It’s almost Halloween. The world as we know it is now unofficially divided into two kinds of people. There are those who Do the Trick-or-Treat thing — whether to be taking the littles out for some costumed fun and oohs and aahs with the neighbors or staying home to pass out candy. Then there are those of us who, even if we stay in all night on October 31 with the bag of fun-size Snickers we bought for ourselves, know we will be navigating the confines of home by nothing more than the blue-light from our phone screens (so as not to encourage even the most enthusiastic of trick-or-treaters to set one foot on our porches).
For those of you on Team Lights Out, I salute you. Enjoy your solitude; you’ve earned it and have every right to it — and try not to break a toe before it’s safe to turn the lights back on. Right now, it’s Team Lights On I’m looking at. Buckle up. We need to have a little chat about the rules.
Our trick-or-treating children are taught to follow a particular set of rules to make the most of Halloween and ensure the experience remains as pleasant as possible for everyone involved. For the little ones that can’t talk yet or are too shy to ring the doorbell, we will say “Trick-or-Treat” for them with forced enthusiasm, before moving on to the next house and after demonstrating the importance of using our “pleases” and “thank yous.”
For our older children and teens, we’ve likely been working on teaching them that politeness is paramount and that they should nod their heads and smile no matter how much they hate whatever brand of candy is dropped into their plastic pumpkin buckets. After all, they can always use the cast-offs to trade for their favorites during school lunches.
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Our kids know that candy should not be eaten until inspected by a responsible adult, that they should politely form a line behind the youngest of the trick-or-treaters, and to only approach homes if the porch light is on. Those are the rules they follow. Which brings me back to Team Lights On. If you sign up to hand out handfuls of individually wrapped candies to throngs of costumed humans, there are rules you should be following, too.
Let’s review The Rules for How Not to be a Judgmental Halloween Jerk:
1. Nod and Smile
You signed up for this knowing that you will be spending your hard-earned cash on candy you’d never otherwise buy. And, you're doing so for the sole purpose of handing it out every time the doorbell rings and a chorus of voices chants out the expected sing-song request for treats. Your only job tonight is to nod, smile, dole out a compliment or two, and wish each group of kids a heartfelt “Happy Halloween!”
2. Keep Your Mouth Shut
The costumed humans at your door will range in age from babies to parents who dress up for the sake of their kids. For some of you on Team Lights On, there will eventually be kids at your porch who you consider to be “too old” for “this sort of thing. Some of these children may have invisible disabilities. Others will merely be tall for their ages. And yet others will be neurotypical tweens and tweens who genuinely enjoy the holiday and all it entails.
You may even open the front door to find a smiling child presenting as male beaming in their tutu and princess crown, or a female-presenting child proudly dressed up as a mechanic.
Other potential scenarios could include a child who is not dressed up at all, perhaps because they have autism and their sensory issues mean a costume would lead to a meltdown, or maybe because finances are an issue.
None of this is your actual business, so don’t ask.
3. Just Hand Out the Candy
In all of these instances, refer to Rule #1. You signed up for this voluntarily. Nod, smile, and give out the expected candy. No matter what you may be thinking or what your religious beliefs are, keep it to yourself. You expect our kids to be polite, and every parent and child walking the neighborhood to trick-or-treat is expecting — and deserves — the same courtesy from you.
4. It’s About the Kids; It's Not About You
No matter how old, how tall, or what their intellectual, developmental, or physical abilities may be, no matter their gender or their choice of costume or lack thereof, not a single child trick-or-treating on Halloween night should be put in a position where they or the adults in their party have to validate their presence on your doorstep. Refer again to Rule #1. You signed up for this. Feel free to share your thoughts with those of like-mind after the festivities are over for the evening if you must, but please remember that Halloween is about the trick-or-treaters having fun, expressing themselves, and bringing home boatloads of candy.
None of this is about you. Please show respect to every individual on your door for the duration of the evening. Kindness matters.
5. Seriously, No Unsolicited Opinions
If you don’t think you’ll be able to keep your trap shut and feel it’s your right to turn into the Grinch of Halloween by asking invasive questions or sharing your judgments, let me ask you to consider keeping that porch light off.
For those of you who may think any of the above but can commit to keeping your thoughts to yourself for the sake of the children and in the spirit of the holiday, on behalf of every parent who worries what prejudices their child may encounter in situations like this, thank you in advance.
After all, we aren’t there to change your mind. We just want the candy and to have a Happy Halloween.