Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween! Let's Keep it Spooky, Fun, & Safe


Happy Halloween! I hope everyone one out there has a fun and spooky Halloween. Remember to watch for kids if you are driving (or riding a bike) as some may wear dark colors and masks that make it hard for them to see their surroundings and move freely, and some might cross the street when and where they should not. Below are some Halloween tips that I've published versions of in previous years. I decided to post them again with updates because I feel like these come up again and again.
Let's review the basics of Halloween in our neighborhood. This is a short guide, that's a good reminder for those who have lived here for years, and a good primer for newbies. The basics:

1. Do kids trick or treat around here? Absolutely. Because Halloween comes on a Wednesday this year you will probably see things taper off a bit early, but there are always those who will ring your bell much later than the rest of the crowd (which has usually are done by about 9pm for me). If you want to avoid late ringers I suggest both turning out the light and posting an out of candy sign. I sometimes get my first trick or treaters as early as 5:30pm, but the peak time is likely to be 6:30-9pm.

2. I bought candy. Why aren't kids are coming to my house? It's dark out there. Turn on your porchlight/light your pumpkin. Otherwise kids don't know you are home. Not getting the turnout you expected? Maybe your neighbors have dark houses. Kids will skip a mostly dark block. It really is block by block in terms of which houses get a lot of kids. 

3. I live in an apartment building, but I really want to give out candy to kids. What can I do? I know there are some people in Trinidad who will sit outside of their buildings and hand out candy to kids going down the street. I've heard this can work well. It's probably a good idea to have a sign or some props so it's clear to people you are handing out candy. Really try to have at least one pumpkin (or something) that is illuminated.

4. Is someone going to smash my pumpkin? Probably not. I grew up mostly in the midwest. People always smashed our pumpkins (sometimes even before Halloween!). I've not had a single pumpkin (carved, or uncarved) smashed since I move here in 2001. I've heard a few stories of smashed pumpkins in DC, but I think it's rare. Since originally writing this I have had a couple of small pumpkins and gourds disappear. The biggest threat to my pumpkins remains squirrels, and they are relentless. I have tried recipes for homemade chile repellants, putting cat and dog hair at the base of the pumpkins, putting bowls of water nearby, and even tossing a few nuts into the yard. The squirrels will not be deterred. If someone has a great tip on this I would love to read it.

5. Will someone steal my decorations? Maybe. I've had good luck in the many years I've lived here. I actually didn't have my first theft until 3 or 4 years ago, and I've been decorating my porch and front yard for years. If you are worried about something expensive, or that just means a lot to you don't put that thing out there until the night of Halloween, and take it inside when you turn out the lights for the night. It's not just expensive stuff. I had a bowling ball that I painted as an eye walk off two years ago, so it's not just expensive stuff that can go missing. I think this is most likely to be an issue with drunk people getting ideas on Fridays and Saturdays. Just accept that theft is a possibility. Don't let the threat deter you from enjoying the holiday, and don't let it ruin your Halloween if it does happen.

6. Why the hell aren't those kids wearing costumes? Yes, that seems weird (and lazy) to me too. There are lots of cheap or free ways to dress up for Halloween, but it's not uncommon for kids to trick or treat sans costume. You might see this a lot with teens especially. I still give them candy, and most are very polite and say thanks.

7. Why are there a bunch of teenagers on my porch with bags? See the above note about costumes. Some teens here trick or treat until they are pretty up there in age. Something else you'll likely encounter is the parent who has their own bag for their own candy. This definitely happens. Some people give separate treats for the parents (like DumDums or SweeTarts). I just let them take a piece or two from whatever I'm giving out.

8. Should I use different bowls for different types of treats? I don't mean one bowl for Snickers and one for Butterfinger. I usually have one bowl for chocolate treats, one for non-chocolate candy, and one for treats that aren't edible (bouncy eyeballs, temporary tattoos). Not every kid can eat (or wants) chocolate or candy with sugar. I just ask the group at the door which bowl or bowls they want. If you want to limit the number of pieces kids take be upfront about it, but know that there's going to be at least one or two kids who will grab handfuls anyway.

9. I put up awesome decorations (or just spotted some) and want to share pictures. Can I send them to you for posting? Feel free to send them my way. If you do, let me know the block or intersection and if you want me to use your name. You can send them to me at elise.bernard[at], or add them to the Flickr pool. You can also mention @FrozenTropics on Flickr when you tweet your pics & I'll likely retweet them as long as they are appropriate.

10. Hmm, anything else I should know? I'm glad you asked. Let's talk transportation and Halloween party safety.
  • If you drive on Halloween please watch out for others. Kids in costumes, and for adults who may have had too much to drink (or can't see well in their masks) sometimes don't make good choices when walking on Halloween.
  • Cabs are hard to get on big Halloween party nights. Keep this in mind when making plans. This is likely less of an issue on a Wednesday, but still good to keep in mind.
  • Metro runs, use it. Seriously. It's cheap, and probably faster than a cab. Alternately you could just stay close to home. Again, this is more of a weekend thing.
  • Keep your pets inside. Kids (and drunk people) aren't always nice to animals. Plus, your dog might escape when someone opens the gate hoping for candy, or he could bite a kid. We're also not so far removed from July 4th. Face it, someone still has leftover fireworks.

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