The kid who couldn't trick-or-treat
October 25th, 2012
10:00 AM ET
Share this on:

Poor Vinnie. That's not actually his name, because this wasn't his fault. Sadly, his real one is, in some quarters, synonymous with "That Kid Whose Parents Didn't Let Him Trick-Or-Treat."

In my 1980s suburban youth, in my neck of the woods, a certain level of sugar-charged entitlement overtook the last day of October. While no one was especially extravagant in their candy offerings (save for one or two houses on a well-to-do cul-de-sac giving out full-sized Hershey bars, and believe me, word got out) perceived stinginess was met with great public indignation.

Warnings spread quickly amongst passing bands of costumed kids. "Don't bother – they're just doing pennies." "Aw man! I heard they had a bowl of Tootsie Pops on the porch, but the eighth graders hogged the whole thing!" "Raisins! RAISINS! Abort mission!"

There were well-meaning houses, clearly devoid of kids, giving out homemade popcorn balls and apples, instantly discarded by parents scrutinizing hauls at the end of the night. Upon arrival at home, we were to dump out our pillowcases (plastic pumpkin buckets are cute, but their scale was insufficiently aspirational) for triage.

All unwrapped or loosely wrapped items went straight to the trash can lest they be riddled with glass, razor blades, poison or LSD. Change was slipped directly into the UNICEF box. Stickers were rated on a sliding coolness scale. Dull, but passable sweets – Double Bubble, Dum Dum pops, Chuckles, Brach's hard candy and orange slices – were stashed to the side. Premium sour sugar bombs like Pixy Stix, Nerds, SweeTarts and Lemonheads were held in high regard, but at as any kid knows, chocolate ruled the night.

The sours and high-ticket fun-sized Snickers, Milky Ways, M&Ms, Hershey's bars, Three Musketeers and (ultimate score) Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were appropriated, then doled out by parental units. Ostensibly, this was to protect the health and well-being of their cherished offspring, but seriously - they were poaching. Kids grinned and bore it as a sort of confectionery ATM fee so as not to be denied access to their stash. Trick-or-treating was a family affair.

But not so Chez Vinnie. His parents wouldn't allow him or his sisters to join in the candy gathering, and we kids were never able to ascertain quite why. It seemingly wasn't for religious reasons - he went to the same Catholic school as us, and his dad wasn't passing out Jack Chick bible tracts like the dour, devout fellow several blocks away. Neither were either of his parents dentists - who in our experience tended to meet the wandering ghosts and goblins at the door with toothbrushes and those nifty little plaque disclosing tablets that you'd chew to reveal skipped spots with a bright, red, gory glow.

Rather, the rumor went, Vinnie's mother did not believe in sugar. Whether she was denying its existence as a substance altogether or was simply opposed to it, none of us was sure, but we were baffled. Vinnie's father, a maintenance worker at our school, could periodically be seen skulking around the back of the buildings, furtively sipping a carbonated beverage, muttering pleas not to alert his wife - an odd duck by all accounts. We wouldn't have dreamed of it - nor would we have busted Vinnie to his parents when he jumped out a back window in the Spiderman costume he'd saved up for and hidden in the back of a closet at home.

Vinnie held a pretty solid foothold on the bottom rung of our school's social ladder, but there wasn't one among us who didn't feel a pang at his plight. We knew enough not to ring his home's buzzer, but watched in sympathy and sadness from across the street as we saw the curtains rustle, and the children's pale, sad faces peeking out from their darkened upstairs bedrooms. It's one thing not to be home, and quite another to be made to feign so. "I mean, I know he's a dork and all, but that just sucks out loud!" "Dude, I heard his mom won't even let them watch TV! That's so freaky! Poor guy."

Vinnie caught up to us a block or two from his house, panting wetly and nervously behind his cheap, plastic mask and clutching an empty trash can liner. Without consulting one another or breaking stride, we closed ranks around him and moved en masse to the next block, taking turns to stuff a few choice pieces of our own loot into his makeshift candy bag. "C'mon, dude. You're way behind. Gotta catch up."

