Dear Helena,
I recently read an article in my local paper about the “best neighborhoods for trick-or-treating” and was a little annoyed by the premise, which seemed to be that it’s now de rigueur for families to drive around town trolling for the best loot. When I was a kid, my parents would never have driven me to the other side of town to trick-or-treat, and I think doing so is bad form. It means putting undue pressure on some houses to supply all the candy.
—Halloween Grinch

Dear Halloween Grinch,
Kids used to visit only houses within walking distance on Halloween. But it’s increasingly common for parents to schlep their little ninjas and witches to another part of town, cherry-picking which houses to hit. Patrick Brennan, father of a two-year-old in Phoenix, Arizona, says: “There are parents who actually pull up and drop their kids off so they can knock on the door of one house and then pick them up and chauffeur them to the next place.”

These are not necessarily underprivileged families turning to richer neighborhoods because their own neighbors can’t afford candy. (For one thing, candy is cheap.) I suspect the explanation for this behavior is that many parents today don’t know their neighbors, and at the same time, people are much more frightened of “stranger danger.” Some neighborhoods feel safer than others, partly owing to the fact that there are more children there trick-or-treating. So it’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon.

I wouldn’t say it’s “rude” to trick-or-treat in another neighborhood. But it is a little sad. Cheesy as this may sound, Halloween is not just about your kid getting the most candy or getting to see the best decorations. For some people, Halloween is perhaps the only day when we meet our neighbors face to face (or face to zombie mask).

So parents who are plotting how to target the “best” neighborhoods should consider starting a trick-or-treat tradition in their own. One way to organize this is to flier the blocks around you asking people to join an email group for local residents. You can pool resources, share tips, maybe even send one person out to buy all the fake cobwebs. The nice thing about delegating is there’s always one person who’s really, really, really into Halloween.

I’m not saying that trick-or-treating on your home turf is always more fun. I’ll never forget the evil neighbor of mine who thought it was amusing to hand out chocolate cupcakes spiked with unbelievably hot chili powder (though we did get revenge by mailing the crusty bits back to him). But when knocking on neighboring doors, you at least have the possibility of making a connection. And chances are, the better your neighbors know you, the more candy they’ll give you.

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