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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

Urban Etiquette: Everything you need to know about being a host on Halloween

The first rule of Halloween etiquette, writes Ellen Vanstone, is to have lots of treats on hand.

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Dear Ellen,

I live in a house divided into three apartments and we get a ton of trick-or-treaters every year. But in the past my basement and upstairs neighbours don’t pitch in for candy or help me hand it out from our shared porch. How can I scare them into being more neighbourly?

Halloween Host

Dear HH,

Your neighbours may be exhibiting all the warm humanity of a stone-cold corpse whilst you get into the spooky spirit of All Hallow’s Eve. But they’re absolutely entitled to their Scrooge-like non-participation, as inappropriate as that stingy character may be for the current season. (Mind you, Christmas decorations will no doubt appear alongside the discounted Halloween candy at your local Shoppers by Wednesday morning. So maybe they’re just getting a jump on the next holiday.)

In the meantime, forget the party poopers in your building and concentrate on the greedy goblins who come to your door. It sounds as if you have the first rule of Halloween etiquette covered, which is to have lots of treats on hand.

Other rules of etiquette for the big night are as follows:

1. Compliment every kid’s costume, no matter how pathetic it is. It’s not the kid’s fault if their (possibly busy, over-worked, or just plain poor) parent can only manage some eyeliner and a bandanna. Tell every single child who comes to your door how horrifying they look, and pretend to be scared! Kids love having power over grownups so let them torture you with all their little might as they “boo” you.

2. Keep your treats transparently packaged and peanut free. There once was a time when people handed out homemade treats such as cookies or Rice-Krispie squares. There was also a time when psychos handed out apples with razor blades in them. Nowadays no parent in their right mind would let their child eat homemade, non-commercially sealed food prepared by strangers. As much as some of us hate wasteful over-packaging, there’s not much choice here, but you can aim for minimally wrapped candies, twizzlers or suckers, or boring-but-responsible boxes of raisins in recyclable cardboard.

3. Make an effort with your own costume. Dedicated feminists everywhere will want to invest in a good witch hat, which will also come in handy for women’s marches or demonstrations against misogynistic individuals or institutions down the road. For men, that same witch’s hat with a few stick-on stars will turn you into a wizard. Any effort will be appreciated, as long as it’s not culturally insensitive. If in doubt, Google.

Need advice? Email Ellen:

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