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Tuesday, 01 November 2011


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I'm living in France and when I came home from work, I saw a group of kids all dressed up for Halloween walking around our apartment block. And of course I had no treats!

So I dutifully went down to the store and bought three bags of treats... but they never arrived! I went downstairs and did a quick walk from block to block to try and find them because their costumes were really great. But no luck!

I guess they haven't carried over that tradition over here yet.


Me (to an adorable three-year-old dressed as some sort of princess): "Would you like a Three Musketeers, a Kit-Kat, or a Heath bar?"

Kid (quietly): Yes.

Programmer jokes from a three year old? A natural!

In the vein of Halloween pictures -- I liked the one that Paul Krugman posted a few days ago -- a real live six year old confidence fairy! (I read Krugman in the same morning rush with TOP and now Kirk Tuck.)


"This year I decided I wasn't going to begrudge the kids who were too old, either."

Too old? I was on West 69th in Manhattan, a street which goes all out. Trick or treaters young to old. No one cares how old you are or what neighborhood you came from -- even jerky upper east siders get candy.

A tradition like this looks very different if you haven't yourself shared in it as a child. English children, until say the 1970s, had "penny for the guy" - now fully defunct - as our only sanctioned opportunity for childish extortion (and pyromania ).

Trick-or-treat has since been an exotic import to the UK, where we are still (many of us) still rather self-conscious and suspicious of it. In another generation, it may become normal. The area of London where I live does house a noticeable American population (noticeable around July 4th and Halloween, anyway) who enjoy showing us how it's done.

Can I have the remaining candy bars? I mean you're on a diet - aren't you?

After reading your this Halloween post above, I just love this site EVEN more.
Mike Johnson you are a great kind of person - I really mean that sincerely.

Like you, we gave full size candy bars, but had mints as a back-up.

Our head count was way up this year, too (mostly swarms of teens, much too old to T-N-T, and should know better). I quickly determined that our bar supply would be depleted and implementeded a 'the bigger you are, the smaller the treat' rule. A teen got a mint and a kid got a bar. No one seemed to mind.

Best comments: Some 'bigger' little kids, after they got their bar, ran from the house screaming "You are the best... this is the best house on the block...WOW!" and a Dad asked if I worked for one of the large candy makers... HA!

Great fun... will do it again, next year!


My wife and almost-four year old negotiate over what of his haul he can eat right away.

> I think our neighborhood must be known as a good destination for
> non-neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

That's great! In our neighbourhood, there's a street that puts on a haunted house and holds a block party so no one stays on our street. We took candy in a bucket to hand out. It was our son's first Hallowe'en and he really enjoyed it (on the way home one of the stores was even handing out free ice cream).

Hear, hear for not "begrudging old kids". I muttered under my breath at a couple last night, but yours is a much better attitude.

You can borrow a photo from my blog if you want Mike. They are somewhat spooky. We had no trick or treaters. My house is spooky without me even trying. In fact the town was very quiet last night. I didn't see anyone out.

208! Santa Madonna!It's just catching on here in Australia. Last year got no-one, this year 3. Must be ready next time. There are a lots of grumps going on about US culture invasion (as if they were planning to do something more Australian that night) but my boy loves it and I'm all for it. It gets condemned by some christians as statanic so it gets my vote again. UnAustralian and possibly powered by the devil? Better than Christmas.

Just curious, but what age do you call too old. I had an argument with my wife last night. I said we didn't go out once we'd reached 10 or 11 years old she said they went out well into their teens. All started because grandson, 12 years old, refused to dress up and go out.

Incidentally we collected money (Northern Ireland) We would have been most upset if offered sweets or nuts.

Paul Mc Cann

I see Mike running round the neighborhood in a jogging suit to work of some extra kilo's due to overeating on Musketeers, KitKats (we have those crunchy devils in Europe too) and Heath Bars.

Greeting, Ed (who cycles + photographs to keep his appetite in check)

Mike, we got a total of 12 whippersnappers this year.

Not as much fun as I had hoped; once again my wife refused to let me put the claymore mines in the front yard.

We gave out the "snack sized" candy bars; each little blackmail artist was allowed a handful; since we paid $10 per bag it appeared for an hour or so that it would have been cheaper just to hand out a dollar bill to each ragamuffin. (Chocolate Ex-Lax was on my shopping list but once again the wife intervened. Sometimes that gal is no fun at all).

Halloween has changed in our neighborhood; the little extortionists-in-training are swept off to the local mall (presumably to stake out their favorite retailers from whom the little dears will be shoplifting in only a few, short years), or to "trunk trick or treats" where adults fill their automobile trunks with candy and then dole it out in the city parking garage in a (probably) futile attempt to keep the same urchins from hot wiring said cars when the beggars are tall enough to see over the steering wheel. Door-to-door begging has dwindled.

Detroit reported "only" 52 fires over the three day Halloween weekend (last year there were twice that). I was in downtown Detroit Saturday working (I'm retired but do accept an occasional consulting job) and it was about as friendly as one can expect a large city downtown area to be. My gig ran from 10:30 a.m. Saturday to 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning and I heard no sirens, gun fire, or other sounds of civilization while in the city.

