American Pantry UK

American Pantry UK Blog

A (former) American kid tells all about Halloween

I’m so excited that the celebration of Halloween is gaining momentum here. About four years ago, we got our first kid knocking on our door here in London. It took us by surprise, and we had no candy. We turned off the lights and pretended we weren’t home. One child lifted up the letterbox flap and called us out. I felt terrible.

So we tried to make it up the following year, but were both held at work to 8pm, ironically by our American colleagues. I had about 15kg of candy. So I saved the candy and handed it out the following year. Once again, I felt terrible.

Halloween is the one chance we get every year to show what type of neighbour we are. Now that my child is old enough to participate in his first Halloween, I wonder what he’ll make of our neighbours. I wonder what impression I’ll give to other people’s children.

This got me thinking about the Halloweens of my youth in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So, to help the parents who are first-generation Halloweeners, here’s my advice:

1. Give out awesome candy

If you give out awesome candy, you will be awesome by association. Awesome candy, as opposed to cheap and nasty candy, shows that you get it. It’s been a long time since Easter, remember, and some parents have forcing kids to eat stuff like peas in the meanwhile. Added to that, school started again. Bad candy is like anticipating a pay raise and getting 0.5%. Don’t do it.

If you are in an area with a lot of Halloween traffic and fear bankruptcy, just invite some friends over and ask them to contribute a bag or two. There are also great deals on good candy at places like Costco and Asda, so shop around. The earlier you get it, the cheaper it tends to be.

2. Never give out raisins

The opposite of awesome candy isn’t bad candy, it’s healthy food. Imagine you’ve been given a trip to Disney World, and you find out it’s an educational voyage to learn about compliance with fire regulations. There was one man when I was little who handed out raisins, toothbrushes and apples. Like I’ve been waiting all year for a raisin. If you’d prefer not to hand out candy, stickers, small toys and cool pencils are always welcome.

3. Homebake at your peril

There was once a scare about someone slipping a razor blade into a homemade Halloween something. It turns out it wasn’t true, and mothers had to make up another excuse why we couldn’t eat Mrs So-and-So’s cupcake. Even if you are Delia Smith, there is going to be a parent out there who thinks you don’t wash under your fingernails. If you want to make something, little bags of sweet popcorn are probably your best bet, but be understanding if they get thrown away.

4. Scare their socks off

Mr Richard, four doors to the east of my childhood home, had the works – black lighting, scary music, cobwebs, dry ice, coffins, bats, vampires and a cauldron full of awesome candy (point 1). It was pure theatre. Kids deserve something back for the courage it takes to knock on your door. Get creative – hall of mirrors, spooky forest, graveyard – there’s so much you can do to give kids something to talk about on the playground the next day. Just remember to be gentle for the little ones, and save your severed limbs for grown-up stuff.


For various reasons, some kids were forbidden from trick or treating when I was growing up. I always felt a bit sorry for these kids, and they always felt a bit sorry for themselves. Particularly if you live in a city, you may be tempted to throw a Halloween party instead of risk bringing your kids out on the streets. This is understandable. The whole point, though, of Halloween is to help kids understand that with your guidance the dark can be fun and safe. It’s not too late to put up a notice asking people to participate, or to find the pockets of cities where kids are already trick-or-treating. Alternately, if you live in a sleepy rural location, ask people to pitch tents somewhere centrally and do it that way. Make the most of this opportunity to help pull the community together, and get free candy to boot! The kids never notice what’s gone. Promise.

Share this