I love Halloween.  I loved it as a kid and I love even more now.  I love trick or treating.  I’d probably still go trick or treating now that I’m in my 20’s if I had someone with whom to go and wasn’t shot accusatory looks loaded with suspicions of pedophilia when stalking down the street dressed all in black and wearing a mask.

But I digress.  Seeing as it’s been a few years since I’ve been among the costumed masses demanding treats upon penalty tricks, I’m not sure if the same guidelines apply to today’s trick or treating tradition that applied in the hay day of my carefree youth when there was no fear of the Large Hadron Collider destroying the universe.  Whether you’re a lonely shut-in anticipating a night full of meddling kids, a parent to a candy-starved child, or a creepy middle-aged to elderly single person disguising your evening prowlings as trick or treating, there are a few rules I remember from my youth that, if applied to your Halloween, should make for a delightful Halloween night for all (except Scientologists because their houses will more than likely get egged no matter what):

- Don’t leave out a bowl, bucket, or basket with a sign reading “Please Take One” and expect anyone to adhere to it, because nobody will.  If you’re foolish enough to expect that to work, you deserve to lose it all.  I’ve seen, and been involved in plenty of cases, where the entire bowl has been emptied thanks to one rambunctious youth.  This is a lose-lose situation because it A) makes you look like a lazy ass who may as well have written “I don’t give a damn about this day or you kids, so don’t bother me” and B) will guarantee that some adorable 2 or 3-year old out on his or her first trick or treating experience dressed as a cuddly bunny will begin to mist up when he or she sees some obnoxious 12 year-old empty the entire bowl in one foul swoop.  Do you want the tears of a 2-year old on your conscience?  Because I sure as hell wouldn’t.  That being said…

- Don’t empty the entire bowl unless you can get away with it.  Near the end of the night when the streets are sparsely populated, emptying the “Please Take One” bowl is a safe move that will pad your stash and ensure unused candy isn’t thrown away.  This technique is significantly difficult when trick or treating in apartment buildings in inner cities where your actions are in full view of the rest of the hall and will more than likely result in your being beaten to death by an angry parent/child combination behind you.

- Don’t give out healthy food, tracts, or anything but sweet, sweet candy.  For many kids, this is the one night of the year when they can load up on tooth-rotting, stomach-churning, unhealthy, sugar-covered deliciousness that they’ll have to ration for the rest of the year.  If you shortchange these kids with granola bars, fruit, pocket change, or tracts on Scientology (yes, I’ve received tracts instead of candy before) then you deserve to be punched in the face repeatedly. 

- Don’t give out candy corn.  If you really want to give children something this shitty, you may as well just take a dump in their bag.

- If you’re out of candy or want to be left alone for the rest of the evening, don’t leave the light on that hangs over your front door.  Leaving this light on, no matter how late, is the equivalent of hanging a neon “Open” sign in your window.  I’ve rang door bells as late as 10 o’clock because the front light was on and that, to me, signaled they were open for business.  On that note…

- Don’t ring the doorbells of people who have no Halloween decorations, no exterior illumination, or both.  They are either A) not home, B) assholes that hate you or C) Scientologists.

- If you are home and can clearly be seen through the window, then do answer the door.  I’ve had cases where a person watching TV looked me straight in the eye, and didn’t move a muscle off the couch.  That’s rude, demeaning and may result in your house being egged and/or rumors being spread about you that you eat babies while dressed in human skin masks and watching Triumph of the Will.

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Do put some effort into your costume.  Even if you end up looking like Charlie Brown’s ghost did, at least you tried.  When I was in middle school, I went trick or treating with my older brother and his friend – both dressed in plain clothes – and he claimed he was a boy with cancer when one elderly chap asked what he was.  That’s not only a viable excuse to withhold candy, it’s a viable excuse to get your ass kicked.

- Do give kids some variety.  The houses most remembered are the ones where the man or woman answering the door held out a bowl filled with an array of options.  Believe it or not, some kids don’t love chocolate and will opt for the mini Starbursts or Twizzlers instead of the fun-sized Snickers of which trillions of houses seem to have an arsenal. 

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But the final and most important of all is DO have trick or treating on October 31st.  I’m looking at YOU, Pennsylvania.  I don’t know who thought of the brilliant idea to hold Halloween festivities on some other day, but it’s a stupid idea.  I went to college in PA for 4 years and never once did I see kids trick or treating on Halloween because it “fell on a school night and they didn’t want kids being out late.”  Hey, I got an idea: let’s give rabies shots to the Easter Bunny, eat spam on Thanksgiving, and ban alcohol on New Year’s Eve. 

Jim Rohner tries to justify his college degree by blogging for Zoom In Online.