I’m embarrassed to admit that I was 16 the last time I went trick or treating. In a half-hearted attempt at a costume, my best friend Colleen and I “dressed up” in pajamas in a blatant and rather craven bid for candy. Toward the end of the evening, an exasperated woman sputtered, “Aren’t you two a little old to be trick or treating?” Guilty as charged. What could we say? She was right — we were pushing our luck trying to score a toddler-sized bag full of candy. While I have to say that 14 seems to be a reasonable “last hurrah” for candy begging (as my mom used to call it), now some parents are saying that 12 is too old for trick-or-treating (really? 12?) — and some schools are trying to ban the holiday altogether.
Age limits for Halloween? I kind of get it, to a point. While cute little princesses and Power Rangers are in the spirit of the holiday, a few teens in hoodies on your doorstep grunting “trick or treat” doesn’t engender the same kind of warmth and desire to rain candy into their bags. Partially in response to this, some cities, like Belleville, Illinois, have placed an age limit of 14 on the holiday. (Some seniors in that town said they were afraid of older teens who showed up on their doorsteps.) In Boonsboro, Maryland, it’s even more strict — kids there over the age of 12 aren’t allowed to trick or treat anymore.
But are we going overboard with the rules a little bit? After all, Halloween is one of the few nights of the year where “kids can be kids.” They get to dress up, create costumes, and rove in packs with their friends in search of treats. For my son, his love of Halloween is second only to Christmas. What does he like most? “My favorite part of Halloween is getting candy, wearing costumes, going trick or treating with my friends, playing jokes on people — and trying to scare them!” At 9, Alex is firmly in the “scary” costume camp — this year he’s going as a ghoulish jack-o’-lantern, complete with long black cape and green, viney hands. I have to admit that I miss the days when he dressed up like a knight or a bumblebee, but the point is, he loves the holiday and has a blast. While I wouldn’t want to see him trick or treating past the age of 14 (in other words, don’t be like mom!) I don’t want to cut off the fun at 12, either.
What do you think? When should kids stop trick or treating? And should towns put a legal age limit on this Halloween custom?
P.S. I just did an informal survey of my house. My husband thought 14 was a good time to stop. My son said “20!” Uh oh.
Elisabeth Wilkins is the mother of one son and the Editor of Empowering Parents. She and her family live in storm-tossed Cape Elizabeth, Maine.