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Halloween Witch

I want to send someone to e-hell on behalf of my friend for using “manners” to harm to feelings of a young child. I have no problem correcting egregious behavior from children who are not mine, but as you may see, sometimes special considerations need to be made.

I have a friend who has a young child with apraxia — delayed speech. He is a bright and friendly little boy who is working very hard to learn to communicate, but he’s not there yet. This was the first year he was old enough to go trick-or-treating in his neighborhood. He had fun ringing the bell and holding out his bag while his mom said “trick-or-treat”, explaining his speech delay if necessary. One woman refused to give him candy unless he said, “trick-or-treat” for her. His mom said, “I’m sorry, he has a medical condition and isn’t saying any words yet.” The woman then closed her door in his face.

Let me repeat that: on being informed that a child had a medical condition, this woman closed her door in his face.

Luckily he was having enough fun that his mom just said, “Oooh, let’s go see what they have at the next house” and as far as he cared, that was the end of it. For my friend it took several days of gnawing anxiety about the treatment her son received, and of course, worries about her ability to protect him before she could let it go. It’s hard to believe a grown-up could put her own desire to hear “trick-or-treat” over the feelings of a little boy. 1108-10

{ 104 comments… add one }
  • airlinepass October 31, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I’d also like to ask parents that if it’s possible to walk, not drive along, with your kids while Trick -or-treating. We had an incident where a mother who was following her children in her car ran over a child who was crossing the street. She was so preoccupied with keeping up with her kids she didn’t see the child until it was too late. The child luckily survived with several bruises, thank goodness. Both sets of parents were shaken up though. Parents, please look after your kids. Thank you and Happy Halloween.

  • CorMartin October 31, 2011, 1:40 pm

    @Edhla – I have a few issues with some of the comments you made.

    “it’s not as if she was somehow obligated to give the child candy, so there’s that” – Correct, she’s not obligated. HOWEVER, if this woman chose to participate in Halloween festivities by handing out candy to neighborhood children, then she needs to be fair, or else don’t hand out candy at all. Now if it were any other day of the year and someone knocked on my door asking for candy, then yes, they would get turned away. But on Halloween, if a group comes to you door, you can’t just say ‘Ooh, a firefighter, how delightful, here’s yours. A Unicorn? I’m sorry, I don’t like unicorns. No candy for you.’ If you don’t want to participate, then turn your lights off and don’t answer the door. Plain and Simple.

    “The thing that jumps out at me about this is that the kid didn’t care, but the Mom was devastated. As a disabled person, I remember as a child being upset because my MOTHER was upset by something someone said or did to me.” – I think you missed the part of the story where the LW says her friend redirected the child’s attention in a very positive way. I’m sorry that your mother may have been quite sensitive when you grew up, I know that can be very difficult. However, don’t take a shot at the mother in this story, because she handled it with wonderful grace, and hopefully her son will learn to act with that same grace when he is of the age where he is having to defend himself.

  • Angie October 31, 2011, 2:03 pm

    I would print off a whack of information about his condition, stuff it in an envelope and stick it in her mailbox. Put a note on top saying, “This is why my son could not say trick or treat to you.” It would be too late to stop her from being cruel to that particular little boy, but maybe it would educate her so she wouldn’t do it again. Obviously she has never had any experience with special needs children.

  • Noph October 31, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I’m in my 30s and believe that the Ministry song “Everyday is Halloween” applies to real life! Every since I have had my own place I’ve bought a big bag of “good” candy to give away, and I always offer the adults candy, too. I just love Halloween.
    Last year made me seriously consider discontinuing handing out candy. I had fully grown, not just pre and early teen, people come to my door. No attempt at a costume (which is a big deal to me – I’ve never bought a pre made costume and I’m not crafty but always have something neat like last year I did Flo from Progressive, so I know anyone can come up with something on the cheap.) Ok, you are a big old for this and not in the spirit of the holiday, but this was the final straw – Not only did these people not say trick or treat, there was no please and thank you , which is extremely important! I opened my door to “kids” a foot taller than me saying “GIMME CANDY” with hands out to grab at my bowl (I only allow the very youngest ones to reach in and get their own candy.) I was truly worried I was about to be dealing with a home invasion at one point! After the fourth group of these really too old for the tradition, not in costume, thuggy and RUDE, I turned my porch lights off. I didn’t like feeling like I was being or about to be robbed or that I or my lawn might be in danger if I told these people they had no kids/no costumes, so no candy. In the last year I’ve moved out of the middle of Memphis to a much quieter (read: more boring) suburb neighborhood. I’ve bought candy (my halloween decorations stay out all year, so that was already taken care of) and I’m really hoping that I get some younger children in costumes tonight. I love when kids say trick or treat and am always thrilled to hear the ones that are polite with please/thank you said, too. I don’t think the OP is rude here being upset (even if she and her son were asking for free candy). Some kids are totally overwhelmed by the time they get to the house to house part – what with the costumes and the nervous parents and older kids that want to scare everyone – and some are just to young to grasp the concept of how it works. I’d not have been able from stopping myself from saying “oh look, son, she’s dressed as a witch!” and gone to the next house. That mean woman is lucky that as the tradition of handing out treats dies out from safety concerns, so does the practice of tricks – such as vandalism of the yard of such mean spirited people. I hate the world has become so mean that my street won’t be crawling with kid sized ghosts, witches, power rangers, princesses, and batmans. I hate that those that do show up, their parents must carefullly check each plastic pumpkin full of candy. But if I can’t have the pleasure of seeing how creative the kid (and parents) can be with the costumes and enjoying a night set aside to “play pretend” and get candy, then I’m probably not going to be willing to keep buying candy to feel like I’m being robbed. That lady that refused a small child his treat should hope her neighborhood doesn’t turn like my old one did – I don’t think she’d fare well telling some of the people that came to my door last year they had to say anything!

