Richmond Proper: On trick-or-treating

A golden oldie from Tess Shebaylo’s erstwhile etiquette column, Richmond Proper. Brush up on your trick-or-treating etiquette with a few tips, whether you’re begging for treats or handing them out.

Photo by Korona Lacasse.

Original — October 19, 2010

Long before the month of October existed as such, harvest feasts brought with them all the pandemonium and noise of a people who believed that the barrier between the world of the dead and the world of the living disappeared every autumn. No longer known as Samhain, Halloween arrives in our mannerly little town each year and reminds us just how much we adore proper civilization. Here’s how to keep the trick-or-treating chaos friendly this October 31st.

For trick-or-treaters

  • Wear a costume. “Even trick-or-treaters have responsibilities, and to entertain their victims by wearing costumes is the chief one,” writes Judith Martin. You are not entitled to just go up to doors in your regular clothes and demand candy. This flies in the face of the entire concept of Halloween, cheapens the holiday, and destroys the fun for kids everywhere. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on a costume — even the brokest of tweens can make a simple ghost or monster outfit. If you’re “too cool” to dress up, you’re too cool to get any candy.
  • Approach houses that have lights on. A darkened house is the resident’s way of letting you know they don’t have any candy to share with you.
  • Use sidewalks and driveways, if there are any to use. Don’t go rooting through flower beds and over rosebushes to get to the front door.
  • Don’t just stand there. Knock on the door or ring the bell, and say “Trick or treat!” cheerfully to the person who answers.
  • Obtain candy only on behalf of yourself. Parents, do not stroll a three-month-old dressed as a bumblebee down the street and then hold out a bag to each resident, saying “It’s for the baby.” If it’s not for the baby, shame on you. If it is for the baby, be prepared to have Child Protective Services summoned.
  • Do not be greedy. One piece of candy per house is enough, though residents may be generous enough to offer you more.
  • Wait your turn. No pushing other, possibly younger and smaller, kids out of the way so you can get your candy first.
  • Say “thank you.” Express nothing but the utmost gratefulness, even if you hate Bit-O-Honeys. Besides, you need trading fodder for later.
  • End at a decent hour. 9pm is the generally accepted time to start winding down.

For residents

  • Advertise appropriately. As the Emily Post Institute states, “If you don’t like Halloween, you don’t have to participate. Either go out for the night (and suffer the TP consequences) or turn off your front lights. Parents will get the message-but some older kids might, too, so be prepared for possible ‘tricks.'”
  • Clear the way. Try to make sure that the path to your front door is as clear as obstacles as possible. Very small children have difficulty walking even in the simplest circumstances, so let’s not complicate things for them more than their baggy costumes already do.
  • Give out individually-wrapped candies only. Don’t be the house on the block giving out apples or fresh-baked cookies. They may be delicious, but they’re also mysterious foods coming from a stranger. Parents will make their kids throw these things away.

Have any trick-or-treating do’s and don’ts to share? Leave them in the comments!

  • error

    Report an error

Tess Shebaylo

Tess Shebaylo is a freelance writer, crafter, history geek, and compulsive organizer. She works at Tumblr and lives in Church Hill with her daughter, Morella.

There are 9 reader comments. Read them.