5 spooky bottles for Halloween
Halloween candy is dandy - even when it's fish, guts and onions
Bowman on Beer: Mummy yeast and wicked beasts
Halloween party tricks and boozy treats
Homemade peanut butter cups
The kid who couldn't trick-or-treat

Posted by:
Filed under: Culture • Favorites • Halloween • Holidays • Religion • Rituals

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. cali girl

    Halloween is so sad these days. Can't let your child go out by themselves, lots of houses are locked up and not giving any candy out. I trick or treated through the razor in an apple faze, and every since then Halloween has gone downhill.

    October 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  2. Nikki

    I read this with nothing but fond memories of Halloweens past... from the hushed information passing ("Don't bother, they're only giving out one caramel per kid. ONE CARAMEL!") right down to checking out each others' stashes ("OH man, that sucks SO HARD. Let's go egg that house over there") and the various warnings from our mothers about talking to strangers, letting an adult know if someone creepy was following, etc.

    Those are the rare times I miss being a kid. – – – when it was cool to still be one.

    October 30, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  3. Sheila

    Actually, it is a pagan holiday, where people dressed up as ghosts and goblins so the real ghosts and goblins who came out that night couldn't tell they were human and would leave them alone... but nowadays it's kids dressed like Winnie the Pooh begging for chocolate, and has none of the former meaning. But the one thing today that bugs me – older teenagers, no costume, ringing doorbells and expecting candy. Really? In that setting, it's just begging.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  4. georgia pops

    I can't seem to rememeber when halloween went from candy, to getting dressed up and getting drunk. It's not the age of the kid in the costume, it's how much has he had to drink. Many years ago going to a Steppenwolf concert in Atlanta. That was a great Halloween.
    Great story, with all the bullying and hate in the news, I really like the friendship message (and no politics)

    November 15, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • OC


      November 18, 2012 at 5:59 am |
  5. ywilbur

    We lived out in the sticks, 1 mile from our closest neighbor and my parents wouldn't drive us around or into the nearby small town where I grew up. Instead we set out those plastic orange pumpkins and the Great Pumpkin filled them up in the middle of the night. Plus our church would have a games night. So, games night at church with costumes and such (basically a Halloween party with typical gory costumes, but they didn't call it that). I was a shy kid though. When my dad died I was 10 and that year my mother let me and my older sister go to town with friends to trick or treat. Early on a house had their porch set up a haunted and a vampire clad dad jumped out. I cried and called mom to come get me! Looking back it is one of those things I'd like a do over for, never went trick or treating again.

    October 29, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  6. Maverick

    Hallowe'en is more than a holiday to get dressed up and load up on's the beginning of gluttony season! With Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, it's the time of year you are not only entitled to gorge, it's EXPECTED...and PERMISSIBLE...and ENCOURAGED!!!

    Yay for the end of the year!!!!!

    October 29, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  7. ha :)

    well we didn't celebrate Halloween either...but my mom always made it a point of not wanting us to feel left out because we didn't do holidays, so the day after she would keep us out of school the first part of the morning and let us go to the clearance candy sales which were way better back then and we got to LOAD up and wound up with better candy and the ability to have a sugar high every day for about 2 weeks :) :) cuz my mom rocked like that

    October 29, 2012 at 4:08 am |
  8. arppix

    Yeah, I didn't get to go out for Trick-or-Treat, or have birthday parties, or celebrate Christmas and get presents, because my family belonged to a weird religion. Funny thing is, I didn't really feel deprived, and don't harbor any ill-feelings about it now. But I'm happy to say that my kids got to enjoy all of those things. That makes up for it.

    October 28, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • gghh

      me to cuz im a kkid now

      October 31, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
  9. Pennybmomof3

    I loved trick or treating when I was a kid, my friends and I out running the streets and loading up on sugar until it was juuust about too late to get home and not be in trouble...times change, and while my kids were forced to put up with me along with them each year, at least mine get to go...unlike some of the kids who can't go out or celebrate Halloween because "it's against our religion" when I know for a fact that the parents were among those raking in the chocolate when they were kids and went out on Halloween...hypocrites!

