It's upon us: The one night a year when people open their doors and give away candy to children dressed as Hannah Montana, Spider-Man or Johnny Depp.
With candy on the brain, trick-or-treaters want more -- pillowcases more.
Perhaps that's why Americans will spend $2.1 billion on candy and dispense nine billion pieces of candy corn this year.
Those young, voracious appetites can't be satiated, but eventually parents tire and call the kids back indoors.
Then the real action begins: the great candy draft.
Use this guide, compiled from a heated discussion of retired trick-or-treaters, to find out where your candy ranks.
First Place: Full-Size Candy Bars
The bliss of finding the big boy Nestle Crunch or a Reese's with two generous peanut-butter cups doesn't fade with age. Volume, rarity and a deep emotional attachment make the full-size candy bar Halloween's holy grail.
Second Place: Fun-Size Favorites
Those diminutive bags or cute cardboard mini-boxes of classics like Mike and Ikes, Milk Duds and Junior Mints are ideal for instant gratification. The Halloween sizes of M&Ms, Skittles and Reese's Pieces are also perfect for when you've ingested too much already but just can't stop.
Third Place: Individual Hard Candies
Single wrapped pieces of candy, like butterscotch buttons and individual Tootsie Rolls (not to be confused with the larger one, which comes on a white cardboard sheath and yanks out baby teeth with each bite), is mildly exciting to receive at first. But hard candy just isn't that special -- it's given away for free at the barber shop. However, it keeps, and can be fun to throw. Plus, there is one sleeper pick: root-beer barrels.
Fourth Place: Sweet and Sour
While Nerds are the real deal, this category as a whole is bereft of quality treats. Lemonheads, Smarties, Pixie Sticks and SweeTarts can refresh the palate once in a while, but they're not a staple candy. Given 10 candies to take on a deserted island, nobody's picking Sprees.
Fifth Place: Lollipops
Like the sweet and sour category, a few entrants are acceptable. But after a single Blow Pop, who wants to spend 15 minutes attaining gum that goes stale after three chews? Plus, the stick always gets soggy and starts peeling into your mouth before you've reached the gooey epicenter. Still, the Dum Dum is a work horse. The Spangler Candy Company makes 8 million of them a day and sells 40% of its stock at Halloween.
And make no mistake, the brightly colored lollipops with the clear plastic wrapper commonly found at banks have no place in honest homes.
Last Place: The Untouchables
Candy falling into this realm could get your house egged later by kids who are too old to be out trick-or-treating. The category includes fruit (as in the real fruit, not fruit-flavored candy), pennies, dental floss and unpackaged candy that even a five-year-old knows has been sitting in the living room since last year. A double wag of the finger to anybody who's thinking about dishing out homemade treats.
And so with these sweet words of wisdom, go forth.
Support your local candy economy; turn a blind eye, just for tonight, on America's growing obesity; throw a few eggs if you want to relive your teenage years. And consider carefully before you trade that full-size Nestle Crunch for a Fireball.
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