For some Pennsylvanians, Halloween has involved more than just holding an empty pillow case and saying “Trick or treat!”
After hearing from a NEPA-reared friend about a trick-or-treat tradition from his youth that involved reciting a poem or singing a song for candy, I asked our newsletter readers to share specific Halloween traditions in their area.
What I learned: Some Pennsylvanians had to work a little harder for their Halloween candy than others.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
“I lived in Wilkes-Barre in the ’90s and reciting a poem or something else was the trick before giving the treat.”
-Rev. Virginia M. Biniek, Wernersville
“I grew up in Bethlehem in the 50s, and you had to dance or sing in a neighbor’s home to get your treat. And they’d give out full-size candy bars for your performance!”
-Judy Sowers, Reading
“In the early 50’s my family lived in Taylor. My Halloween memories are of being invited into the homes to entertain for our piece of candy or a penny or two.”
-Marlene Carey, Poconos
“At our house, trick-or-treaters had to sing a song or tell a joke to get treats. I’m from Shamokin, and was born in 1963. When I tell people from other parts of the state or country about this, they can’t believe it.”
-Margaret Merlino, Welkert
“Growing up in Scranton in the 60s, we were expected to perform for our treats by going into people’s houses to sing or recite a poem. Some even included a small dance, like “I’m a Little Teapot.” Then you had to wait while the adults guessed who you were and told you how they knew your grandmother or aunt or uncle.”
-Regina Barletta, Berks County
“I grew up in NEPA in the 60s. We absolutely had to perform to get our treat on Halloween. “Five Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate” was a popular poem to recite. Some kids told a joke or sang a song.”
-Barb McDonald, Malvern
“I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in Hazleton and it’s very true that when trick-or-treating, you had to tell a joke, sing a song, or do something else entertaining. No such thing as ‘free candy.’”
-Corky Bogert, Baltimore
“I grew up in Taylor in NEPA. I definitely had to sing a little song in order to earn my treat.”
-Lisa S., Pittston
“West Pittston, 18643, is known as Halloween Town. We block off streets so children can walk door to door to see the amazing decorations and get treats. Kids need to have fun.”
-Ruth Kemmerer, NEPA