    October 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Michelle

      They are not hypocrites...their beliefs are different than yours. I grew up not celebrating any holidays(for religious reasons)(I also got to trick or treat as a young child as my mother's religious views on holidays did not change until I was about 8)and believe me, we never felt left out–curious maybe, not left out. We only felt bad when we were teased by ignorant people because we didn't celebrate...Has anyone ever thought of researching why these religions choose not to celebrate holiday? Have you asked even where all these holiday originated so that you could make your own EDUCATED decision as to whether you want to celebrate a holiday or not? Perhaps a bit of research is in order for some.

      October 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm |
      • Who cares?

        Who cares what the origin of Halloween is? We are not taking the kids out for a complicated history lesson....we are going out dressing up in silly costumes of fantasy and getting a sugar high that can last for days! Call it "Dress Up Day" if you need to have a name that has no history but quit making an issue of something that is only veiwed as fun to the kids. No one is indoctrinating them into anything evil or gruesome because they go out in fairy costumes to get candy, its just FUN, give the kids a break and let them have fun without making an issue out of everything, grow up grownups!

        October 30, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  10. Ugh

    My parents prevented me from going trick or treating after age 9 in a vain attempt to get me to grow up. Since I look young for my age, I decided to have one last go during my first year in college. And I'm really happy that I did.

    October 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  11. lindaluttrell

    Trick-or-Treat was one of the great joys of my childhood! It is so sad to think that some children never experience this rite of passage.

    October 28, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  12. MysteriaKiito

    Parents who never let their kids trick or treat are jerks. Let them have a little bit of child hood or they'll grow up hating you. That or they learn to do things behind your back which basically means they will not respect you.

    October 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  13. C035

    October 26, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  14. C035


    October 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  15. George clooney

    Finally a well written story. Thanks :)

    October 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  16. Vince D.

    My parents never checked our candy. My dad said if people were really poisoning candy the poisonings would be on the news instead of just people saying "my step-uncle's second cousin twice removed..." and newspeople ominously saying "you never know..." Basically, my parents were big advocates of not buying into foolish BS like crazy people giving kids poisoned candy.

    Either that or they thought it might be true and just didn't actually like us that much...

    October 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Country Boy

      If you are my cousin Vince D., I'd definitely vote for the latter theory.

      October 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Sarah in Vegas

      Actually, every single real case of poisoned Halloween candy has been traced back to either the parents or another adult in the home. Usually for insurance money, but sometimes for other reasons..

      October 27, 2012 at 6:05 am |
  17. Country Boy

    I was not prohibited from trick-or-treating, but when you live in an area where houses are distributed miles apart, it's kinda hard. My parents would drive us from house to house, but you run out of time real quickly that way. I realize now that I was the lucky one, but back then I envied suburban kids ("like on TV") so much.

    October 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Kay

      I grew up in rural KY in the same situation, but I didn't envy these kids at all. We got to tell scary stories on the graveyard all by our lonesome and the houses we did get to visit usually gave out tons of candy because they would have so few trick or treaters. Halloween was always really special.

      October 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  18. walso

    For a second there I thought this was going to be a piece on some sort of peanut, chocolate or costume fabric allergy! Great piece, your description is exactly how I remember halloween growing up.... the good ol' days....

    October 26, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  19. Techsupport

    The voice in my head while reading this was the narrator from The Wonder Years right off the bat. Weird.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'll take it. I always liked Jean Shepherd (the guy who wrote "A Christmas Story")

      October 25, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Pam

      I read it that same way!! the good old days! LOL! i try to take my kids to get as much candy as possible and then for us and me was sorting and counting it! :)

      October 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  20. Mo

    I was one of those kids that didn't get to trick or treat–my family moved a lot and didn't know or trust the neighbors. As I got older though, I was allowed to go to friens' halloween parties that gave out candy.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  21. jj

    Sugar really is bad...

    October 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  22. ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Kat

    Great story, but what I really want to know is that you in the picture (2nd on the left with the red bag)?? :D

    October 25, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jerv@JBJ

      Ha! Good eye, that does look like a little rugrat Kat.

