What Is Cabbage Night?
What is commonly referred to as “cabbage night,” or “mischief night” in the United States is observed on October 30th, the day before Halloween.
Most agree that the observance of Cabbage Night began in the Middle Ages. It has long been regarded as a night of pranks and mischief. In modern times children have been known to gather rotten fruits and vegetables (e.g. cabbages) and throw them on the porches and doorsteps of unsuspecting citizens (usually those who did not give out candy the year before). Houses and buildings are vulnerable to toilet-papering, and the occasional front-step pumpkin may be smashed.
Youngsters in Vermont and the northeastern United States have gained the most notoriety for observing the traditional holiday of disrespect. However, the practice is observed in other parts of the United States like Detroit, Michigan (where it is known as Devil’s Night) and in the United Kingdom (where it is called Gate Night, Mizzy Night, or Miggy Night). Other names include “Goosey Night,” and “Trick Night.”
In parts of Great Britain and Europe “Mischief Night” was long ago moved to the month of May, to coincide with May Day protests held by workers in urban areas. In Germany the night is known as “Walpurgis Night,” or “Walpurgisnacht,” and is observed annually on April 30, May Day Eve.
Regardless of the day – or night – on which the tradition is observed, many cities have adopted curfews in anticipation of mischievous hijinks.
An important, unwritten code of Cabbage Night pranksters requires that their antics be performed with a lack of violence. Although the roguery is remonstrative in its intent, hoaxes and jokes must be non-violent and “harmless.” And, although one might question whether the placing of salami – or bologna with mayonnaise – on the hood of someone’s car is harmless, potential subjects of the holiday’s antics might do well to carefully consider the answer to “trick or treat” when little goblins approach their doors on Halloween.