Halloween Trick-or-Treating Guide and Etiquette 

Published July 18, 2022
three children Trick or Treating on Halloween

It's been said that trick-or-treating is dying out, but that's not true. The scope and tradition of trick-or-treating have changed over the years, but it's still the spookiest and most fun activity on Halloween night. Although trick-or-treating belongs almost entirely to the kids, all ages trick-or-treat in various ways and places.

When to Go Trick-or-Treating

Halloween trick-or-treating has a storied history. It has traditionally occurred on October 31, which coincides with the Samhain (Celtic new year). The Celts believed that the ghosts of the dead roamed the earth on this night. However, many cities and towns have official trick-or treating hours that fall on a Saturday night, and residents don't trick-or-treat on Sunday. Some also have ordinances forbidding trick-or- treating by teens after 8 pm or even while wearing a mask. Remember that city officials often set a date for Halloween night and may even change the date and time for trick-or-treating due to inclement weather. You should check with your local officials for this information because it varies from city to city.

National Trick-or-Treat Day

In 2018, the Halloween & Costume Association (HCA) launched a national petition to change the date Americans celebrated Halloween. After listening to feedback, they instead initiated an extension to Halloween. National Trick or Treat Day was founded in 2019. The National Day Calendar announced this ghostly celebration would be observed annually on the last Saturday of October.

Where to Trick-or-Treat on Halloween

The "traditional" image of trick-or-treating is costumed children parading down neighborhood sidewalks, ringing one doorbell after another, collecting candy to place in their trick-or-treat buckets and bags. But this takes place mainly in the suburbs. Kids who live in cities often trick- or-treat door-to-door in apartment buildings. Alternatively, some trick-or-treat from store to store in places where small businesses, shopping centers, and even malls offer Halloween goodies. While trick-or-treating is usually considered a fun night for kids, you're really never too old to trick-or-treat. Adult trick-or-treating is usually enjoyed at a costumed pub or house party crawl.

Trunk-or-Treat

brother and sister in back of minivan for Halloween Trunk or Treat

More centralized trick-or-treat gatherings have become popular in rural areas, where houses are more spread out. A recent alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating is "trunk or treat." This is usually organized by neighborhood parents who invite everyone involved to deck out the trunks of their cars with Halloween decorations, fill the trunk with candy, and let the children walk from car to car filling their bags with goodies. Trunk or treating often takes place in church or school parking lots.

Trick-or-Treat Guidance for Parents

Yes, kids are trick-or-treating in different places; some even bring their dogs. But there are safety precautions for Halloween night that parents and other adults should consider.

Have a Dry Run

For young children who are first-time trick-or-treaters, have a dry run. Test out their costume. Make sure they won't be tripping over it and can see and breathe with their mask on. Let them practice saying "trick or treat" and "thank you." You might even want to go for a stroll where you will take them trick-or-treating to familiarize them with the area.

Make Sure Your Trick-or-Treater Can Be Seen

If the kids are younger than five or six years-old, it will be less scary to go out before it's dark outside. But regardless of when you head out, ensure your kids are visible. Carry a flashlight, give each child a small flashlight, and add reflective tape to their costumes.

No Candy Eaten Until Home

This is a rule that parents should be firm on. It's rare for candy to have been tampered with, but you don't want to take a chance. When you return home, go through the candy and dispose of anything that's not appropriately wrapped or seems suspicious. If your child has a food allergy, this is especially important.

Limit the Number of Trick-or-Treaters

Many parents group up and take all their kids out trick-or-treating together. Of course, this can be fun for parents and kids, but ensure that only two or three kids go to the door simultaneously. This way, each child will get attention, and the giver won't be overwhelmed.

Train Your Dog

If you're planning to take your child's dog along while trick-or-treating, make sure he's people-friendly, adequately trained, and desensitized to rambunctious kids, scary costumes, decorations, and situations.

Trick-or-Treat Guidance for Handing Out Treats

mom in witch costume passing out candy on Halloween

If you're giving out treats, send the proper signal. Turn your front porch light on, open your shades, and make sure your house is lit up. When you're done giving out candy, turn off the lights and close the shades.

Make Sure There are No Obstructions

You don't want the kids to stumble over your decorations, so ensure the walkway to the front door and the area surrounding your door are unobstructed and safe.

Don't Be Too Scary

You don't want a five year-old screaming and running away in tears, so tone down the scary decorations. If you wear a costume, make sure it's more fun than frightening. Smile, talk to trick-or-treaters, and be friendly.

Put Thought into the Treats

As much as you might want to, don't pass out homemade treats. It's a good idea to pass out "fun-sized" versions of traditional candy bars. You might even consider putting pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in a jar and letting the kids have fun grabbing a handful. Even younger kids like money.

Halloween Etiquette for Kids

If you don't see the light on, don't ring the doorbell. The person inside may not be home, or just doesn't want to participate in Halloween.

Be Polite

Your friends and neighbors are participating in trick-or-treat festivities because they want to see everyone have a fun time. Always say "thank you" when grabbing a piece of candy and they might even treat you with more. If you're offered candy you don't like, you can either say thank you and take some anyway, or you may also politely decline. If someone leaves a candy bowl on their doorstep, only take a piece or two, so other kids will have some to collect as well.

Be Respectful

When you're going from door to door, don't run across lawns or knock over flower pots trying to beat other kids to the door. Even if you're excited, be respectful and stay on the driveway or path that leads to the front door.

Candy, Tricks, Parties and Merriment

Halloween is an exciting holiday. People of all ages dress up in festive costumes and hit the streets for candy, tricks, parties, and merriment. Most people enjoy a harmless prank, but Halloween can inspire some questionable tricks. If you decide to do the trick aspect of trick-or-treat, keep in mind that it's only a fun prank if everyone is laughing at the end. When it comes to trick-or-treating, go easy and have a Happy Halloween!

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Halloween Trick-or-Treating Guide and Etiquette