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The dark streets of Bristol, England. When darkness descended on Mischief Night, children traditionally got up to no good.

English Folklore: The Forgotten Death of Mischief Night

In the United Kingdom, nestling midway between the early autumn “Back to School” sales promotions and the consumer spending bonanza that is Christmas, we now have the retail opportunity of Halloween. Fancy dress costumes, pumpkins, plastic skeletons, scary witches’ masks and plenty of sweets to dish out to Trick-or-Treaters.

Each year, Halloween’s approach is also greeted with complaints in the popular press about the “Americanization” of English customs and how Halloween has displaced our traditional mid-autumn Fifth of November / Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes Night celebrations. Cynics will also point to another agenda at work here, namely that for all its faults Halloween and Trick-or-Treating is a far safer activity for children (and adults for that matter) than the once regular carnage of exploding fireworks and collapsing bonfire-related burns, injuries and fatalities that used to accompany Bonfire Night.

Fascinating as this shift in social customs might be, for me, the more interesting question is whatever happened to Mischief Night?

Growing up in Scarborough, on the Yorkshire coast, in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, I was actively involved in all the buildup for Bonfire Night and going out collecting “A Penny for the Guy” in the days leading up to the 5th November, or Guy Fawkes Night. However for schoolboys (and to a lesser extent for schoolgirls) there was the added frisson on Mischief Night on the 4th November. (We also called it Miggy Night, other variants included Punkie Night, Micky Night and Tick Tack Treat Night.)


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