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Tricks and Treats on Halloween

Stale candy can make for a sour story.

Is there anything better than braving Chicago’s chilly fall weather to trick-or-treat and come home with a bucket brimming with candy?

When I was a kid, I consistently lucked out with trick-or-treating. Regardless of the weather, my bucket was always filled with a good assortment that struck the right balance between good candy and trinkets. There were always a few duds, like those awful strawberry candies no one actually likes and the hard taffy that almost always pull out a tooth. But the hits were many, including handfuls of Snickers bars and bags of M&Ms that would keep us fat and happy for weeks.

But the real fun was in looking for — and eventually receiving — the best treat of them all. Now, this treat would vary every year. Perhaps it would be a full-size candy bar, or maybe a stack of homemade cookies from a family you knew. One year, a family gave out cans of pop to every trick-or-treater, and we all acted as though they’d given out gold bars. You never knew which house was handing out best treat of the night, as it would change every year.

The unpredictability made trick-or-treating even more fun, although it came with its hazards. There was the home two blocks away decorated top-to-bottom for Halloween. A large, inflatable spider perched on the roof, and the windows were outlined with green and orange lights. Intricate (and probably expensive) life-size mannequins of ghosts and vampires were on the porch. The family started decorating in mid-September, and no wonder — giant ghosts do not get themselves on the rooftops.

For some reason, we kids felt that an elaborately decorated home would equate to great loot on Halloween. This assumption is precisely why none of us were prepared to receive a handful of stale Christmas candy that had clearly been sitting in the homeowner’s pantry for almost a year. The family wasn’t under any obligation to give us giant candy bars, but come on. Handing out stale candy is just miserly, especially when you consider it's done voluntarily.

It's at this point when reading my column that my mother will call and say, "At least you learned never to judge a book by its cover." And while that's true, the experience of getting old candy is something I remember every year when it’s time to pick out candy for trick-or-treaters. I don’t want to be the bad house, the one that people avoid (or worse, egg). I enjoy Halloween, and I want to share that enthusiasm with trick-or-treaters, regardless of age.

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