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Mind Your Halloween Manners

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In the UK, Guy Fawkes Night was always the Autumnal festival of choice. Us Brits loved nothing more than commemorating the Gunpowder Plot by wrapping up warm, lighting a bonfire and enjoying a firework display.

Not any more, it seems, as Halloween is here like never before. The shops are laden with themed produce, pumpkins are appearing on every street corner, costumes are flying off the shelves and children are begging to go trick-or-treating. Spooky celebrations have suddenly become all the rage.

With origins in Celtic paganism, Halloween hails from the British Isles. It was a festival that marked the end of summer and bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits, children dressed up and went door-to-door collecting treats, and turnips were carved into skulls to hold candles.

The festival became absorbed into the calendar of the Christian Church when a vigil was held on the eve of All Hallows Day (November 1), which became known as Halloween. Immigrants from the British Isles took the custom to North America where Halloween has become entrenched in popular culture.

It seems, therefore, that we've come full circle. The British press is reporting that the UK has enthusiastically embraced ghoulish goings-on. A leading supermarket has noted in increase of over 100 percent in sales of adult costumes, and the nation's Halloween spending has rocketed by over £200 million in the last 8 years.

As Halloween fever grips the nation, Debrett's -- the UK's leading authority on etiquette and manners -- felt it necessary to provide some top tips for a well-mannered Halloween:

• "Trick or treat?" should be used as an ice-breaking formula, not a real threat. Halloween fun should never feel menacing.

• Children should not be too greedy -- if they are offered treats, make sure that they don't take too many and that they politely say thank you.

• Stay safe. Make absolutely sure that children don't stray beyond agreed boundaries and wander into streets where they are knocking on strangers' doors.

• Remember, some households may not be as welcoming as others. If there's no answer, don't be rude or repeatedly ring the doorbell. Move onto another house instead.

• If you don't mind giving out treats, but would prefer not to have visitors, it's a kind gesture to leave some candy on your front door step and let trick or treaters help themselves.

• For those who don't want to be disturbed, keep a low profile and switch off outside or porch lights.

So, why are we favouring spooky celebrations over Guy Fawkes fireworks? Perhaps the festival has just slowly crept back across the waters to its original home, or maybe movies and television have provided British children with a taster of what they've been missing out on. Or, most likely, it's just the sheer fun and escapism of dressing up, eating candy and getting together with friends. Have a happy (well-mannered) Halloween.