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Past the age of four, Halloween is no longer an excuse for your mom to slap a ridiculous Tigger outfit on you and parade you around the neighborhood like a show pony. In elementary school, a hard-earned bag of Halloween candy is a serious investment that involves sweat, uncomfortable shoes, and a post-trick-or-treat bartering session as intense as an auction for a Pollock painting; it's business. Serious candy investors ditch the plastic pumpkin candy-holder; its small size and dinky handle are made for novices. A large pillowcase is preferred and is handy for self-protection once your bag is somewhat full. Nothing beats the bad guys away better than a six-pound pillowcase full of sweets; a lollipop stick in the eye is better than what three years of karate would have gotten you. After showing each house your adorable gap teeth (to get more candy), the bartering session begins. Dramatically empty your candy onto the floor and emphasize the volume of what you've earned. Once you've assessed the initial value of your stash, the best tactic is to wait and let the bidders come to you. This bluff will get you the best candy in the end.

My first move would be to get rid of any overly sticky, nutty, dinky, or shady-looking varieties of candy. This included but was not limited to: Almond Joys, those little unlabeled strawberry hard candies, and "Fun Size" Snickers. I'd save a couple of the Snickers, but because they'd outnumber any candy in my bag, it made sense to get rid of them first. My ultimate goal? I wanted anything that would leave my orthodontist in a cold sweat: strawberry Laffy Taffy, Starburst -- anything coated in sour powder and anything remotely gummy. -- Amanda Cormier, Westview H.S.

I love Halloween. What isn't there to love about dressing up in costumes and getting free candy? But my enthusiasm for it has declined over the years. As a little girl, I'd look at the "big kid" costumes that I couldn't wait to dress up in, but I was content to be something cute, like a Pumpkin Princess. Between fifth and ninth grades, I enjoyed dressing up as something horrific. One year I dressed as a vampire and the next I dressed as a dead homecoming date. Nowadays, the focus has turned to how attractive looking I can be. As a female high school junior, going to a party as a vampire with blood dripping down wouldn't be the best costume...unless, of course, the costume itself was somewhat revealing.

This leads me to the one thing I don't like about Halloween. Last year I went trick-or-treating and got multiple comments along the lines of, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating?" Another common problem was the younger children getting more candy than my friends and I did. I find that ridiculous. It's cute to see a happy five-year-old get hyper off of candy, but do the parents really want to handle that at 10 p.m.? I'd rather handle a teenager who has been eating candy for an hour.

It's sad that as you get older you can't enjoy Halloween as much as when you were a little kid. There are haunted houses that come around every year, but not everyone has the transportation or the money to be able to attend. Then there are the Halloween parties that people throw, but not everyone is a party person. What's the point in buying a costume if you have nowhere to wear it? I don't see the point in buying a $30 costume and wearing it around my house or outside while I pass out candy. I just wish that this holiday, and holidays in general, could be enjoyable for all age groups. -- Chelsea Kennedy, Madison H.S.

My most fond memory of Halloween took place on October 31, 2003. I walked across the Parkway Middle School campus dressed in my '60s flower-child costume, which included a headband and bell bottoms. My friends greeted me with candy and Halloween-inspired practical jokes. Afterward, I rushed home, waiting for the day to fade so I could go collect my bounty of sugar. As we set out into the neighborhood, I noticed how almost every home was embellished with cobwebs, spiders, smoke, graveyards, and elaborate sound effects. My seven-year-old brother and my two younger cousins and I knocked on doors answered by otherworldly creatures that frightened us before we could ask for candy.

I walked toward a house decorated with flashing multi-colored lights, a large coffin in the front yard with a vampire inside, a trail of bones leading up to the door, fake blood splattered across the brick wall, and a large mechanical spider that walked across the roof. There, I received three "King Size" candy bars: a Reese's, a Milky Way, and a Snickers. These were the best treats I could recall getting from one house. However, there were "treats" that night that were the worst I had ever received: crayons, toothpaste, and empty Ziploc bags.

After three hours of ringing doorbells and being terrorized by monsters and villains, my brother and I arrived at our house and poured our candy on the floor to negotiate a trade. My brother took most of my sour candy that I did not care for and gave me his chocolate bars. Although each of us had received what we wanted, I stole from him when he wasn't present.

When my mom saw how wild my brother and I became after eating all that sugar, she hid our trick-or-treat bags in a cupboard she thought we couldn't reach. We managed to get into our bags when she was asleep, and within five days we had finished the massive quantities of candy. Since then, my brother has had no cavities, but I have a feeling the candy binges will catch up to him one day. My overindulgence resulted in three cavities and two root canals. -- Nichole Naoum, West Hills H.S.

My mom always paid meticulous attention to our costumes. She took pains to prepare both my younger sister's and my costumes, including face makeup. She would make us look all cute or scary (depending on what we were that year), and then she would take our picture. My dad would drive the four of us to my grandparents' for more photographs and trick-or-treating in their neighborhood. In those days, my grandparents lived in a large condominium complex that made a perfect, safe environment for trick-or-treating. Everyone there was so nice, and I remember a homeowner on the eastern side of the complex well. He would always elaborately decorate his home. When I rang the doorbell each year, he would be wearing some outlandish costume.

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