame little plastic pumpkins and the twix bar was by fra the greatest thing they had received. They couldn’t fit any more than 15 twix bars in their plastic pumpkins. Where’s the pillow case man, you gotta score.

    At work a Canadian 4th grader asked me for candy and I asked for a joke and she looked at me bewildered and I said “That’s tough” despite the fact i brought 7 pounds of candy to work that day for such an occasion. 20 comments not bad

  22. The boy sitting next to me during Wristcutters said they don’t tell ToT jokes in Texas.

  23. Frank

    Hey Steph, looks like I’m a bit late to the party. To back up Steve “fibbin’ lips” McKiernan, us Jersians don’t commonly practice our comedy routine on the candy route. In the neighborhood I grew up in there were hundreds of townhouses and apartments we needed to get to before it go too late so there was no time for joke telling of any sort. For me personally, it was usually a mumbled “tricrtreat” followed by unenthusiastic candy distribution. If we were still feeling sassy after trick-or-treating (which we usually were because our blood was 50% sugar by 8pm) we would either egg someone’s house or throw some smoke bombs near a high-traffic area. Don’t shake your head, i was never the mastermind of these pranks, I’m too big of a wuss. I was usally running away a good 30 seconds before we threw an egg or lit the smoke bombs.

  24. Janet

    I trick or treated in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee and I never heard of the joke thing until I lived in St. Louis. It’s weird!

  25. Monica

    I didn’t really encounter this tradition in Washington, MO. Only twice in all of my years of trick-or-treating did people ask for a trick, and I was at a loss as to what to do. In Detroit, they have ‘Devil’s Night’, which is where people celebrate one to three days before Halloween by setting abandoned buildings on fire. There’s usually 500-800 reported fires a year. We were discussing this in class, and one of my classmates, who is from Detroit, couldn’t believe that her city was the only city that did this.

  26. Pingback: Go Shortcake, It’s Your Birthday | Secretly Stephie

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