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Etiquette experts offer tips on trick-or-treating

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A family tries on Halloween costumes at the Spirit Halloween store Oct. 13 in New York. The Halloween stores are taking advantage of the spate of retail bankruptcies and closings to open more -- and larger -- temporary stores this year in better locations. It adds up to an aggressive bid to capture cautious consumers' dollars in a $3.8 billion industry that has grown rapidly over the past decade. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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LONDON -- Trick-or-treaters beware: Manners count -- even on Halloween.

Britain's authority on etiquette, Debrett's, issued its first guidance Wednesday on how to behave during the uber-American holiday.

Although the holiday originated with Europe's Celtic pagans to mark the end of summer -- typically celebrated by bonfires to ward off evil spirits and children disguised as spirits of the underworld -- it has only been recently that British stores have swelled with Halloween stock and trick-or-treaters have canvassed streets for candy.

"Good manners are very important," said Jo Bryant, etiquette adviser for Debrett's. "There has been a growing presence of Halloween over the past five years and we're receiving many more queries on how to behave."

Common questions are: Is it acceptable not to open one's doors to trick-or-treaters? How many times should children be allowed to ring a door bell before moving on? And can one forego a Halloween costume at a party?

Debrett's has posted its advice to the etiquette-challenged on its Web site.

"Trick-or-treat should be used as an ice-breaking formula, not a real threat. Halloween fun should never feel menacing," it says. "Children should not be too greedy - if they are offered treats, make sure that they don't take too many and that they do say thank you."

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Other advice includes respecting people's privacy - don't repeatedly ring door bells for candy - and if you really don't want to be bothered by trick-or-treaters, it is perfectly acceptable to leave a bowl of treats at your doorsteps so children can help themselves.

"In this day and age, people have safety concerns and there is also a feeling that trick-or-treating can be intrusive," Bryant said.

Debrett's began in the late 18th century as a guide to England's aristocracy.

It has since evolved into a source for biographical reference and an authority on modern manners and etiquette.

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