The Etiquette of Trick or Treating

Courtesy, The Etiquette School of Birmingham

The costume is ready. The pumpkin is carved. A bowl of yummy treats is ready for those eager little goblins. But is there something you’ve forgotten?

How about brushing up on – and coaching your family on – the basic etiquette of trick or treating.

Here are a few tips to go over to ensure that everyone enjoys the fun of Halloween.

It’s always good manners to:

  • Ring the doorbell just once. If there’s no answer, move on. (If there’s a light on, that’s usually a sign that residents are home and ready for you.)
  • Be polite to other trick or treaters and stand patiently behind those who have made it to the door ahead of you. After they have received their treats, step back to let them pass, then step up to the door for yours. No need to crowd—you’ll get your turn!
  • Remember to say “trick or treat” when the door opens and always say “thank you” each time someone gives you a treat, even if it’s something you don’t like. (You can always trade it later for something you like. If you say something like, “Yuck. Why do I always get stuff I don’t like,” you come across as rude. And no one likes a rude guest at their door.)
  • If you’re invited to help yourself to the candy, take just one or two pieces of candy so there’s plenty to go around. You’ll have lots by the time you get home.
  • Stand outside the door to collect any goodies. A trick or treater never goes inside a stranger’s home.
  • Take a walkway to the front door of a home rather than across the lawn. Be careful to walk around…rather than through…flower beds, vegetable gardens and muddy patches of yard.
  • If you are carrying a sword, staff or something similar, be careful around other children. No one will enjoy Halloween if they poked in the eye with a fairy wand!
  • Avoid getting too close to pumpkins and lanterns with real candles and flames.
  • Teens – a special note for you: treat or treat in groups and try not to stray very far from your group.
  • Older children who are taking younger brothers or sisters trick or treating, your first responsibility is your sibling(s)—not any friends you might meet along the way. If you are not wearing a costume, that usually means you’re not participating in the activity. Consider not taking candy.
  • Rolling houses, trees or cars with toilet paper, rubbing soap on windows, throwing paint, overturning trash cans, leaving dead, black flowers is bad form. Ditto on ringing bells and running. The police take these things seriously.
  • When you get home and your parents have checked over your stash of goodies, feel free to share your booty with all your family members…except pets. Chocolate…and most sugary treats…can make dogs and cats very sick.

Courtesy, The Etiquette School of Birmingham:

Kathie Martin is founder and president of The Etiquette School of Birmingham. A communications professional with more than 30 years in the corporate and non-profit world, she holds etiquette certification from the American School of Protocol. Martin provides etiquette training for children, business etiquette training for corporations and adults and speaks to college groups and community organizations on a variety of etiquette-related subjects. For more information, visit, e-mail her at, or call 205-222-0932.

One thought on “The Etiquette of Trick or Treating

  1. Thank you! You were the only one who had a good list. Could I add one? I have an issue with trick or treaters showing up way to early in my neighborhood. So the past couple of years, I have had to put up a nice sign (I am a designer so I made it cute and friendly) Happy Halloween! Trick or Treat from 6 to 8, do not come too early, but do not come too late! It seems to be catching on. With our work schedules and traffic we just cannot be ready at five pm and it is too light for parents or kids to notice a porch light indication.

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