How to Get Entertained for the Price of Candy

There are certain rules I grew up with in regards to Trick-or-Treating.  What I did not realize at the time, is they were the brainstorm of Des Moines, IA and were not practiced elsewhere.

The Rules Were and Still Are:

  1. You trick-or-treat on Beggar’s Night, the night before Halloween.  This will inevitably also be the coldest day of Fall and require the wearing of winter coats, hats, and gloves until your costume is completely hidden.
  2. You tell a joke or do some other type of performance before you get any candy. No joke or entertainment, no treat.

Point #2 is key.

When else is it perfectly acceptable to go out and tell the world’s worst jokes (and the occasional brilliant one) so that the bad puns can be passed on more efficiently than the flu?

How else are the poor souls – who just bought the cost of four movie admissions in candy because their neighborhood gets bombarded with costumed children like flies at a summer picnic – going to get their time and money’s worth?

Where is the fun, the spontaneity, in only getting a glimpse of the costumes for a few seconds before the kids split like Road Runner to hit the next house with their light on?

Back in my day….

As a child, weeks were spent searching for just the right joke.  It was a part of the anticipation and fun, just like picking out the perfect costume.

At age five, I made up my own jokes, which made as much sense as flying a cow or milking a T-Rex.   For me, they only had to rhyme. And not very well.

Me Age 5: Why did the man never go to work?

Adult with Prepared to be Wowed Expression: Why I don’t know!

Me Age 5: Because he wanted to get fired ironed (insert huge grin filled with pride at my brilliant punchline).

Adult with Perplexed “Did I Hear That Correctly?” Expression: Have some candy, dear.

There was also this classic:

The classic plastic costume and matching masks from the early 80's. My Dark Lord versus my sister's Super Grover...

Me Age 6: Why did the man open the window on a windy day?

Adult Gritting Teeth Because It is 34 Degrees Outside and Their Hands Are Numb: I don’t know.

Me Age 6: Because he wanted to get freezy breezy (insert another proud grin difficult to see through the chattering teeth)!

Adult Desperate to Close the Door: Take as much candy as you want.

And if the people of Des Moines, IA could somehow manage to tolerate the 30 mph winds and frigid chill to keep their doors open that extra thirty seconds – to allow me to work for my hard earned candy by telling jokes only comprehensibly funny in my mind – why can’t everyone around the country/continent/world also do the same?

This is my 8th Halloween in Texas.

My first year, all of the kids ran into my driveway – where I was parked in a captain’s chair, holding a giant bowl of candy, and wearing shorts because it was still 80 degrees outside – thoughts full of the easy candy they were about to pilfer.

Were they ever wrong.

I sat in my chair and informed group after group a joke or trick must be performed before they could have their candy reward.

They all stared at me as though I’d grown three additional heads.

Tween Demon That Might Have Had a Second Head: A joke? For candy?  Are you serious?

Me Loving the Fact It Is 80 Degrees and I Could Sit Out Here All Night: Do I look like I’m joking? I had to earn my candy like this.  You can too.  Which one of you has the best joke?

Tween Demon’s Friend, Probably a Super Hero: I got one.  Why was the skeleton afraid to cross the road?

Me Already Knowing the Answer Because I Used It One Year: Because he was chicken?

Tween Demon’s Friend Thrilled I “Guessed” Wrong: Because he had no guts.

Me, Glad I Pretended Not to Know: Very cool.  See, that wasn’t so hard. Take a piece of candy.  (I turn to Tween Demon) Your turn.

And with that, my neighborhood learned the art of performing for their candy, to the amusement of the Candy-Hander-Outer.

Buzz looks into his future at Spooktacular last Thursday. He earned his candy & prizes here by playing games.

If they didn’t have a joke, a trick was required. Any trick would do, but I typically suggested they do something in character with their costume for those sporting the Deer in Headlights Look. As a result, I have had the pleasure of watching:

  • cheerleading cheers
  • faux decapitations
  • ninja battles
  • various dances from ballet, tap, hip hop, line dancing, and break dancing
  • classic character quotes in costume
  • singing performances – some very good, some more at my level
  • duels
  • Voldemort versus Harry Potter
  • toddlers making the cutest little sounds of the animal they are costumed as
  • entire scene reenactments from movies
  • many many pseudo stabbings
  • The Dark Side kicking the Rebel Scum Jedi back to Tatooine

    Snow White had her two favorite things: outside & attention. Forget the candy.

When it comes down to it, kids want the candy and they really don’t mind the extra thirty seconds it takes to actually earn it and give me some entertainment for my valued time.

My house here is now known as “That House Where the Lady Makes You Do Something Before She’ll Give You Candy.”  After years of training for their sugar buzz, the kids here now know what to expect.  A few years ago I learned I was someone’s favorite house because they thought for weeks what awesome trick they could do to wow me.

If that doesn’t bring pure fun to Trick-or-Treating, I don’t know what does.

So let’s all pass on the trend that began oh-so-long-ago in Iowa.

Have those children three and older perform for their candy. Request entertainment.

You will be surprised how much the kids love to do it – once they learn to arrive prepared.

You could hear the most amazing duet or view some Celtic dancing.

Or hear a tiny lion roar. Or Mickey Mouse do the Hot Dog dance.

The possibilities are limitless.

All for the price of candy.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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2 Responses to How to Get Entertained for the Price of Candy

  1. So interesting that you wrote about this because a friend and I were just talking about the same thing! She’s from St. Louis and, apparently, they have the same tradition there. She also just read some article that talks about this tradition and how it’s only in St. Louis and IA. I’d never heard of it! However, my kids will have jokes ready this year if neighbors are willing to listen. 🙂


  2. Ironic Mom says:

    I’ve never heard of the joke-telling tradition. My kids are just at the tail-end of the surrealist joke phases. As in, “What did the table say to the chair?” The answer (as kid looks around kitchen): “Fridge.”

    Hope you survived the jokes…

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