So, with Halloween just days away, this might actually be a little too late to reach some of you who need to read this the most. Still, I would be remiss to completely skip this very important topic. I’ll forego the more obvious stuff like don’t give away dental floss / toothpaste / apples / raisins / hard bubblegum/ candy corn / Bibles / Playboys / etc., and cover some things that might be a bit lesser known to the public. For instance…
There are seriously at least ten damn peppermints immediately visible in the above picture. Come on! You have to know that this is no good. Unless you’re giving away candy in a neighborhood where all forms of sugar are expressly forbidden, no kid considers this a legitimate “treat.” If this is all you can afford you’re better off just not giving away anything, the kids would rather skip your house anyway.
Giving nothing but hard candy to trick-or-treaters is like selling talcum powder to a cocaine addict.
That salty licorice you discovered during your trip to the Netherlands, the one you fell in love with and thought, “I’m going to introduce this to kids on my street at Halloween and be remembered as the neighbor with the cool international candy!”
Nobody wants that shit, all right. Maybe it’s delicious, maybe it isn’t. Doesn’t matter. It’s unfamiliar, and its name and packaging make it look like some sort of antacid…
Don’t try to get cute or fancy with the goods, okay? Candy shouldn’t look like it should come with a prescription, and it should have a name I recognize. Halloween is not the night to debut some crazy rice-candy you picked up in Japan. It’s not even the night to bust out with perfectly-American-but-still-freaking-weird stuff like Dove Tiramisu or Snickers Almond Dark. You’re doing too much. If you had to order it online or travel more than thirty minutes just to get it then it shouldn’t be in your damn bowl…
3. Don’t Hold the Kid Up
So… one year my mom decided to make my costume instead of buying it from the store. For most kids this would’ve had them looking like Ralph Wiggum with the word “Idaho” written on a sheet of paper taped to their shirt, but my mom was actually pretty outstanding on the arts & crafts, so what came out was the illest werewolf costume any kid has ever worn. I ended up winning the Halloween costume contest at school that year, and it wasn’t even supposed to be a contest, just all the kids getting acknowledged in the auditorium for wearing nice costumes, but then one of the nuns saw me and said, “Holy Moses! Give that kid a trophy!”
Did I mention I went to Catholic school? Yeah, my evil werewolf costume was so awesome even nuns were admiring it.
Grown men saw me in costume and committed seppuku rather than risk being attacked by me.
It was the greatest costume in history…
The costume was too good in fact, bringing me, at long last, back to the point: Don’t Hold the Kid Up.
By the end of the night I ended up with my worst Halloween haul ever because every other place I went to the lady answering the door would fall in love with my costume and demand to take pictures, and sing my mom’s praises when they found out she sewed it, and drag their disinterested husbands in from the living room so they too could see this great costume, and spend the next twenty minutes unsuccessfully trying to talk their husband out of committing seppuku, and then finally giving me a motherfucking Twix.
Listen, kids are only dressing up to get the candy. That’s it. If they wanted to show off the costume they’d go to a costume party. The candy is the objective. If they could just show up in their regular school clothes and still get some free candy from you, they would. So don’t waste the kid’s time telling him or her how much you love the costume. Show your approval with the candy, and then keep it movin’.
Related to this rule is…
4. Don’t Ask “What Are You Supposed to Be?”
This is at least as much for your sake as the kid’s. Believe me. Cartoons and comic books have changed since you were young. There are a LOT more of them now, so just get used to the fact that for every little Batman and Spider-Man ringing your doorbell, there’ll be some spiky-haired kid with a headband wearing a some sort of goofy, karate-ghi / tracksuit hybrid thing. Don’t ask who that kid is supposed to be. You’re not going to be happy with the answer…
“Naruto Uzumaki, ninja warrior? ” Who the hell…?
“Who the hell” indeed…
But… ninjas wear masks. You can’t be a ninja without a mask. You just can’t!
You’re preaching to the choir, brother.
It doesn’t make any sense!
See, this is why I told you not ask…
5. Don’t Demand That the Kid Actually Say “Trick or Treat”
They’re at your door with a mask on and a bag in hand. Just be happy if they don’t say “Your money or your life,” pitch a few snickers in the bag, and keep it movin’.
6. Don’t Go Overboard Trying to Scare Kids
My mom would probably kick me in the shins for sharing this stuff because nowadays she’s devoutly Christian and doesn’t really get down with Halloween, and I respect that. But I’m so sincere when I tell you that there was a time when my mom’s Halloween-skills would punch your mom’s Halloween-skills in the face.
Our crib used to be decked out for Halloween night. We had the fake tombstones in the front yard with dry ice soaking in water behind the graves to produce mist, ultra-creepy recordings playing through the stereo that weren’t even creepy music, but unsettling sound effects and people screaming and shouting out bizarre warnings like “Don’t cross the bridge!!!!”**
One year she also created and dressed these life-sized, mouthless, straw-stuffed dummies with black-button eyes and would have them sitting out on the porch in rocking chairs, waiting for the kids to come pick some candy from the unattended bowl. Mind you, this was all before these Halloween Depot stores that pop up once a year existed, so you couldn’t just go someplace to buy a complete Home Haunting Kit. Most houses had a few cotton-cobwebs strung out over the doorway at worst, and might have a dad dressed in a bad Dracula costume hop out from behind the shrubbery to say, “Blah! Blah!” when you went up to get candy.
My house, we didn’t rely on jump scares. My mom was Alfred Hitchcock with it. She understood atmosphere and suspense, and how to let kids walk away wondering, “Why didn’t the creepy straw-man jump out at me and let me know he’s just someone in a suit who doesn’t really mean me any harm? Oh no, it’s because he’s real. He’s mad I took his candy and he’s going to take my parents away in their sleep as revenge and leave straw-stuffed versions of them behind for me to find in the morning.”
Kids on my block had crazy vivid imaginations…
Anyway, yeah, we’d frequently encounter groups of kids standing at the edge of the driveway, parents trying to reassure them that it was safe to go up and get some candy.
KID: Can you just go up and get the candy for me, mom?
MOM: NO! You can’t make me go near that house! I want to live! Liiiiiiiiive!!!! *ahem* I mean, you’re being very childish, but fine, let’s move on to the next house.
Hilarious when you’re watching this play out from inside the safety of the haunted straw-people graveyard-house, but in hindsight, we always had exceptional candy to give out–at least a 2:1 chocolate-to-hard-candy ratio–so we were cheating those poor kids out of a great haul.
And, you know, potentially scarring them for life as well.
**Note – That is an actual quote from one of those recordings. Twenty years later I still remember exactly how it sounds and let me tell you something, this dude was earnest. I don’t know what was on the other side of that bridge, but he really did not want you to cross it. To this day I’ve yet to cross any bridges at all because the bastard never told me which one he was talking about…