Halloween is my jam. My favorite childhood TV shows had me convinced that I needed to live in the Addams family’s house and have Beetlejuice as a best friend.
Unfortunately I grew up in a house that was not Halloween friendly. The front door was on the side, down a winding path and through a gate. When I finally moved out of that anti-Halloween fortress and into my grandmother’s house I was super excited! I bought a bunch of decorations so that people would KNOW this was a happenin’ Halloween house.
I got one trick or treater. One. And I had to chase him down and throw candy at him. My soul was crushed.
7 Survival Tips For Winning Halloween
Five years and an apartment later, my husband and I bought a house. When October rolled around I decorated the crap out of my yard. Halloween night I had all the lights on and front door wide open. If I had to be outside with a megaphone flagging down cars like a lunatic, I was going to give out some candy, goddamnit. As it turns out I needn’t have worried. See, without realizing it, I had bought the perfect Halloween house. One street in from the main road, corner lot, lots of sidewalks, and a couple of apartment buildings within walking distance.
I was…not prepared.
Tip 1: Don’t let kids pick their own candy unless you want it walking out by the fistful.
I was so excited when the first princess knocked on my door. I was going to let the Trick or Treaters pick their own candy. Everything was cool until I got a few younger kids. Despite my instructions of “One or Two”, when offered the option of the heaping candy bowl they went total Cave of Wonders and just grabbed fistfuls of the foil wrapped treasures. Some parents stepped in and did damage control. Some just went on their way, their kids seven Fun Size Snickers richer.
Tip 2: Buy more candy than you think you’ll need.
By the time the Trick or Treaters started showing up at 6:15 and by 7:15 I was down to passing out solo Hershey’s Kisses and apologies while my husband had to maneuver the car through the mob to get more candy from the store.
Some of you might be like, “Yeah. That’s when you turn off the lights and pretend not to be home.” But I couldn’t. Because if my years of Trick or Treating had taught me anything it was…
Tip 3: Halloween decorations are a social contract. You got a Jack O’ Lantern? You gotta give out candy.
This really just comes down to not being an asshole. I’d put out the signal with my over the top decor and now the Trick or Treaters flocked to the house like moths dressed like Avengers to the promise of a sugary flame. I knew that no matter what I did, even if we turned off all the lights and pretended not to be home, my doorbell wasn’t going to stop ringing until 10:00. Luckily my husband got back pretty quickly with new bags of candy. Unfortunately, he’d grabbed some pretty random stuff and that’s when I learned…
Tip 4: Kids hate grown up candy.
Apparently beggars can be choosers. My most popular candy were the sour Skittles followed by Snickers. Heath Bars? I found those in my bushes the next morning.
Tip 5: Have non-Candy Treats on hand.
The surprise hit of the evening were some of those chemical glow in the dark bracelets that you snap and shake up. I’d gotten them just so kids who have allergies could get a treat. But they were a requested by all the kids! They look cool AND make kids visible in the dark. I pat myself on the back because I’d successfully included all the different types of Trick or Treaters. Then a boy asked for a treat for his dog.
Tip 6: Dog Trick or Treating is a thing.
I had no idea. I told this bright eyed excited young Spider-Man that I didn’t have any dog treats on hand. He looked so crushed. Like, the treat wasn’t even for him. It was for his dog, who I could see on the sidewalk with the kid’s mom. That dog was having a grand time with all the attention he was getting from passing fairies and Rocket Raccoons. But I can imagine the boy promising his dog he’d get all the treats and here I was, a Halloween Humbug, passing out puppy poison in the form of chocolate to all the non-animal Trick or Treaters.
Tip 7: Give candy to everyone, even if they don’t have a costume.
I had this rule in my head ever since I was a teenager. You don’t wear a costume? You don’t get candy. Like I was going to be some sort of All Hallow’s Eve paladin enforcing the ancient laws of Halloween passed down for generations that required that the kids wear a costume for my amusement before I tossed them a handful of Now and Laters.
But when the first group of kids that didn’t have any costumes rang my doorbell, I couldn’t turn them away. These kids weren’t wearing street clothes because they wanted to.
Teenaged Sally was an asshole. Costumes shouldn’t be a toll one had to pay to participate in Halloween. I happily dropped candy into their crinkly Wal-Mart bags. As they skipped on to the next house, their parents smiled and thanked me profusely.
That’s when I realized that I was lucky. I had a house and a yard to decorate. I was able to go buy ludicrous amounts of candy to pass out, even if there were a few stale Easter chocolates in the mix. Halloween isn’t just about recreating a murder scene on your front yard for fun, or dressing up in a costume you’ll probably only wear once.
It’s about the community, through an unspoken social contract, agreeing to play a game once a year. And goddamnit, I’m going to win Halloween.