Halloween as a Social Contract

I know, I know. November 2nd. Time to stop talking about Halloween and start complaining about people talking about Christmas while being excited about a Starbucks red cup. Life on the internet is tough, people. However, while I was giving out candy on Saturday, I started thinking about just how weird Halloween/trick or treating is and I can’t quite let it go.

Halloween is rife with expectations and really exists as a delicate balance. The basic concept is that kids put on costumes and strangers give them candy. Parents encourage this despite the fact that the 364 days of the year taking candy from strangers in most definitely not allowed.

Some of these social rules and cues might reveal me as an old fashioned fuddy duddy, but whatever. Send me my AARP card*. Some personal context – as a child of the 80s, I remember the rise of tainted candy warnings and the end of homemade treats.

Basic Rules of the Candy Giver:

  • give candy to kids
  • don’t give tainted candy
  • have porch light on
  • tell kids they are cute/scary/etc (optional)
  • be mostly friendly (not optional)
  • turn off light when the candy runs out

Basic Rules of the Candy Taker:

  • wear costume
  • go to houses with porch lights on
  • skip dark houses
  • stay on walkways
  • don’t litter
  • say thank you
  • bonus rule: kids coming should yield to the kids leaving to help keep the groups moving

It is crazy how many failures of this I saw last night. People with lights on who weren’t home, kids throwing candy trash all of yards and the streets, people banging on the doors of people with no outside OR inside lights on… Definite mistakes on both sides of the delicate balance.

That said (and this is where my unfun (before the rebrand yes of course baby boomers are still hip) AARPiness starts to show), what is up with the candy expectations for kids not holding up there end of the bargain? And I don’t mean the shy ones who try to trick or treat and run away at the last minute (candy for you!). And I don’t mean the high school kids who don’t bother to dress up (candy for you! high school sucks). And I don’t mean kids with any sort of medical condition that would prevent making it all the way to the door (candy for you! send your mom).

I mean babies. You know your baby isn’t going to eat that candy. WHY DOES YOUR BABY HAVE A BUCKET? I feel like maybe if the kid can’t hold the treat, the baby doesn’t need the treat. Especially sleeping babies in strollers. I am not saying your baby shouldn’t come. I am not saying your baby doesn’t look adorable. I am talking about the sleeping newborn with no costumed siblings being carried on daddy’s shoulder from door to door. WHY?

And I mean “sick siblings.” Ok mom, you might have had to leave a sick kid at home and take the other kids out. And you might not want to force your kids to share. But do you really think it is appropriate for you to bring a sack door to door and ask for a treat “for sissy at home?” Honestly, I think sissy might be you. If sissy is too sick to go door to door, she is probably to sick to eat the candy. So maybe just go to the store tomorrow and buy her a half price bag. Also, did you know that all the kids behind you over heard you? And asked me for two pieces because of a sick sister at home? They could barely even get the words out without a smirk or laugh.

I love Halloween, but it isn’t just Hallofreecandydayween. I’m like Scrooge, but if Scrooge loved Christmas and hated everyone because they ruined it, not simply greed.


Mustache robot follows the rules.


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