  • CaffeineKatie October 31, 2011, 2:30 pm

    I agree–that woman was a witch and the mother was a class act! But some of the posters who expect kids to perform or have “guidelines” for who does or doesn’t get candy–SERIOUSLY?!?!?! Just buy a big bag of cheap candy and hand some to anyone who is willing to get off the couch and head outside for even a short walk. No wonder some people think holidays are stressful–they make it so hard on themselves, and everyone they come into contact with!

  • ferretrick October 31, 2011, 2:38 pm

    Some of the comments here are pretty off base, some because they are from international posters, but others just shock me.

    @Edhla-What you may not know about US trick or treating is that it’s optional. The universal signal for “I’m not giving out candy” is to leave your porch light off and people will know not to go to your door. It’s not like kids just knock on your door all night whether you want to participate or not. But if you DO participate, it’s pretty much part of the social contract that you give candy to ALL kids who come to your door-you don’t get to pick and choose for any reason. What that woman did is unspeakably rude.

    As far as others commenting that kids should have to earn their treats-the children are not performing dogs who provide you a free show. They’ve dressed up in costume, and walked all over the neighborhood. If you want a performance, I suggest your local community theater.

    Trick or treat is supposed to be fun, and in the spirit of generosity. If you can’t participate in that spirit, turn your porch light off.

  • WildIrishRose October 31, 2011, 2:43 pm

    I’m pretty sure that I’m the mother who would tell the mothers of all my kid’s friends about this woman, and there would be a HUGE Halloween boycott of her house. Eventually word would get back to her about her unacceptable behavior. And if it didn’t, who cares? I’m not taking my kid to THAT house anyway, ever!

  • Asharah October 31, 2011, 2:45 pm

    @Cobbs, if you don’t want to take your children trick-or-treating because you feel it’s too dangerous, fine. But don’t presume to tell the entire planet to follow your example. Truthfully, the dangers of trick-or-treating have been greatly exagerated. And telling a child never to talk to or interact with strangers just makes the child paranoid. It’s a reality of life that people have to deal with strangers on a daily basis to get along in the world ie store clerks, bank tellers, etc. Making a child afraid to talk to any stranger under any circumstances serves nothing. The best a person can do is exert control of the circumstances and taking your kid trick-or-treating is an excellant opportunity to let your child interact with people under your supervision.

  • Erin October 31, 2011, 2:59 pm

    @ Edhla, I know Halloween isn’t as big in Australia, but in the US it’s generally understood that on Halloween kids will be going door to door asking for candy, and if you don’t want to hand out candy, you leave your porch light off and don’t answer your door. If your light is on, you’re saying “Hey kids! Candy over here!” Basically this woman said “There’s candy here, but not for YOUR kid.”

  • Xtina October 31, 2011, 3:33 pm

    The only time I refused a kid candy on Halloween was the year that I got a second visit from some teenage boys who I had seen just about an hour earlier (and gave candy to them then). I told them, “nice try, but I need to save my candy for the kids who haven’t been here yet”.

    What a horrible woman. The mother and the boy showed a lot of grace. Halloween should be about fun and inclusion, not being asked to perform tricks or be put on the spot. True that kids *should* say something upon the door being opened to them (and say “thank you” after receiving their treats), but the mother explained the situation. This woman was truly the wicked witch of the evening.

