How Old is Too Old To Trick or Treat? 10 Ways To Know.
Halloween is a long celebrated holiday in the United States, taking its roots back to Celtic tradition from almost 2000 years ago. It conjures images of cut up jack-o lanterns, scary haunted houses, and of course, trick or treaters. Trick or treating is a tradition that has been celebrated in the U.S. for around 100 years. Parents lead around kids dressed up in adorable, scary, and sometimes even wacky costumes, going from house to house and asking for candy. The standard reward is around one or two pieces of fun sized candy, but if you’re real lucky, you’ll find that one house in the neighborhood with big candy bars.
It’s a time-honored tradition where kids in the neighborhood can take advantage of the brisk fall weather, spend some quality time with friends or family, and rack up as much candy as they can. But when do you age out of trick or treating? It’s a sensitive question. For some parents, it can be a hard wake up calls when their kids no longer need them to go trick or treating. Gradually, they may stop going altogether. But what is the cut off? Plenty of teenagers go trick or treating each year, prompting mixed reactions from people giving out candy. For some, it’s no big deal. For others, they refuse to give candy to kids over a certain age.
How old is too old to trick or treat? Here is a list of 10 ways to know when you’ve probably gotten a little too old for trick or treating.
10You Own One of the Houses People are Trick or Treating In
This goes without saying, but if you are a homeowner in an area where kids are trick or treating (or frankly, a homeowner at all), you are way too old to be trick or treating by yourself. Just take a look in your mortgage, and you’ll find a tiny clause at the end giving up your trick or treating rights. Okay, maybe not. But in all seriousness, unless you’re accompanying a child in their candy gathering adventures, your role in the trick or treating scheme has shifted. You have a responsibility as a homeowner to be giving candy out, not taking from the central reserve.
So what if you’re an absurdly young homeowner? Congratulations, that’s pretty impressive, and you should be commended on your sound investing. Throw a Halloween party in your new house to celebrate your life accomplishments and show off your new home. And then invest in some candy. Because you definitely don’t need your neighbors’ free candy. And yes, this counts for anyone renting as well. Leases also come with an official anti-trick or treating clause.
What you should be more concerned about is how to keep your home safe while people are trick or treating. If you’re not careful, you can actually face legal liability, for injuries occurring on occurring on your property. Also, if you’re not home, there is no one around to protect your house from pesky teenagers egging and TP-ing homes (a very unfortunate consequence of an otherwise adorable and fun holiday).
9Just to be Clear, This Includes Any Other Adults
So what constitutes adulthood—paying taxes? Having a license? Listening to NPR? It’s a loaded question, and the truth is, no one really knows. So let’s work backwards. Now that we have ruled out homeowners, it’s safe to mention that the above criteria also applies to anyone in their 20s and over.
Sure, many people in their early twenties would argue they’re no more drastically adult than they were a couple of years ago. But tough cookies. You may sit around a college dorm playing video games all day and eat cold pizza for breakfast. But now you’re an adult who does those things.
To be fair, even if you’re not sitting around eating pizza all day, it’s not totally accurate to call people in their 20s full fledged adults. Many people in their 20s are entering a phase developmental psychologists call “emerging adulthood”, characterized by a number of cultural changes, such as an increased need for education to enter the job market, fewer entry level jobs, and a much older average age for marriage. It’s not uncommon for the current generation of 20 something year olds to have major life milestones occurring much later in life.
Generational differences aside, trick or treating is unfortunately where we’ve got to draw the line. Once you exit your teenage years, you will be hard pressed to find anyone sympathetic to your free candy needs. If it bothers you that much, get a group of friends to buy candy and knock on their doors. It’s sort of the same thing.
8You’ve Graduated High School (Without Skipping too Many Years)
How about all of those teenagers trick or treating? This is where trick or treating age cut offs becomes a grey area. But a hard line has to be drawn somewhere. If you’ve graduated high school and you’re not a super genius who graduated high school at 10 years old, unfortunately, most would agree that you have also graduated the trick or treating threshold. (Although if you are a 10 year old super genius, feel free to trick or treat to your heart’s content, you’ve definitely earned the free candy.)
