I grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, in a suburb so large that it grew a mind of its own and now has its own suburbs. On Halloween, I went door-to-door with Erica and Sean and sometimes Jason and Jared, and we told jokes in exchange for the neighbors dumping some storebought candy in our open pillow cases. Some people provided homemade popcorn balls. Some people had small toys or noisemakers. One house—I don’t know the address but I can walk there from memory in the dark—always gave out quarters from a plastic pumpkin-shaped platter. This was our least favorite house to visit, due to the declining value of the dollar overseas.
I later learned that having an adult request a joke after you say “Trick or Treat,” and refusing you candy if you did not know one, is a St.-Louis-only tradition, and that it doesn’t happen in other parts of the country. I was flabbergasted. But I guess the nature of trick or treating is such that, wherever you are, people will have their own traditions, and it just depends on geography.
For instance, I am typing this from my new home, New York City, where I am in a bagel joint in Chelsea. Streams of kids have been coming in all night to request candy from the surly guys behind the counter (who oblige them, even though they were out of the first three varieties of bagel I requested). A little blond boy, probably five years old, just came in dressed as a fire fighter, his mom close behind him, carrying a shopping bag from the Gap which I hope was full of candy and not boring clothes. ”I WANT A VITAMIN WATER,” shouted the kid. ”TRICK OR TREAT.” And I’ll be damned if he didn’t walk out of here with one.