At one point, years ago, Halloween in Detroit was dreaded (in 1984 there were a reported 810 arson fires) but these days the citizenry have taken control of the neighborhoods with local neighborhood watches working with law enforcement. One wonders if, rather than handing out candy, perhaps giving a discount coupon for the local bail bondsman would be appropriate...

All in all it wasn't too bad - the weather was fine and no one tripped on my property, so no law suits will be forthcoming.

For those who enjoy Halloween I hope you had a wonderful time. For those like me...well, there's always next year. Maybe the wifie will finally sign off on handing out night crawlers next year. Inexpensive and environmentally correct, doesn't get any better than that.

Happy Halloween. Indeed.


There was an article in one of the Milwaukee papers about a church in a bad neighborhood that was bussing kids to better neighborhoods for trick or treating. I don't know if that's what you got, but especially if the demographic of your trick or treaters seemed different this year, that could be part of it.

I agree with you, there's nothing wrong with non-neighborhood trick or treaters. Small turnout in our neighborhood this year, even though I did extra creative lighting on our Doctor and Mrs. Frankenstein bobble-head statues!

You're a good man, Mike.

I've often thought it would be cool to set up a bar on the lawn, as a break for the "non-kid" trick-or-treater escorts, but I think in these highly regulated times, handing out liquid candy would get me in a heap of trouble.

Good for you!

With best regards.


Bravo. I am ashamed now that I only gave out the small sized Snickers and Almond Joy bars. Next year I vow to give out full sized candy bars as well. We got a total of 12 trick or treaters. And ours is hardly a forbidding neighborhood....

Ben (my son) turned sixteen in October but he and his friends just couldn't leave Halloween alone. He went out dressed as a pineapple. They didn't care about the candy, it was just an excuse the walk through the same neighborhood he's been trick or treating in since age two, with his friends. I think they gave out more candy than they took in.

WRT Anybody get any good pictures?

I posted a couple on my Halloween Blog from last night that you'd be welcome to use - please see entry #162.


It doesn't have to be the last time. I dress up now with my daughters (I was Harry Potter to my 7 year old's Hermione Granger) and even though I don't get the candy, I'm having as much fun now walking around trick-or-treating as I did as a kid. Secretly, though, I still wish I could have the candy...

I got zero after I put a "registered sex offender" sign in my yard.


(I'm not and I didn't)

Hallowe'en isn't a big thing in the UK, and my generation do see it as an American import. Nothing wrong with that. My own children (11 and 6) are probably the right sort of age to get involved, but show no interest. We had one call last night, from a group of young boys on BMX bikes. None had dressed up, and would only say "trick or treat". As my wife and I had both forgotten entirely about Hallowe'en we had nothing to give them, and because the boys had made zero effort, no desire to give them anything either (no costume or effort converts "trick or treat" into begging with menaces, in my book). They left.

I always gave treats to the 'older' kids - fun is fun. And, anyway, wasn't the original idea to keep those kids from doing the 'tricks' by giving them the 'treats'? I considered it a good investment....just in case.

You're a nice guy, Mike.

Same experience last year - we were running perilously low on treats, so I ran out to the Rite-Aid for a couple more full-priced bags of candy. Wouldn't you know it, when I got back, the foot traffic had ceased. We threw the candy in the freezer and brought it out this past weekend. Of course, we had to eat some to make sure it was all right (any excuse will do). And it was. But we also bought more this year to make sure we wouldn't run out. Yup, we overbought. So this year's new surplus stock goes into the freezer for Halloween of 2012. (If it didn't go into the freezer, it would go to my waistline. Not good.)

Full size candy bars! Expect twice the foot traffic next year, Mike. Time to recalculate the Halloween metrics.

Your favorite Halloween exchange reminded me of the time (many years ago) when my then 5th grader son was asked on a quiz, "Is history the study of past or present events?" and he answered, "Yes!"...I had to make a visit to the school to explain to the teacher that her wording of the question was more 'wrong' than the answer and that he should get the 10 points she had deducted.

Two hundred and eight?! If anything demonstrates how much bigger Halloween is in the US compared with the UK, it's this figure. I've lived in my flat for nearly ten years, and haven't had a single trick or treater in that whole time.

My favourite Halloween exchange from last night is this, which my husband heard on the radio:

House-owner: "Would you like some sweets?"

Two girls: "No thank you, we've had enough."

At which point they turned and walked away!

Thanks Mike. Your attitude of quiet acceptance and encouragement of the kids resonated with me. The older I get, the less I cope with harsh judgement and critical attitudes. I read somewhere......"be kinder than necessary, because everyone is facing some kind of struggle."

In such difficult times we have it is very fresh and nice to read a thread like this and so many comments. Thanks to all of you!

When I was eight, the big candy bar houses were like local shrines. Burned into my sugar loving brain like flashing icons on my GPS.

