Halloween, like any festival of gift-giving, is a minefield of possible etiquette mishaps. This is why it is the only festival of gift-giving between strangers, and the gifts are quite minor. I hope, in some small way, I can help:
If you’re a child
- Do be four or older as the aim is to keep moving, and any younger and you’ll really slow things down. Stay at home with your mates and watch a Halloween Peppa Pig instead.
- Don’t take more than one of anything as you’ll look like a glutton.
- Do say thank you, even if an adult has done something unconscionable, such as making their own oat biscuits.
- Do pretend to be frightened, even if it is clearly your friend’s mum dressed as an owl. But if you are more than eight, don’t overdo it because she’ll know you’re humouring her and this is weirdly humiliating.
- Don’t knock on any door without a lit pumpkin outside it: this is just a normal stranger’s house, and if they answer, you’re not even allowed to talk to them, remember?
- Don’t travel in groups of more than five — it creates a bottleneck.
- Don’t, when you see other people from your school walking in the opposite direction, say: “Hi Javaine, hi Noah.” This will alert them to the fact that they are recognisable underneath their spiderweb mask.
- Don’t mock the sweet donor: if you are slightly too old to enter into the spirit of trick or treating, fake it.
If you’re an adult
- Don’t hold out the bowl saying: “Just take one.” Polite children will know to take one and be offended, impolite children are going to take loads anyway, and it just makes you sound tight.
- Don’t don’t don’t — this is really key — leave your pumpkin lit if you’ve run out of sweets.
- Don’t do anything too frightening, for instance, open the door but have a friend hiding behind a bush making noises like a murderer. You will know it’s too frightening if children are crying by the time they leave.
- Otherwise, the universal rule is that if you’re done by 8.30pm, realistically, how much can go wrong?