      October 26, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • ™©JbJiNg!eŚ®™@Kat

      Ahem, still waiting on a reply tho I know you are probably just a teensy bit busy today... :)

      October 29, 2012 at 11:16 am |
      • Kat Kinsman

        I can tooooootally see why you'd think that was me! But I always had short hair as a kid. Hope y'all are staying safe out there.

        October 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  23. SteveDave

    My parents didn't let me Trick-Or-Treat as a kid either. No seriously, they said it was a pagan holiday. (They didn't let me celebrate Xmas or Easter either for the same reason. The only holidays we celebrated was the Day of Atonement where you fasted for 24 hours, and Day of Unleaven bread, where you through all the bread out of the house for 7 days. It pretty much sucked.)

    October 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • WF

      Tell 'm SteveDave

      October 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Sharon

      ...and Feast of Tabernacles? No birthday parties. Yeah it was lame. Sorry you dealt with that too.

      October 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • jj

      Hannukah can be fun

      October 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Sia

      My mother didn't allow us to celebrate Halloween either. She was a fundie Catholic–said Halloween was a satanic holiday. My non-Christian father (divorced parents) allowed us to celebrate it, if we wanted to. I'd trick or treat in my own mother's neighborhood behind her back a few times! XD

      October 27, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Dana

      Religious people are not very rational. They have been brain-washed too long to think for themselves.

      October 28, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  24. Seriously

    I never trick or treated or even dressed up for Halloween.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Ha!

      That's probably why you're so serious.

      October 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  25. Partisan Political Hack

    Great story!
    It's typically the liberals who do this. They never met a kid they didn't hate or wish to abort. Typical of the party of hate.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Get a special underwear patch for this

      Yeah, Only the nice ultra right wing kids offer to give the 47%ers kids a hair cut they didn't want. A gift of generosity.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • John

      Did you not notice how this story has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO ABOUT POLITICS?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Dave Mishem

      Yeah, absolutely... all the fundamentalist Christian whackadoodles are liberals, after all... (rolls eyes)

      October 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Usually it was more the very religious nuts who wouldn't let their kids go trick or treating. As for Liberals, guess what, most Liberals I know love Halloween and are more than happy to have their kids go.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • RedskinsFan

      *Cue Troll Song* TROLL!

      Seriously though, can't you let one thing not be about politics. Also, clearly you didn't live around my neck of the woods. These are always the same parents that have VA's "Choose Life" Yellow Badge of Guilt License Plates.

      October 26, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  26. Lena

    What a great story!

    November 1, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  27. SouthernGirl

    I never got to trick-or-treat or dress up either – being raised pentecostal. Also Santa Claus was nicknamed "Satan Claus".... And although we were told the Easter Bunny wasn't real, we did get Easter baskets..... I felt like an odd duck growing up, but I survived. So, the irony here is, my nephew, my mom's 1st grandchild, has been t-o-t'ing every year...... And mom now wishes she'd let us go also..... Yeah, me too.....

    October 31, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  28. kgotway

    Wonderful story. I well remember my mother checking all of my candy to insure nothing was poisoned! I feel so bad for Vinnie. We did not eat a lot of chocolate or sweets in my house growing up, but holidays were meant for bending the rules.

    October 31, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • TwitterNut


      October 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  29. Mireille

    Touching, beautiful and true: how children take care of each other.

    October 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  30. AleeD

    Christmas feelings about a Halloween story. No fair. [:'-)

    October 31, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • AleeD®@Kat

      You can probably tell this wasn't me. Another copy cat troll. Sigh.

      October 25, 2012 at 7:43 am |
      • AleeD®@Kat

        Re-posting an article from 2011. Sneaky, sneaky, Kat. Guess that was me – a year ago.

        October 25, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Jerv@AleeD

      What the heck did this post mean anyway? Was it you?

      October 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
      • AleeD®@Jerv

        Usually sentimental stories like this are connected to Christmas. This one was about Halloween. No fair. ;)

        October 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
        • Jerv@AleeD

          Got it and good morning!

          October 26, 2012 at 7:21 am |
| Part of