  • Ergala October 31, 2011, 4:06 pm

    My two children are on the spectrum. I’m sorry but if someone was that rude to them I would have a VERY hard time not knocking on their door again and giving them a small speech on how to treat those who are challenged/disabled. As for those saying she isn’t “obligated” to give candy, if she had every single intention of giving out candy to the little boy and then changed her mind because he was disabled, um that is completely on her for rudeness. Also for doing a dance or something if you can’t talk, why on earth should my child embarrass themselves for a piece of free .$02 candy for YOUR enjoyment? If you expect something in return for doing something nice, leave your light off. It’s about the kids having a good time and getting dressed up, the costume should be more than enough of a “trick” for you when it comes to little kids.

  • Caper October 31, 2011, 4:07 pm

    I don’t get the idea of making people do tricks, dances and what have you just for a piece of candy. And then even worse – just close the door in the child’s face. If you can’t be nice – don’t participate in the holiday.

    She is the type of person that should have just locked the door, shut out the lights, and go be witchy all by her lonesome. No need to punish others with a nasty attitude.

  • Jay October 31, 2011, 4:07 pm

    @Jojo: “While I agree that the home owner was particularly cruel to a small kid, erm, aren’t kids supposed to do something to earn the treat? That doesn’t have to be speaking – it could be a bit of magic or a dance”

    Um, no?

    At least not in the US, in the last century, as a rule. I’ve never even heard of that. Since you used the word “sweeties”, I’m guessing you’re in a different country, and presumably traditions are different there.. But even in that case, if you consider it appropriate to deny a child (who you’ve been told has a medical condition) a treat unless he dances for you.. you STILL belong in EHell.

  • NotCinderell October 31, 2011, 4:32 pm

    Cobbs, I have been debating whether to answer your comment all day, and I have decided that I’m going to. Here goes, and I hope I do not offend:

    There has been no documented case in the history of the United States, or any other country that I’m aware of, of a child being harmed or kidnapped through trick-or-treating. No documented cases of poisoned candy being given out to trick-or-treaters, no actual cases of needles or razor blades in fruit, no kidnappings, etc.

    If you feel that trick-or-treating is unsafe, it’s your right to feel that way, but there’s no historical precedent to support this.

  • Louise October 31, 2011, 4:33 pm

    “Years ago when my son was small there was a woman in the neighborhood that “required” each child to “perform” a “trick” in order to receive a treat. She would demand some sort of performance such as “jump on one foot for 15 seconds” before she would give a treat. It was very irritating all around. When she demanded my son perform a trick he just laughed, said “no thanks” and walked away without the candy. She called down the driveway, “come back, it’s ok” but to no avail, we let. As we were leaving another group was approaching. When I informed them of the woman’s requirements for earning candy they moved on down the street without a second glance. We never went back to her house in later years either.”

    Where was this neighbour from? It is common in some parts of the world for children to perform a “trick” in order to earn their treat, although the trick is up to the child, not the adult. If the neighbour recently moved to the area, it could be a culture clash.

  • Sarah Jane October 31, 2011, 5:09 pm

    I agree with NotCinderell and Cobbs. I wonder if the little boy’s mom knew anything about this particular neighbor.

    Generally, people who participate in handing out candy to trick-or-treaters do so not only because it’s fun for the kiddos, but it’s fun for themselves. While I’ve been known to sing out “You’re wellllcommmme!” to those kids who don’t bother to say thank you, I don’t insist that they say anything. That would just take the fun out if it, and you may as well keep your door closed and turn your porch lights off.

    On a side note, I’ve known parents who discouraged their kids from saying “trick or treat” because of what they believe to be the origin of the phrase (Give me a treat or you’ll suffer my tricks), so I guess those children wouldn’t get any candy from this nice lady, either.

    I’m glad the little boy had a good time, anyway. I feel sad for his mother…this will likely not be the last time she and her son will be exposed to the cruelty of some people.

  • Angela October 31, 2011, 5:38 pm

    IMHO you should print this column out, along with the answers, and leave it on the woman’s front door. I can’t imagine what she was thinking. I have a child with Down syndrome and live in a relatively small town; everyone is nice and friendly to him. Remember that people like her are the exception, not the rule.

  • Allie October 31, 2011, 5:38 pm

    Terrible behaviour. If you’re going to use Hallowe’en as an excuse to go power-tripping on little kids, the world will be better off if you just shut your light and refrain from participating. I love seeing all the kiddies in their costumes, and lots of them are too little or too shy to say anything. I don’t mind in the least. I just tell them all how amazing they look and fill up their pillow cases.

  • jess October 31, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Cobbs October 31, 2011 at 9:16 am

    That is EXACTLY how I feel about trick or treating. Personally I think it IS am American custon and Australia should not even have it at all, but it is getting more popular here for some reason. I cannot believe people teach their kids, dont take lollies from strangers, dont go to peoples houses or get in cars if you dont know the person, destroying other peoples things is bad, blackmail is bad……………and THEN let them go to a strangers very doorstep to demand lollies or they will cause damage? My husband works with a man just recently moved to Australia from America and he said he doesnt like it either and never let his kids go. He told of all the hospital visits for kids who had eaten lollies laced with poison or had thumbtacks or razorblades in them, even wrapped lollies can have poison injected. I know in America its more engrained and if I ever moved there I would hand out ‘candy’ at halloween but still never ever let my kids participate, BUT is it REALLY worth it? there are some sickos out there, and to me the whole idea is plain rude. You want ‘candy’? have a halloween party and have bowls of it.

