Most of my childhood autumns were spent in central Texas, where there were essentially no rules about Halloween. So when, as a mother myself, we moved to Iowa and I experienced my first Hallow's Eve in a small town with some serious parameters, I was in for a shock. Trick-or-treating didn't even take place on Oct. 31 that year, and no one else seemed thrown off by that. Suddenly I felt like a kid again, trying to figure out a new system everyone else understood. Like, when do the festivities start and what time does trick-or-treating end? If you're also wondering how to navigate the ropes of Halloween and when to call the trolling for candy quits, I've got some advice for you.
For a tradition that has been embraced by North American children for 100 years, there is a lot of variance of norms depending on where you live. Some places, like my hometown, don't set city-wide parameters around Halloween festivities, but surprisingly many do. This year, our Iowa town published on the city website that trick-or-treating will take place on Oct. 31 (unlike my first, confusing year here) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. So your most reliable shot at finding out whether your city plays by its own Halloween rules is to check your own city website or local paper to find out if specific beginning and ending times have been advertised.
If there are no such specifications in your community, use common sense about the age of your children when considering an appropriate start time for trick-or-treating. While older kids might not want to go out until after sunset, younger ones will likely do better with an earlier start time of 5:30 or 6 p.m. (And will be too excited to care that it's not dark yet.) And regarding when to call it quits, you can never go wrong with good old fashioned manners. Most people are either out of candy or over the excitement by about 8:30 p.m., and having guests knocking at your door after 9 p.m. is just plain annoying.
If things wind down in your city earlier than you'd like, there is no reason to stop the party if your kids are still going strong. While your little gobblins rifle through their loot — and coerce you into allowing them to eat five more pieces than you had originally allowed — consider putting on a family-friendly Halloween movie to enjoy (and get only moderately spooked) together. Redbook magazine compiled a great list of some all-time favorites.
Or better yet, why not host your own shindig for friends and their kids? If your children are still really small, they're likely to be worn out after hitting the pavement for an hour or less, so Parents magazine suggests throwing a pre-trick-or-treating party. That way if the city ends the neighborhood waltz at 8 p.m., you've still squeezed in an entire night's worth of fun. Ideas for festivities might include bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, and maybe a costume contest thrown in for good measure.
Of course, parents across the nation will be bemoaning the bedtimes blues while waiting for their little ones to come down from their sugar highs, but there are a few things you can do to make the transition easier. The sleep website Lull suggested tanking your kids up with a big dinner before trick-or-treating so they'll be less likely to want to eat as much sugar. Agreeing beforehand on a certain number of pieces (and explaining that it will last much longer that way) can help your cause as well. Beyond that, your best bet is to limit the chaos as much as possible and for the love, cling to those familiar bedtime routines with everything you've got. Go ahead and treat yourself to a pumpkin beer (or two, I won't tell) once they're finally down.
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