Trick or Treating 101
It sometimes seems like even the parents really don't get the holiday.  As such, I'm going to offer some basics in guiding you through the core tradition of Halloween that we call Trick or Treating.
Wait until dark.  You don't start Trick or Treating until the sun goes down.  Dusk is pushing it.  It's like being the first guest to show up at the party.  It's just not cool.  Most houses aren't ready yet, and how are you going to tell if their porch night is on?

Go toward the light.  Like I alluded to above, this is the universal symbol that the house is not populated by Jesus freaks who have sequestered themselves away at a church lock-in to burn Harry Potter books.  No, the light says, "Come on over.  Show us your costume and we'll give you candy."  It's that simple.

Learn your lines.  Society is built around little scripts.  The one for Halloween is hardly a satanic ritual.  Just follow the sequence:

Trick or Treater: Trick or Treat!

Candy dispenser: Happy Halloween! [Gives out a piece or two of candy.]

Trick or Treater:  Thank you!

That's it.  Nothing is more awkward to folks (and annoying to me) than kids coming up to the door and just standing there looking blankly at you.  Kid, all we need to hear is your line and a bit of gratitude.

Exploring the other side of the equation for a minute, it seems that some people are missing the point of the tradition as well and won't give out candy for poorly-reasoned motivations.  Let me knock those down for you:
Teenagers need candy too.  While some have the attitude that teens are too old to go trick or treating, explicitly barring them from participating sends the message that they're too old for Halloween.  This?  Is bullshit.  No one is ever too old for Halloween, and in fact, teens are actually one of the best groups to keep the holiday alive, even if they are at an awkward transitional stage between kid activities and grown-up parties.

It's not a black tie affair.  Inevitably some kids show up not dressed in a costume.  My neighborhood is one of those that's decent but not so snooty that we don't get a bunch of kids trucked in from poorer areas not so far away.  I realize many of these kids can't afford costumes, but you know what?  If you show up, you deserve points for participation.

Best in show.  Conversely, when you see costumes that raise the bar by showing creativity or skill in design, then those kids (and their parents) deserve compliments and more candy for going the extra mile.  They're an inspiration to their peers and are the core group that keep the ball rolling for the next generation.

Copyright 2007 the Ale[x]orcist.