  • jess October 31, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Sorry about my spelling, I am having a bad morning 🙂

  • Kay October 31, 2011, 6:11 pm

    @Edhla: If the lady had her porch light off and her house undecorated, and wasn’t answering the door, then you are right, she didn’t owe anybody and candy. However, if you decorate and turn on your porch light, that is an invitation. Then you pretty much do owe any child who comes to your door some candy unless they really do something awful like spit on you. To call that woman a selfish cow is an unreasonably nice name for what she really is.

  • Jenn50 October 31, 2011, 6:19 pm

    JoJo, in our area, and indeed, anywhere I have ever lived, there’s no expectation of “earning” the treat other than being polite. “Supposed to” is a relative term and varies from one region to the next. I have no problem with someone choosing not to hand out candy, but withholding it from a child for no other reason than their disability while handing it out to other children is cruel.

    Cobbs, I’m not teaching my kids to trust strangers. I use events like Hallowe’en to have conversations about evaluating interactions. Such as, “How did you feel about Mrs. Smith hugging you? You know, it’s always okay to say ‘No, thank you.’ when someone does that, even if they give you candy.” or “Those people don’t have their lights on. Maybe they don’t celebrate Hallowe’en. Let’s not bother them.” or “Did you notice how we didn’t go inside that man’s house? It’s not a good idea to go inside a stranger’s home, especially without me or Daddy.” If you teach kids never to knock on a stranger’s door, they have no way of getting help if they’re lost, or need help. It’s much better to teach them how to recognize when something makes them uncomfortable, and how to honour that feeling, and get out of a situation safely. It makes more sense to create opportunities to experience that while I’m with them. And in our relatively small community, there are few homes occupied by complete strangers, and literally HUNDREDS of children on Hallowe’en night. You couldn’t cause harm to someone without dozens of witnesses, making it a pretty safe environment for a parent to teach those lessons.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson October 31, 2011, 6:28 pm

    Erm, Leigh… Please don’t use ‘witch’ when you mean ‘b!tch.’ It’s very offensive to the thousands for whom Witchcraft is our spiritual path. What you call Halloween we call ‘Samhain,’ a Celtic (Irish, Scots) word meaning ‘summer’s end.’ It’s sort of like a cross between Thanksgiving and a wake, and is one of our most special occasions.

  • Leslie Holman-Anderson October 31, 2011, 6:33 pm

    And to Wild Irish Rose and Jilly — please read what I addressed to Leigh. While the Witch image in anglophone cultures is fairly negative and unlikely to change much, it’s still not a synonym for b!tch.

  • KitKat October 31, 2011, 8:19 pm

    Wow; just wow. We just got done with trick or treat here and we had several real little ones (around 2ish) but everyone was really polite overall (including the parents!). We tried to get “trick or treat” out of them but if it didn’t happen, “thank you” sufficed. And one little one was more interested in finding the doorbell so we showed him and he rang it.

    Has the OP’s friend considered sign language so that her son could learn to “say” “trick or treat”? Personally, I think it would reduce the pressure of him having to talk. (That would be my dorkiness for my major coming out.)

  • Purselane October 31, 2011, 8:58 pm

    The whole practice of encouraging kids to ask candy from strangers is kind if whacked anyway but I did it as a kid. I was kind of a shy kid but lucky I can’t say that I ever encountered anyone this nasty. When I pass out candy at our local Trunk or Treat, I notice lots of shy kids and I usually just say hi and make over their costume. Sometimes I get a shy “thanks” and sometimes I don’t. I’m not going to lose sleep over it when I don’t. I have fun, too, and I’m not going to traumatize a little kid just because I don’t think they are observing proper etiquette.

  • Louisa October 31, 2011, 9:46 pm

    As an Aussie who as previously mentioned does not celebrate Hallowe’en, I can’t agree with the idea that you shouldn’t go door to door (with an adult safely supervising). It seems such a nice custom to me, that involves the community and teaches kids to engage with their neighbours. Yes, life can be dangerous, but if kids are supervised, they don’t have to miss out on fun activities and they can learn that most people are good people. Unlike the rotten cow in this story, of course.

  • Yuki October 31, 2011, 11:43 pm

    That…is an example of a REAL witch! I am an autistic, and I know all too well the communication difficulties some kids have to face. I hope karma catches up with her someday!

