Halloween is the only neighborhood event that doesn’t require coordination by committee or a consult of residential association by-laws. The rules of engagement are pretty simple. At sundown, it’s fair game for kids to dress up and go door-to-door for candy, and a porch light invites you to the door of participating houses.
The first and best place to Trick-or-Treat is your own neighborhood, where you can interact with folks instead of just waving as you rush to work or carpool. Older neighbors seem particularly grateful for the visit and are generous with the candy, even if it is Bit-O-Honey or horehound. Plus, it’s a way for the attentive mom to sneak a brief glimpse of how the neighbor’s remodel is coming along…
The issue with some neighborhoods in Birmingham is that you have to be seriously committed to hike up and down hills and steep driveways to get to a front door. Many otherwise desirable suburban neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks, are dimly lit, and have houses separated by giant swaths of yard (in other words, made for driving).
Some of these householders should offer extra candy to those determined enough to trod up a steep driveway, a walkway, and then a half dozen more steps for a prize. In fact, they should probably have a water cooler with Gatorade and a protein bar to reward their visitors’ exertion.
To the Trick or Treater, the most efficient neighborhoods are the densely packed garden homes or zero lot-line developments. Having lived in a garden home community as a newlywed, I can vouch that these neighorhoods are often targeted by parents who want to putter along in the car or stand sentinel while their kids cover the neighborhood. I truly loved the flurry of activity and seeing all the kiddos in costumes, but I did begin to feel a little invaded when it seemed families from distant counties were stocking their pantries with the chocolate we gave away.
Some neighborhoods are notorious for embracing Halloween. Those that are pedestrian-friendly, like Edgewood or Crestline, appear to have moved the Griswold-inspired decorating rivalry to Halloween instead of Christmas. Even if you don’t live in these areas, I strongly suggest you take a Sunday drive through in October, because the feeling of festivity is catching.
Finally, let me just say what some of you are thinking, namely that it’s tacky to trick-or-treat outside your own neighborhood, literally taking candy from strangers in a reversal of the usual wisdom. If you live in one of the neighborhoods that gets targeted for easy candy, my advice is to get with the neighbors and play it to the hilt. Have chili, set up your own private refreshments, and buy candy in bulk. It may not be Christmas yet, but consider yourself blessed enough to feel magnanimous toward some harmless goblins.