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Trick-or-Treating Etiquette

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Like most exciting holidays where we give and receive, Halloween is a tempting time to get so caught up in the occasion we forget our manners. But Halloween has rules of etiquette all its own for candy-givers and trick-or-treaters.

Giving out candy

  • Before sunset, be sure to clear the path to your door of anything that might be hazardous in the dark—electrical cords, wet leaves, bikes, and skateboards can create quite an obstacle course when trick-or-treaters can’t see.
  • You don’t have to give out candy to participate in Halloween. Look for inexpensive party favors like glow sticks, bouncy balls, or stickers. (If you choose to be that family by giving out toothbrushes, don’t be surprised if you hear about it later.)
  • Make sure the families visiting your home feel welcome. More likely than not, they’re your neighbors. Take the opportunity to get to know them by greeting them and asking their children about their costumes.
  • It is perfectly okay to ask trick-or-treaters to slow down or wait their turn if they rush your candy bowl. Alternatively, you can hand one or two pieces of candy to each child.
  • Don’t segregate trick-or-treaters by saving the best for good kids with good costumes. Buy one or two kinds of candy and distribute it fairly.
  • Many teenagers love to go trick-or-treating for a touch of ironic fun. It’s usually best to treat them the same way as other trick-or-treaters. Turn out your lights after 9 pm to avoid older, late-night trick-or-treaters.
  • You are well within your rights to refuse candy to those without costumes.


  • Help your children choose a costume that’s family friendly so they don’t scare younger trick-or-treaters or make candy-givers uncomfortable by showing too much skin.
  • Avoid homes without the lights on or a jack-o-lantern on the front steps. When in doubt, ring or knock only once and move on.
  • Make sure your children say “trick-or-treat” (this holiday’s equivalent of please) and “thank you.”
  • Remind your children to take only one piece of candy at each house, unless they are offered more. It isn’t polite to refuse candy they don’t like.
  • Whenever possible, try to stay on sidewalks and pathways, out of people’s yards and gardens.
  • Keep the volume down between houses and on people’s porches to avoid waking young children.
  • If you live in an unsafe neighborhood, it is perfectly okay to trick-or-treat with a friend or in a family member’s neighborhood. Leaving a carload of kids in an unfamiliar neighborhood is not.

What if you’re tired of Halloween candy lying around the house?

  • Suggest that your children trick-or-treat for UNICEF or some other charity instead.
  • If you get home early enough, you can redistribute excess or unwanted candy to other trick-or-treaters.
  • Put the candy away in a cupboard so no one in the family is tempted to munch on it all day. Set clear rules for when kids can and cannot have candy.
  • Get rid of candy no one in your family likes. There is no reason to keep it around as a temptation when you aren’t going to enjoy it.

What if you don’t celebrate Halloween?

  • An unlit porch light is a relatively universal sign of “no candy here,” but some kids won’t get the message. If you want to completely avoid trick-or-treaters, enjoy an evening out.

What Halloween faux pas really annoy you?

2 responses »

  1. Amen to the scary costumes. So sad to see little ones crying because the ‘Scream’ guy scared them and ruined the night!

    The thing that annoys me most is when older teens, who aren’t dressed or participating really, walk up and want candy. No ‘trick or treats’ and no ‘thank you’s,’ just sulky teenage roamers.


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