Tricks, not treats

No Snickers to hand out? Try these unexpected alternatives.

Halloween is kind of a downer when the economy sucks.

It’s supposed to be a time of joyful excess for the overly imaginative and emotionally stunted. We drink too much. We go to parties dressed as demons and personified puns and sexy everythings. We turn our homes and yards into what we think is a scene out of a Tim Burton movie, but actually resembles an explosion in a factory that used to make plastic spiders and low-quality pillow batting.

We spend a ton of money, and don’t think about it until it’s time to start ordering Christmas presents online.

This year, a party was out of the financial — not to mention temporal — question for my wife and me. We haven’t decorated, inside or out. I was even worried about having to shell out for candy for the neighborhood kids, because we always buy way too much accidentally on purpose because I have a pretty serious candy problem. In any case, I’m not going to leave the kids with nothing at all, but I thought it would nice to be able to cut the Halloween budget back even further if possible.

Then I remembered there’s a trick in that old Halloween tradition, as well as a treat.

Back when trick-or-treating was a pagan ritual undertaken in an effort to ward off evil spirits and promote good fortune, the houses that gave out the best treats were the ones that theoretically received the most protection and best luck. Lots of households couldn’t afford to give anything at all, however, what with the 19 children and plague-lung and eating rocks basted in muddy lane-water and whatnot.

And that’s where the “trick” part came in: those unable to contribute food or trinkets could perform a quick service or entertaining little bit of theater or something instead — sort of a Middle Ages All Hallows version of those little coupon books that, if you’re very, very lucky, your partner still thinks are sort of cute.

So it’s cool. It’s totally legit. It’s downright historical to offer an alternative to candy this Halloween, something that came from your heart and talents, rather than your checking account.

Here are 10 more or less holiday-relevant “tricks” you might want to try. (And yes, I have pretty much everything I need to pull these off just sitting around the house, muwah-hah-hah.)

1. Perform an interpretive dance expressing the horror of diabetes.

2. Introduce the little ones to the concept of mortality by showing each of them a scene from Faces of Death.

3. Do that thing where one snorts a bandanna or chain up one’s nose, then pulls it down through one’s sinus cavity and out one’s mouth. (OK, so not totally Halloween-specific, but gross and awesome and effective.)

4. Hold an open-casket funeral for Curious George, because he “got too curious.”

5. Pelt every non-costumed teenager that comes to your door for candy with water balloons you claim are full of acid, but are actually just full of urine and ghost pepper sauce.

6. Give a brief PowerPoint presentation that offers vague yet compelling evidence favoring the existence of carnivorous closet-dwelling lizardgoyles.

7. Act out a bit of A Streetcar Named Desire dressed as a despondent and possibly suicidal alcoholic mall Santa.

8. Sit your visitors down, hold a flashlight under your chin, and tell them about the first time you realized your parents were fallible.

9. Take one of your pets hostage, menace it with a knife and demand the children turn over their candy “or Rowdy’s going to that farm upstate a little ahead of schedule.”

10. Hand out soft objects, then mime it up until the kids tire of attempting to beat you to death.

Read more Scott at, or follow him on Twitter @lifeasweblowit.

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