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Updated: May 24, 2021

Ragamuffin Day began shortly after Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as an official holiday in 1863. The tradition, beginning in 1870, actually preceded Halloween’s trick or treating. Since there was no school that day for the holiday, packs of children hit the street begging strangers for treats by asking “Anything for Thanksgiving?”.

The children wore old and torn clothing as costumes, dressed as hobos and vagrants, which gave the tradition its name: Ragamuffin Day. As families prepared their Thanksgiving feasts, they were inundated with knocks on the door from these ragamuffins asking for a hand-out.

In those early times, treats consisted of apples, fruits, baked goods, vegetables, and if lucky, some pennies.

In 1936, The New York Times wrote of the ragamuffins to state: Ragamuffins Frowned Upon: Despite the endeavors of social agencies to discourage begging by children, it is likely that the customary Thanksgiving ragamuffins, wearing discarded apparel of their elders, with masks and painted faces, will ask passers-by, ‘anything for Thanksgiving?

In the movie "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn", Raggamuffin Day is mentioned.


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