Fun at the expense of the newly-weds
I think that many older folks in the U.S., particularly those from rural areas, remember attending (or at least hearing about) a shivaree.
A shivaree was a loud, middle-of-the-night serenade of a newly-wed couple. A crowd gathered quietly outside the home, and then on signal, a terrible racket was raised with shouting and noise making instruments -- pan lids, cowbells, horns, whistles, and even guns fired into the air.
In most of the shivarees I heard about when I was young, the couple invited the crowd in and served them refreshments. They had been expecting a shivaree (or they'd received a tip), so they had a stock of candy bars or cookies on hand.
While inside the house, pranksters might tie knots in shirt sleeves, short-sheet the bed, remove labels from the canned goods, put salt in the sugar bowl, and generally do all the minor mischief they could.
At wilder shivarees, the crowd got drunk in preparation for the event. The newly-weds might be subjected to torments like being thrown into a water tank or left in a distant pasture to walk home.
I have a little scrap of memory about my Uncle Harold's shivaree. We lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska, then, and I was three or four years old. My newly-wed Uncle Harold and Aunt Evelyn lived farther south, near Moon Lake.
Late one night, we drove to the home of our elderly neighbors, Jess and Ivy McDaniel, who lived just south of us. They got in the car with us, and we drove together to my uncle's house.
Before we got there, we stopped and waited behind a hill with the lights turned off. It seemed to me that we waited a very long time. Finally I needed to potty, and my mother and I got out of the car. I don't remember it being cold there on the hillside, but I do remember the immensity of the quiet darkness.
I suppose that eventually a group gathered and the shivaree was carried off, but I don't remember all that. I was little, so maybe I fell asleep. My parents always said that someone threw my uncle's electric shaver (a bit of a novel luxury in the 1950s) into the wastebasket that night. It was burned with the rest of the trash the next day.
Some years later, we had a newly-wed couple living at our ranch -- Jim and Orpha Saar. They were shivareed one night by people from our church. It was a tame get-together compared to most shivarees I've heard and read about. The worst thing that happened was that the paint on the living room floor was scraped a little by a large lady's high-heeled shoes.
I've chosen to spell the word shivaree as I remember it being pronounced, but alternate spellings I found on the internet are charivari, chivaree, and even shivery.
As you'll note from the locations listed below, shivarees were held in many areas of the country. However, I believe the custom is dying out, and it's probably not a great loss.
Shivarees in Russell County, Kentucky
Shivarees in the Cumberland Gap area (Kentucky/Tennessee/Virginia)
Shivarees in Montana territory
A charivari in Superior, Montana (see page 4)
Shivaree in Goodsprings, Nevada
Shivarees in Emmitsburg, Maryland
Shivarees in Alden, New York
Shivarees, shiverys and serenades in Orlando, West Virginia
Wikipedia's entry about charivaris
Does anyone else have a shivaree story to share?