Halloween and Trick or Treat Etiquette

Halloween and Trick or Treating is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and it's not hard to see why. From the fun of pumpkin patches to dressing up and getting a large pile of sweets there is a lot of fun to be had. As many of us may not have been Trick or Treating as children and as the unspoken rules have changed over the year I thought it would be helpful to share the etiquette of Trick or Treating in the UK. This is based on the expectations and behaviours of local parents and will help make sure you don't unintentionally upset anyone.

A group of children going up to a Halloween decorated door to trick or treat
The often unspoken rules and etiquette of Trick or Treating in the UK

Trick or Treating Rules and Etiquette

What time should you go out Trick or Treating?

People generally go out from 4.30pm on the 31st October as it starts to get dark as this adds to the fun. The numbers knocking on doors increase over the next couple of hours before a peak at around 6pm. Even when Halloween falls on a school night the expectation is that it is only on Halloween itself you Trick or Treat. It's a careful balance between making sure as many people as possible are home from school and work, but that parents aren't putting their children to bed. Around 5.30/ 6pm gives enough time to get home from school or work and it’s usually dark which adds to the fun. 

The time you should stop Trick or Treating is a harder call. Many of the families who take part have young children so as it gets later and definitely beyond 8pm make sure you are checking for clues they are still happy to be disturbed.

Which Houses Should You Go To For Trick Or Treat?

While some parents prefer just to knock on the door of people they know I find it's a great way to meet my neighbours and most of the doors we knock on are of people we don't know. A group of people in costume knocking at your door can be pretty scary though so it's important for children to remember not everyone wants visitors and not everyone can afford sweets. It is good etiquette to only knock at houses with Halloween decorations outside.

Often the same houses that give out sweets will want to go trick or treating too so having decorations up is no guarantee of a treat. Often people will remove the lights from their pumpkins to show they aren’t available, but if the house is still well lit up it’s ok to knock or ring the bell. Just do it the once though and don’t hammer away on the door (yes it happens, I have had to stop putting my children to bed before to tell a group of older children to go away).

Check for bowls outside before you knock. Whether it’s because they don’t want to be disturbed or they are out, people often leave treats outside so people can help themselves. If there is an empty bowl it means other people have taken them all so just move on to the next house. 

Taking Treats

Children should be advised in advance to only take one treat unless told otherwise by the person handing them out. When they do get offered to take more they still should only take a few, often early in the evening people don’t realise how many people will be coming.


In all the years we have been out I don’t think anyone has ever said "trick" when asked "Trick or Treat". We definitely haven’t had one prepared. Saying “trick or treat?” is essentially an acceptable way of saying “give me stuff please”. 

If you want to do tricks (or receive tricks) they should be clever, magical or fun.

What Age Is It OK to Go Trick Or Treating?

I have been Trick or Treating with a baby in my arms and a Preschooler and the baby was offered sweets. If you only have one child though they should ideally be old enough they can walk up to the door and say "Trick or Treat?". So there is no real lower age limit, but what age children should stop going trick or treating is a harder one. Personally if the children are polite, making an effort with costumes and having fun they are welcome at my door. Groups of older children being rude, loud and scary is intimidating whether they are 6 or 16. If people want to be scary they would be better off staying home and having a party.

Parental Supervision When Trick Or Treating

Trick or treating involves walking around in the dark, often wearing dark clothes and knocking on strangers doors. I personally feel my children should be supervised while out so I stay nearby. I often stand back on the pavement and let my children do the knocking though. This means I can supervise and make sure they are polite without getting in the way.

Every Halloween children get knocked over by cars because the excitement of sweets and a decorated house make them dart across the road without looking. Even children who are normally road savvy can get careless. As much as anything else that is the main reason I want to be nearby my children when trick or treating.

What to offer people trick or treating?

If you are looking to get treats for visitors what should you be buying? The answer is a simple: whatever you want. They don’t need to be expensive or big. Sweets, chocolates, fruit, crisps, biscuits and small gifts have all been popular with my children. The only rule is food should be individually wrapped for hygiene reasons (with the exception of fruit which can be washed). 

Catering for Allergies and Dietary Requirements At Halloween

Many children have allergies and there are vegans, people who can’t eat gelatine for religious reasons and complicated dietary requirements. Try to have a range of options to offer everyone.

A teal pumpkin has started to be used to indicate allergy friendly treats are available in your house. Although I haven’t actually seen this in practice. If you do have some suitable treats then keep the allergy friendly products in a separate container to avoid cross-contamination.

Trick or Treating is a fun activity for families and I hope if this is your first year getting involved you have a great time.

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