If like most people, you took the scenic route to your diploma, you’re probably around 18 years old. That comes with its own share of responsibilities. You’re old enough to vote, serve in the military, and buy lottery tickets. So in the eyes of most people, you’re probably too old to come to their door and ask for free candy. Sure, this may be rushing people to grow up. But like your counterparts in their early twenties, soon you’ll be on track to have enough money to buy all the candy you want, any day of the year.
But as 18 year olds, you can probably get away with some loopholes. Borrow a baby family member. Spend $20 to dress them up as some sort of cute pumpkin or other vegetable. This’ll lower the guard of anyone who answers the door, and possibly get you extra candy. You’ll get back your $20 in no time, and since your trick or treating friend can’t chew candy yet, you’ll get to keep all of the spoils.
7In Certain Towns, 16 Years Old is the Official Cut Off
For many people, 18 seems like a perfectly acceptable cut off for trick or treaters. But not everyone feels the same way. This year, Bathurst, a city in New Brunswick Canada, has banned children over the age of 16 from trick or treating, and set a curfew for all trick or treating to stop at 8 p.m. The bylaws state that anyone over the age of 16 found to roaming the streets looking for candy or dressed in “facial disguise” may be fined up to $200.
This prompted a huge backlash online, even gaining attention across the border. But towns that are instilling these sorts of laws say their overall concern is safety and keeping property damage to a minimum. The New Brunswick Police Department defends the action, saying they will use a common sense approach in stopping people, with fines being used only in the most serious cases.
These bans are not new, however. The idea is to keep teenagers off the street and in their homes in order to keep them out of trouble. But there is concern that these bans may have the reverse effect—instead of curbing bad behavior, it’ll just move it inside. Indeed, these bans may encourage teens to throw and attend parties in which underage drinking (and sometimes even drug use) may be going on. This trend has left many police departments and concerned community members between a rock and a hard place when it comes to keeping their cities safe.
6For Some, Middle School is the Limit
Even stricter still, some communities have gone so far as to ban anyone no longer in middle school from trick or treating, limiting the age to 12 years old. There are still mixed feelings about people in high school coming to trick or treat though.
Some don’t mind giving out candy to anyone that’s dressed up well enough. If they’re in the spirit of the holiday, it’s all in good fun. Not everyone agrees. Many feel that those who have finished middle school have no business trick or treating. High schoolers trick or treating often get snubbed by people, either receiving less candy than younger trick or treaters, or being told directly that they are far too old to trick or treat. Some are even refused candy.
If you’re a parent of a child that’s in high school, you may want to keep this in mind when sending your kids out to trick or treat. As for people who don’t want to give candy to teenagers, don’t answer the door. Even if you feel some kids are too old to be trick or treating, keep in mind, they’re still kids. Snubbing a child is a mean and humiliating thing to do, regardless of how old you think they may be. The fact that they’re trick or treating and not up to more mischievous things that night is a good thing. Let them enjoy their childhood for a little longer and have a little fun; don’t be that person.
5You’re Too Cool to Dress Up
People may not agree about an exact age cut off for trick or treaters. But most people seem to agree that teenagers not dressing up for Halloween and asking for candy is ridiculous. If you show up with a pillowcase asking for candy, and all you’re sporting is a pair of jeans, you’re very likely to get a cold reception from most houses.
It’s completely understandable if you can’t afford to spring for an entirely new costume. Halloween costumes have gotten more expensive over the years. Luckily, there are plenty of cheap do it yourself costumes that you can make using materials in your house or at a local convenience store. Try being a ghost, or a bunch of kids at a slumber party, or buy some balloons and be the kid from Up. With enough ingenuity, there is a sure way to make your Halloween costume that won’t break the budget. And if you really can’t, go anyway. You deserve to trick or treat as much as anyone else, costume or not.