  • Rica November 1, 2011, 1:15 am

    In our neighborhood, we don’t have very many children, and most years we only get one or two trick or treaters at our door. I couldn’t imagine turning one away for any reason, even if we got hundreds. I’ve had enough problems as an adult with people misunderstanding an “invisible illness”, I would never put a child through that, and especially not on a holiday that’s for the kids in the first place.

  • Lady Antipode November 1, 2011, 1:38 am

    Just to clear up a few things, while it may not be traditional in the US for children to earn treats, it is in other parts of the the world – the Oxford Words blog says “Halloween conjures up lots of lovely childhood memories for me. We didn’t go trick or treating, we went guising, but the basic premise was the same – we would dress up and visit neighbouring houses, but in order to be rewarded with sweets or small amounts of money, we had to sing for our supper (or do impressions in my case, as that was my particular party piece). Tricks didn’t enter the equation. At parties, we bobbed for apples, tried to eat treacle scones suspended from the ceiling, and did our best to be as ghoulish and scary as possible.”

    The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘guise’ as “an external form , appearance, or manner of presentation, typically concealing the true nature of something” and ‘guiser’ as “a mummer in a folk play performed especially at Christmas or Halloween.”

    From what I understand, the idea of ‘guising’ originated in an effort to mislead the ghouls that walked on Hallowe’en into thinking you were one of them, and so they would leave you alone. Hence the idea of dressing up in scary costumes, and the giving of treats in order to appease the bad spirits that were abroad (as represented by the dressed-up children).

  • Angeldrac November 1, 2011, 4:01 am

    This is one of those stories that I would really like to know the other side of. This woman’s behaviour is just too weird and inconsiderate to be believed. Did the woman mishear the mother? Did she think she was being lied to? Did she have some sort of mental health problem? It’s too bizaare

  • Xtina November 1, 2011, 9:07 am

    @Cobbs: I think the tradition of Halloween trick-or-treating is dying a slow death. Every year, there seem to be less and less kids who go out—not that many years ago, the streets were literally full with kids walking around in costumes, and almost no matter where one lived, they could count on having a few trick-or-treaters (at least in my part of the southern U.S.). I don’t know if it’s a result of it or a cause of it, but there are far, far less homes handing out candy as well—I guess the two play off each other to the effect of less trick-or-treating, at any rate.

    I believe in this day and age, people are either too busy, too broke, or too scared to participate in Halloween anymore. The problem with opening one’s home to supposed kids is that you might get a surprise knock on the door from an assailant on a night when they would surely have the element of surprise; likewise, it would be every parent’s nightmare for a kid to ring the doorbell at a home, and be snatched/harmed by the home’s occupant or be handed tainted candy. However, as NotCinderell pointed out about candy, there haven’t been any documented cases of such a thing, and I’ve never heard of anyone getting harmed or kidnapped during trick-or-treating, either.

    It is your choice to not participate, but the practice of trick-or-treating is not, in my opinion, at odds with safety lessons we teach our kids. Parents should take the time to accompany kids when they go trick-or-treating to ensure safety, and teach the kids a valuable lesson about how to evaluate and approach strangers at an appropriate time. As others have mentioned, Halloween is also a nice community-building exercise–I feel that there are a lot of communities in this country that could use a little of that these days.

  • Xtina November 1, 2011, 9:11 am

    Sorry, forgot to add one more thing about the supposed dangers of knocking on a stranger’s door at Halloween–as a general guideline, I’d think a would-be criminal would be pretty stupid to harm someone that knocked on the door of their own home–everyone knows where they live! 🙂

  • Rebecca November 1, 2011, 9:28 am

    I’m pretty appalled at some of the posters here. It’s trick or treat, it’s supposed to be fun. In the US, as someone else mentioned, leaving your porch light is a sign that you are participating, and as such you are accepting the social obligation of passing out candy. It isn’t part of our tradition that children must perform to receive their treat… I’ve actually never heard of that before. By not holding up her end of the transaction due to the child’s challenge, this woman proved nothing but that she discriminates against those with disabilities. And honestly, based on her behavior I don’t think it would matter if a child were obligated, in this country, to perform for her. Her issues were with his inability to speak and it therefore stands to reason that she wouldn’t have held up her end in any case.

    Those of you were have been defending her should be ashamed of yourselves. There is no excuse for that.

    As for Halloween being dangerous… of course it is, if you don’t use your head. You go in your neighborhood and/or surrounding streets, you go with your children, and you check the candy. It’s really not that difficult to ensure a safe Halloween for your children. There have actually been documented cases of tempered with candy (although I don’t know about apples with razor blades, but I don’t allow my children to eat any fruit received anyway), but that’s why you stay in familiar areas and check the candy. I had a chat with my 6-yr old mid trick or treat last night about how confusing it was for him that he’s not supposed to take candy from strangers, but that trick or treating was okay, and he understands that it’s a special thing. So it’s not like people are ignoring the odd nature of this custom.