208? Cripes, I was thinking about creeping Americanism when we had one in Sydney (-;

That's nice of you to accept kids from other neighborhoods. As a matter of fact, I always go to another neighborhood as the one where I live has almost no action. And my kids (4 and 9) just have tremendous fun (especially the youngest) going from door to door. My wife remarked that some "kids" were a bit too old, your remark about them "dealing very soon with the fact that they aren't kids any more" is true after all.

Halloween over in the UK is variable. I spent my first 9 years in Scotland where guizing was done on Halloween. Children would dress up as ghosts mostly - anything more sophisticated than a white sheet with holes in it was pretty rare. We carried what we called turnip lanterns carved with faces and lit with a candle like your pumpkins but the roots on a turnip (also called swedes or rutabagas) can be incorporated in the design. We then went from house to house reciting poems or singing a song. If they liked you you got some sweets. We saw trick or treating in cartoons like Scooby Doo and I remember talking about the American kids being lucky as they didn't have to sing for their sweets.
When I move to London in the late seventies nobody and heard of guizing and only since the nineties has trick or treating really taken off here in London, I certainly didn't do it as a kid in the 80's
One thing I will say is that its a lot easier carving pumpkins than turnips

Don't eat all the leftover sweets in one go


Yeh, the night went well. for the fourth year in a row there's been a combined effort to celebrate the evening from the pub, the village and my bike club, in Clifton Reynes in Buckinghamshire.

I lit the bonfire before night fell. It had to be nice and hot so we could put the potato oven in for baked spuds to go with the chilli, later. Potato oven is a bit of a grand name for a cut down 45 gallon drum with a chain to pull it off the fire, but it works.

The kids trick-or-treated their way round the village and ended up at the pub. they had something to eat and watched the morris men and the first batch of fireworks, which were more ooh and aaaah but not too much kaboom, so as not to scare the littlest ones. We had a wandering magician; he’s a regular at the pub. We had a face painter too.

My nephew Edan drank my blood while his brother Conal simply sucked my soul. I managed to slay them with my pirate’s cutlass. The smallest vampire I saw was under 3 ft tall, the youngest witch was just 6 months old.

Nobody was charged for entry or food, but some of us went round with the charity buckets, and we got just over £100 for Great Ormond Street (children’s) Hospital.

I took about four photos all night, and they are still in the 35mm camera. I expect that there will be a few pix on the club website for this year but they won’t be mine. I took some last year, just don’t look at the date. http://www.cernunnos-mcc.org/samhain2010.php

I'm also from the UK, where Halloween has been growing in popularity in recent years. When we moved into our house (in a leafy suburb of a northen city) nearly 30 years ago it was very new. Over time it has become more popular. Last night we had, I think, five groups of trick or treaters consisiting of perhaps 15 to 20 kids in total. Ages ranged from 3 or 4 to early teens. They'd all made an effort. And in each case, there was a mother keeping her eyes on things.....

I agree with another UK poster who said that 'Penny for the Guy' has vanished. So, largely, have back-garden bonfires; it's very largely organised these days. Probably safer, but I remember when I was a kid that our bonfire and letting off fireworks was one of the best evenings of the year.

Nicely done, Mike, not begrudging the older kids their fun. What you said is true - adult reality will be setting in for them soon enough. That said, we've probably all heard stories of the house that gets egged because the owners were stingy...

"Ages ranged from 3 or 4 to early teens. They'd all made an effort. And in each case, there was a mother keeping her eyes on things..."

That's the case here too. I'd say 80% of the kids last night were accompanied by parents, even some 10-12-year-olds. The parents stand on the sidewalk while the kids go to the doors. Kids too young or needing a hand to hold, the parents come with them to the door. Last year it was warmer, so I passed out candy outdoors, and got to visit with a lot of the parents, some of whom I knew.


As they say in Australia, "Good on ya!"


I have to admit that after your comment: "doesn't bother me at all—if a kid lives in a bad neighborhood in the city or an apartment building and can't trick-or-treat where they live, does that mean they shouldn't enjoy Halloween?"

I read the following sentence as "Hey, they're going to be dealing very soon." For a moment there I was shocked at your callous attitude to the drug problem in disadvantaged neighborhoods. But of course I know you are not like that and I quickly saw where my mind had inserted the imaginary full-stop. :-)


Well, here's my experience shooting pics of kids on Halloween:

A few years back, feeling inspired by some shots I'd seen, I decided to shoot the kids who came trick or treating to my door. When the doorbell rang, my girlfriend would grab the candy bowl, and I'd grab my camera and shoot.

This went well for some time.Then one time the doorbell rang, girlfriend grabbed the candy, I grabbed my camera, and...there was a cop on my front doorstep. He told me some parent had complained about my picture taking and he asked me to stop. Which I did.

So...I don't know what this all means...whether we are a paranoid, dirty- minded nation, no thanks to the media's playing up of the crime angle in order to boost ratings, or whether I was stupid for thinking people wouldn't mind my taking pictures of their kids....

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