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How Trick or Treating Works in the UK

If you've never been out trick or treating before, you may not know exactly how it all works and what you're supposed to do. This October 31st activity is fast gaining popularity in the UK and you should really learn how trick or treating works in the UK.

A lot of fun can be had with trick or treating if you have a good idea of what to expect and are aware of the basic "rules" which I've outlined for you below in this detailed guide.

Lots of parents are banding together to take young children and school age kids out in small groups and this is one of the safest ways to approach this activity rather than going out alone.

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Learn Exactly How Trick or Treating Works in the UK and Elsewhere

How to go Trick or Treating: rules, etiquette, guidelines, help

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Table of Contents

  1. What Time does Trick or Treating Start?
  2. What if I don't Want Trick or Treaters to Come Round?
  3. Rules for Trick or Treating: How it Works
  4. Is there an Age Limit for Kids?
  5. Trick or Treating Etiquette
  6. What is the Pumpkin Rule

What Time does Trick or Treating Start in the UK?

There is no official time for when this activity starts. It makes sense though to wait until it is dark outside because this adds to the whole spooky Halloween atmosphere.

πŸŽƒ Trick or Treating after 6 pm is generally a good time because this is associated with the evening. It also gives more people a chance to get home from work and have their dinner in peace.

Because this is meant to be an activity mainly for younger children (under teenage years) to enjoy with their parents and carers, Trick or Treating normally finishes by 9 pm at the absolute latest.

Most people don't want their front doors knocked and doorbells rung late into the evening. And young kids should probably be tucked up in bed by then too. Some home owners won't answer the door after a specific time, some even as early as 7-7:30 pm, so the closer you start to 6 pm the better.

What if I don't Want Trick or Treaters?

free no trick or treating posters prints

Use no Trick or Treating signs if you don't want Trick or Treaters this Halloween time.

Image Credit: photo belongs to the author.

First up, let people know that you don't want them calling on Halloween. The normal way to do this is to use a sign on your front door.

πŸŽƒ Print out one of my free No trick or treating signs and stick it on the front door on October 31st.

People often also get the idea that you're not interested if you turn off all the lights at the front of your home. Definitely don't put a lit pumpkin outside as this is a sign that they are welcome.

Here's lots of ideas on what you should do if you don't want trick or treaters.

Rules for Trick or Treating: How it Works on October 31st

Rules, guidelines, etiquette for Trick or Treating in the UK how to go

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1) All kids should be dressed up in some kind of Halloween costume. It doesn't have to be a spooky costume, such as a witch, mummy or vampire character, although these themes are more traditional for the occasion.

It can be a DIY homemade costume, even the simplest thing made out of a black bin bag with some head and arm holes cut in, or it can be a shop bought one depending on your time and budget.

Adults can join in with the fun and get dressed up too. Remember to dress kids up warm with jumpers and tights under costumes if needs be depending on the weather.

girl dressed up as a witch for Halloween with a pumpkin bag

Image Credit: photo belongs to the author.

2) The children will need to carry buckets, baskets or bags: any type of holder to carry sweets in. You can even get personalized bags for Trick or Treating. They might collect rather a lot of sweets from participating houses depending how many you get to visit.

3) Around 6 pm - 6:30 pm is a normal time to start Trick or Treating. You might go a little bit earlier with very young children and especially if you have already arranged or organised something with friends, family or neighbours.

4) Before the event has even started, you might have asked your local neighbours, friends and family if you can call round with your children. Often, organised groups will also arrange to visit the homes of neighbours, family, friends and other parents in their local area. If not, look for streets where lots of houses are lit up and decorated for Halloween.

Many participating houses will have lit pumpkins outside the front door as a sign that they welcome Trick or Treaters. An unspoken rule is that participating houses have these welcoming signs outside. Never knock on doors where there are no outdoor decorations or that have no lights on.

5) Go up to the door with your little ones to knock or stay just a short way behind where anyone opening the door can see that an adult is there.

Only knock on the door or ring the doorbell once and wait a short while. Do not keep knocking or ringing the bell to annoy people who are at home but who clearly don't want to answer the door.

lit carved pumpkin hanging up Jack O lantern face

Image Credit: photo belongs to the author.

6) Children should say "Trick or Treat" or just "Happy Halloween" when the door opens. Adults might need to say this if kids are too young or if they get tongue-tied.

7) If the home owners do not give the children a treat (normally sweets or it could also be homemade cakes and goodies) then the children are technically allowed to play a trick or a joke of some kind. However, 99% of people who are happy to take part in this custom will have a bowl of sweets ready near the door for kids to dip into.

