Trick or Treat Etiquette Then and Now

Posted by Judy on Oct 24th 2021

A few years ago, a local supermarket chain was providing trick or treating tips on its paper grocery bags. The tips provided solid guidelines for a safe and responsible Halloween experience. But for some of us who grew up in semi-rural areas in the 1950s, the guidelines bear only a passing resemblance to the approach we took. A comparison:


  1. Always carry a flashlight.
  2. Trick or treat at homes you know.
  3. Stay with an adult.
  4. NEVER eat any treats until your parents have approved.
  5. Avoid homes where lights are turned off.
  6. Do not run through neighbors’ yards. Be respectful.


  1. Flashlights were a good idea, especially when you could use them to light up your faces to scare each other.
  2. Getting lots of candy from strangers was one of the main points of the holiday. (Besides, we knew who most of the so-called strangers were.) Most importantly, strangers were also likely to be more generous than parents – especially if you looked cute in your costume.
  3. Only the tiny kids went with an adult. Once you got to be around 7, you went with the mixed group of big and small kids. Getting away from your parents was another main point of the holiday since it let your candy-gathering go as far as your legs would take you.
  4. Eating a part of your candy while en route cut down on your parents’ rationing it. (“You’ve got so much, you should save some….”). Plus, your mom might want a cut of some of the best stuff. Although some of the very best treats did have to wait until you got home – homemade taffy apples and popcorn balls couldn’t very well be eaten while walking.
  5. Homes where the lights were turned off weren’t worth a second look. They obviously didn’t have any candy so why bother.
  6. Screeching and running through yards was part of the fun. Also most of the yards were less than manicured, so nobody made a fuss.