    I get so frustrated with adults who behave in this way. It’s not about YOU, it’s about and for the kids. Get over yourself and just have fun with it.

  • Chocobo November 1, 2011, 9:30 am

    I don’t see a problem with trick-or-treating, really. If everyone understands the rules it is like any other special event — we know and understand that holidays have special rules that do not apply to the other days of the year. Like staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve, or getting many gifts on Christmas.

    In my opinion it is not teaching your kids to talk to strangers or go to stranger’s houses. Halloween is a supervised holiday that is done in local neighborhoods and in groups, and most importantly, with a neighborhood-wide participation — that is a very different scenario from ordinary life. I think children know and understand this. Personally, I grew up trick-or-treating in my neighborhood but also had a healthy fear (still do!) of talking to or going with strangers, or going out at night.
    One could make the case that no one should going caroling at Christmas either using the same argument 🙁

  • Syd November 1, 2011, 9:32 am

    “My husband works with a man just recently moved to Australia from America and he said he doesnt like it either and never let his kids go. He told of all the hospital visits for kids who had eaten lollies laced with poison or had thumbtacks or razorblades in them, even wrapped lollies can have poison injected. ”

    He’d be wrong:
    There is little evidence of this kind of widespread mayhem. Although it’s widely *believed*, it’s not based on facts and it’s unhelpful to spread that kind of groundless scaremongering. There have been concrete instances of tampered food (razor blades, pins etc.) but although disturbing, it’s certainly not causing an epidemic of maimed children every October. It’s probably made worse by irresponsible media coverage.

    I agree somewhat that imported trick-or-treating doesn’t always settle well in places where it’s not traditional, as many of the subtleties are lost (the ‘lights on’ thing for instance; where I am, most houses don’t have porches or even outside lights, and although no lights will probably be interpreted as ’empty house- don’t bother’, it doesn’t seem to be a rule), but argue against it on its own merits or lack thereof.

    There is a double-sided problem, I think: it’s sad to see all Hallowe’en customs derided as American tastelessness when there are traditions like guising or Punkie Night, which either go ignored or are dismissed as ‘imported’ and false; but the growing popularity of half-hearted US-style T&T’ing might be swamping those traditions in places where they still endure.

  • Chocobo November 1, 2011, 9:39 am

    I’d like to add a request to please stop overanalyzing the phrase “trick-or-treat”. It is the conventional phrase used in the United States. It is not a real threat for extortion of sweets, for the love of Pete.

  • livvy17 November 1, 2011, 10:01 am

    At Jess & Cobbs: as another poster mentioned, there is NO documented evidence of poisoned/razorblade filled candy. This is an urban legend. These generally aren’t random strangers, either….these are your neighbors. Normally, in the US, the parents will walk along with the younger children, often saying hi to the neighbors, as the children visited. I’ve met a lot of my neighbors this way. In many instances, they’ve had a cookie or a cup of coffee for the adults on offer as well. (Something I try to do, when I’m the parent at home handing out the candy.) Although we do say “Trick or Treat,” there’s no intention of malice if someone doesn’t participate. I find it heartbreaking that you would feel the need to instill even more fear into your children (and others) than is already present in our fear-mongering world. If you don’t want to take part, don’t….but don’t try to ruin the fun and social opportunity that others might enjoy.

  • Enna November 1, 2011, 10:12 am

    This woman was appalling in her behaviour. Children are sometimes shy or are very softly spoken. I hope someone played a trick on her – not a nasty one, maybe some toliet paper through the letter box. I fyou are going to to give sweets out you give them out to all or none. Children should be polite but that also depends on age, character, how shy or excited they are and if they have any conditions like in this event. Now if the woman is so pig headed not to see that then she is behaving worse then a naughty child!

    When I was at secondary school I got bullied and our house would get egged by the losers on Halloween: they couldn’t be bothered to learn at school and their parents just let them go loose and encourage them to stay out until late by giving them moterised scooters and mopeds etc. Clearly Mum was on the phone to the school about it and even contacted the police, okay the police weren’t going to do anything but at least they were aware of who was causing trouble in the neighbourhood: one of the things Dad mentioned is the way the boys would climb up on to the garage block roof which wasn’t safe (the garages were built in the 70s, so are too small for many modern day cars, anyone one who fell through the roof of an empty garage wouldn’t be found for days). One neighbour actually got the entire street to sign a petition about them and the police resonped to this.