Tricks are not normally the done thing anymore. If the home owner has nothing waiting it's probably best to teach the children to say "have a nice evening" and move on.

8) Teach children not to snatch loads of sweets that are on offer and to say thanks and pop them into their bag or bucket to eat later.

It's also a good idea to get adults to inspect sweets once home to make sure that none of them have been tampered with. This is another reason to stick to homes where you know the people who live there.

9) Never let children go inside the house of a stranger. If you knock on a stranger's door, have a grown up stand near the children to make sure they are safe.

10) If the children are tired, cold or fed-up, call it a night and go home. Trick or Treating is meant to be fun!

Is there an Age Limit for Kids with Trick or Treating?

Is there an Age Limit for Kids to go Trick or Treating? What age is too old for Trick or Treating?

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Common sense really needs to be applied. There is no law or official age limit for children to go Trick or Treating in the UK. However, it is meant to be a fun activity aimed at younger children (normally under teenage years) and preferably accompanied with their parents or guardians.

πŸŽƒ It's not a good idea for groups or gangs of teenagers to go roaming the streets, knocking doors and expecting to be given free sweets and handouts. Elderly people in particular might find this behaviour to be quite threatening and older kids will be viewed as a nuisance or worse.

The odd teenager going out in an organised group along with younger children and adults is fine. Also, teenagers taking out their younger brothers and sisters is also viewed as being acceptable.

But a group made up of only teenagers is really a no, no unless you live in a community like an estate or block of flats where everyone knows each other really well and is very friendly.

Groups of teenagers knocking on doors can feel threatening, particularly to older people and people who live on their own. So just be aware of that.

Trick or Treating Etiquette: Dos and Don'ts

  • βœ”οΈ DO feel free to visit homes on Halloween that are decorated outside and especially if they have a lit pumpkin because this is a sign that they are participating in Trick or Treating.
  • ❌ DON'T bother visiting homes that are plunged into darkness because the owners are probably out or giving a signal that they don't want to open the front door.
  • ❌ DON'T keep on knocking, ringing the doorbell and making a nuisance of yourselves if no one is coming to the door. Anyone participating should be fairly quick to respond and open the door.
  • βœ”οΈ DO teach kids to be polite, say please and thanks and not snatch up loads of sweets. It's well known in forums that some people give rude kids the worst treats on purpose while saving good ones for polite children. It should be a nice occasion for everyone involved, otherwise people handing out sweets might not want to do it next year.
  • βœ”οΈ DO get children to dress up in costume. NO costume, NO sweets! Children not dressed up in costume should really not get any sweets. That's harsh but true.

    Sometimes people will offer out their best treats to children wearing really good outfits and especially DIY ones. The best treats might be whole bars of chocolate instead of small sweets.

  • βœ”οΈ IF there is a bowl filled with sweets left outside the front door, it means that the home owners don't want to be disturbed but have generously left treats out instead. Kids can take some sweets.

    ❌ DON'T let the kids take all the sweets from the bowl unless there are only a few left. Leave some for other people as well.

  • ❌ Halloween is October 31st. DON'T go Trick or Treating any other night unless things are done very differently where you live!

It's not OK for kids to play mean spirited tricks like throwing eggs and flour at houses. These types of tricks are not acceptable and give Halloween a bad reputation when it should be enjoyable for all.

What is the Pumpkin Rule for Halloween?

Above all else remember that the Pumpkin Rule, RULES. If there is no lit pumpkin outside the home and / or no welcoming lights and visible outdoor Halloween decorations, please respect that Trick or Treaters are probably not welcome!

A lit pumpkin outside the front door on October 31st has come to mean a sign of welcoming Trick or Treaters. If you don't want trick or treaters, then don't put your pumpkin out.

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Articles are accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Oliver Wyatt

As I understand it, some teenagers can go out in smaller groups. I have done it since I was 12. I'm 16 and I'm going again this year. My town feels less threatened by me because I have c-ptsd and autistic spectrum disorder. Every year I have had a sign on my front that clearly says that I am trick or treating because my mental age is still very low and to be kind about it. My carer usually goes with me but stands far enough away so it looks like I'm only with my friend.
I think most teenagers shouldn't be allowed to go though as they still scare me and can be very loud.

Halloween Angel

Hi Oliver, it sounds like you are taking a very sensible approach to Trick or Treating. In your case, you could simply carry on doing this for as long as you enjoy doing it. It is normally big groups of teenagers that feel threatening, especially as they get older and bigger. I hope you have fun this year and get some nice treats.

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