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!

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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.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Yes! Wear a costume! We have teenagers show up at our door wearing T-shirts, jeans, and shoving CVS bags at us. What the what?

    Naturally I wag my finger at them and tell them to get off my lawn.

  2. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    Dan and I keep rocks at the bottom of the candy bowl. When those non-costumed harbingers of evil show up, we stealthily drop rocks into their bags — this way we don’t have to waste time on a lecture, and we don’t have to give them candy that should rightfully go to costumed kids. Enjoy your rocks, entitled brats!

  3. I like the rock-bottom idea. We stopped giving out candy when we lived in the city because so many of our visitors were not dressed up and it ruined the spirit of the whole thing. It was adults in jeans and T-shirts asking for candy. Uh go buy some, deadbeat. Sheesh.

  4. I may have been guilty of taking a certain 7 month old trick or treating. I may have eaten that candy as well. Sorry!

  5. Belial N Marleys Mom on said:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a baby to a FEW close neighbor’s houses to get just a few treats.

  6. Tess Shebaylo on said:

    @Eric Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    @Belial, etc. Think about what you are asking for: hard sugar sticks for a baby who can’t even eat solids yet, let alone solids that are choking hazards. It is adorable to dress babies up and let neighbors compliment you on how cute they are, though.

  7. Scott Burger on said:

    Look back to the origins of the tradition.

    The idea is that you are bribing strangers with goods so that they will pray for your family and ancestors’ souls.

  8. 9PM?!? Um no.

  9. Susan on said:

    It’s 8pm for us. 9 is WAY too late.

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