    Clearly the bad behaviour did put my parents off Halloween during that time but this year Mum decided to decorate the front pourch and put jack o lanterns out for some fun. She got a big saucepan and filled it with porriadge oats and burried sweets in it. It was very popular with the children and they enjoyed it, inlcuding the older ones. Although there was no one over the age of 14 who came round. The younger ones were supervised. Although what was funny is one boy rang off with a toy bird that made a noise mum was using for decoration – she was showing him and he ran off. I went out and called to the parents who gave it back and aplogoised. I did say he could get a sweet if he wanted to but they were too embrassed. All children were polite. The first one we had his mother explained it was his first time, he was shy and he did say thank you, Mum found him lovely and showed him what to do. It was intersting the number of times we had to explain to the children that it was nothing nasty – only oats. One child said he didnt like the toffee he got so I got him a different one, of course they all wanted the same which was fine.

  • ElegantErica November 1, 2011, 10:19 am

    My sister was in a very bad accident when she was about nine years old. She was wheelchair bound for several weeks, during which Halloween occurred.

    Many houses had steep curbs, and therefore many times I couldn’t get her chair up to the houses to ring the doorbells. I was fourteen years old myself (but I was quite tall and looked much older), and unfortunately wasn’t wearing a costume. I would go up to the houses and ring the bell for her, letting the homeowners know that I wasn’t there for myself… as you can see there is a cute little witch in a wheelchair out by the mailbox at the street… the candy is for her.

    Most were quite nice about one. One lady did basically the same this as the piece of work from this post. [i]If she can’t make it up here to ask herself, then I’m not giving YOU candy for her.[/i]

    I never told my sister about that… she didn’t need to know.

  • Jay November 1, 2011, 10:33 am

    @Jess: “He told of all the hospital visits for kids who had eaten lollies laced with poison or had thumbtacks or razorblades in them, even wrapped lollies can have poison injected”

    None of which ever, EVER, made the news? Sorry, but that just doesn’t happen. Anyone doing that would be ridiculously easy to catch, since you were AT THEIR HOUSE. You might as well tell children that they need to eat their peas or the goblins will steal them away in the night. Yes, I’m calling your third-hand information a pack of lies.

    And there’s no real “give me a treat or you’ll get a trick.” Saying that this is a form of blackmail just shows that you/Australians/whoever really don’t have any idea about what happens on Halloween in the US… which makes me wonder why people are posting at all.

  • Psyche November 1, 2011, 10:36 am

    In my area, there was a story of an incident in an Olive Garden where the police were called. A man got irate that son of the guy at the table next to him-who was autistic-was acting up. The man got up and yelled at the father of the autistic kid to, “shut that brat up”. The father politely told him, “My son is autistic, he can’t help it.” Angry man then retorted, “F**k your autistic son,” and punched him in the neck. Angry man was arrested for assault. Pick your battles, people.

  • Yvaine November 1, 2011, 11:26 am

    As far as I’m aware, the only kids who were ever harmed by “trick or treat candy” were actually harmed by people they knew, who were harming them for other reasons and using ToT to cover it up. The case I’m aware of involves a family member who killed a child for insurance money by tampering with pixy sticks. It’s absolutely terrible, but it was done in the family’s own home and not by one of the ToT candy givers at all.

    And no, “trick or treat” is not generally a threat in the US. When i was really little, I remember a few homes that wanted us to sing or tell a joke or turn a cartwheel. By the time I was getting too old for ToT, even that had fallen by the wayside. Trick or Treat is just the “ceremonial” thing you say when you go to someone’s house for candy. It’s like saying “Happy Halloween,” which some people say instead.

  • AMC November 1, 2011, 12:31 pm

    I noticed last night while handing out candy that some kids, especially the younger ones, are shy or they get nervous and forget what to say. I smiled and gave them a gentle reminder (“What wonderful costumes! What are the magic words?”) But whether they said it or not, I would never deny them candy. They way I see it, it’s not about me and my amusement (though I do get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the kids in costume and having fun); Halloween (at least the ToT part) is about the kids having a good time and making fun memories. Let them have their fun and stop expecting them to perform like trained moneys.

  • Southern Angel November 1, 2011, 1:34 pm

    “We teach our children, and rightly, not to trust strangers and then send these same children up to strangers’ doors to take candy. Not good. Have neighborhood parties. Have extended family parties. Do a “trunk” party at church or school. Never knock on the door of a stranger.” by Cobb

    This is preciously why my kids didn’t trick or treat until they were about 8 or 9 years old. Once we had moved to a small town, and knew just about everybody there, that was when I allowed my kids to trick or treat. I think all total my kids went trick or treating maybe three or 4 times.

  • Stace November 1, 2011, 1:37 pm

    Our new neighborhood is apparently awesome for trick or treating. Full sized candy-bars, mini haunted houses set up in the yard, candy-givers also dressed up.

    The kids had a blast, and obviously, so did the grown ups.

  • Library Diva November 1, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Good for you, Lilac. Halloween is supposed to be a joyful and generous time. I give candy to almost all comers and I’m happy to do so. Better that older kids are trick-or-treating instead of getting into trouble, or even sitting at home texting. The lack of a costume doesn’t really bother me either. We get so few opportunities to be kind and generous with one another without having it seem suspect somehow. On one night a year, anyone who knocks on my door between 4 and 9 p.m. and asks for a 2-cent piece of candy will get it. Even if they can’t ask verbally.

  • --Lia November 1, 2011, 4:37 pm

    Halloween is alive and well in my neighborhood. It’s such a tradition that when the weekend’s heavy snow knocked out electric power, we all decided to move the day to this Thursday.

    Here’s the way it works. As others have mentioned, if you don’t want to give out candy, you leave your porch light off. Then … The smallest children come with their parents to the front door. They’re reminded to say trick-or-treat and thank-you. The adults chat for a second about where they live and the welfare of the dog. When the kids are a little older, the parents accompany them up the walk but let the go up the steps and ring the bell themselves. The parent is still visible and still gets a hello from the neighbor. When the kids are 10 years old or so, the parents stay on the sidewalk watching but don’t go with the kids to the door. They get waved to. After about age 10, the children go in groups of 3-4. The parents are somewhere on the block but aren’t supervising closely. If a child that’s too young goes unaccompanied, everyone who answers the door demands to know where the parent is and gives the kid a talking-to about wandering off.

    To the best of my knowledge, no one published these rules. They just happened naturally. I think it’s terrific that the kids learn independence little by little in age-appropriate increments.

    As for Halloween being dangerous– Yes to the Snopes article. The danger is not poisoned candy. The danger is in kids walking at night where they can be hit by cars. When I was a kid, costumes had masks. Now they have make-up. It was too dangerous for the kids to have their peripheral vision blocked.

  • Edhla November 1, 2011, 7:04 pm

    Cormartin and everyone else,

    As mean as it may make a person, they are not obligated, ever, to give candy to any and every person who knocks on their door and demands it. Not even if their porch light is on and their door is open. I don’t take those signs as “regardless of who you are or the way you behave, I am absolutely obligated to hand out sweet treats to you.”

    Is it etiquette? Absolutely not.

    Is it mean? Yes.

    But people here are practically saying the woman needs to be dragged out and shot for this. She had candy and she chose who to dispense it to. Last I checked the right to receive candy on Halloween is not protected by law, not even if someone’s porch light IS on.

    And like I pointed out before (which was, I feel, almost deliberately twisted as an attack on the mother): the kid didn’t care. If the incident had left a crying child and a ruined Halloween, that’s truly awful. Since the kid didn’t care, no harm, no foul. The fact that this hit the internet indicates a great deal of emotional damage to the mother, which in turn can and often does trickle down to the kid.

    If a homeowner chose to not give treats to a child because they didn’t like their costume, or they didn’t like the kid, or whatever- mean? Yes. But let’s not overreact here. This kid knocked on a lady’s door, the mother asked for treats for her kid, the woman shut the door. She didn’t verbally insult, berate, abuse or yell at anyone. She didn’t slam the door, call the police, or anything that might truly make her a candidate for one of the neighbourhood’s most mean-spirited people.

    And where does this stop? If participating in Halloween means you absolutely HAVE to give treats to anybody who knocks on your door, what if those people are 30? What if they behave in a threatening way? No costumes? What if the kid had, instead of saying nothing, screeched “GIMME CANDY, LADY! LOTS OF CANDY!” What if he had a behavioural disorder and acted out? Is this magical light-on business really an indication that you must give candy to one and all? It just sounds really entitled to me that once that light goes on, the homeowner now does not have a choice.

  • Jays November 1, 2011, 8:49 pm

    What Rebecca said.

    I escorted my two (3 and 6) around our neighborhood last night. The little one was really into chirping “Trick or treat!” this year and holding out his bucket. His older brother (who has a disability and doesn’t speak clearly) rarely spoke, and would sometimes hold out his bucket and sometimes not. Soon, the little one would take a piece of candy and drop it in his brother’s bucket. 🙂 Most people thought it was unbelievably sweet that he was looking out for him … some even gave him extra.

    We didn’t go to any house that didn’t leave a porch light on (as I was taught as a child). In fact, most of the houses with lights on also had adults hovering in the door, waiting to see the costumes and hand out the candy.

    And you know … even if someone left a light on only by accident … it’s easy to politely say, “I’m sorry, we don’t observe Halloween.” This happened to me once as a child when a (new) lady down the street accidentally forgot and kept her light on. We apologized and carried on.

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