But if that’s not the case, and you just either a) don’t want to put the effort of putting together a costume, b) don’t feel very excited about the idea of dressing up, or c) feel embarrassed walking around in a costume, you’re probably too old to be trick or treating. Don’t force yourself to do something you are naturally growing out of. Plenty of cities sponsor Halloween/October/Fall Festival events with free candy for people of all ages, regardless of age or costume.
4You’re Dressed Provocatively
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with dressing up provocatively for Halloween. If you have a party coming up and you want to strut your stuff, go right ahead. There is no absence of sexy costumes. From sexy cat woman, nurse, doctor, secretary etc., your local Halloween store will have something provocative and fun to fit your needs.
Lately, it’s become an obsession. There are sexy costumes you didn’t even know could be sexy. You’ve got sexy banana, pizza, care-bears, guitars, and even Burt and Ernie from Sesame Street. If you can think of something, really anything, that exists, there is probably a sexy Halloween costume version of it. You have a right to dress up as you see fit, and no one can tell you anything, since it’s Halloween.
Except if you randomly show up at their door asking for candy. Then it crosses a line. Letting kids enjoy their childhood for as long as they can is fine. But you cannot have your Halloween candy and eat it too. If you’re old enough to be wearing a provocative outfit, you’re too old to be trick or treating. Trick or treating is a way for people in the neighborhood to enjoy different kids’ adorable costumes and for kids to have fun getting as much candy as they can. You showing up at someone’s house in a provocative outfit and asking for candy would be weird any other day of the year, and October 31st is no exception.
3You Don’t Actually Say Trick or Treat
Is showing up to someone’s door and singing trick or treat in exchange for candy a little childish? Yes. That’s the point. Because little children love doing it. There’s a certain etiquette that should be observed when it comes to Halloween. You go to houses with lights on, you take one piece of candy when there’s a bowl that’s left out, and you sing trick or treat when someone answer’s the door.
If you’re too old to sing along and play into the Halloween spirit, don’t go trick or treating. When people open their door, half the fun is having a group of kids smiling and excited about receiving candy. It makes them feel good about giving out candy in the first place. Similar to wearing a costume, you’ve got to get into it in order to be part of the tradition.
Also, knocking on someone’s door and being melancholy while asking for free sweets gives the entire transaction a very awkward vibe. If people go to the effort of buying candy, you have to go to the effort being enthusiastic and polite. On average, Americans are expected to spend around $2.7 billion on candy alone, and $9.1 billion in total during Halloween, when you account for costumes, decorations, and greeting cards. So least you can do is smile and say trick or treat.
If you’re truly that bored or disinterested, then just stay home. All the candy goes on sale the next morning anyway, so go buy some then.
2Your Friends Answer the Door
If you’re trick or treating and your friend answers the door, this can be a wake up call that you’re probably reaching the age of trick or treat retirement. This is by no means a definitive prohibition on trick or treating. Plenty of people trick or treat at their friends’ houses. They’ll probably give you more candy (or less, if they just want to mess with you) and might tease you a bit, but it’s all in good fun.
However, if none of your friends are out trick or treating, you may want to take it as a sign. Recall the old expression: “If you’re friends were all jumping off a bridge, would you?” Generally it’s good advice that just because your friends or those around you were doing something, doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing. But in the case of trick or treating, conformity is not the worst thing. If you’re a teenager and you find that your classmates and friends are the ones answering the door to give you candy, you’ve probably reached the point where it’s starting to become outdated.
It’s also likely many students aren’t able to go trick or treating because they’re home studying. So if your friends are all at home because they have a midterm or exam coming up that week, then you should definitely be home too. There’s a reason everyone in your class isn’t trick or treating.
1You’re Wondering If You’re Too Old to Trick or Treat in the First Place
Truth is, the age limit for trick or treating isn’t defined, but most people start to get a sense when they’ve reached a limit. Opinions are mixed, and it seems that for many, it’s circumstantial. A good measure for many people is the fact that they’ve begun to think about the question itself. Many kids naturally grow out of the desire to trick or treat, and if you feel like it’s something you’re not 100% sure you want to do, you should trust your instinct.
Trick or Treating, or “guising” was started as a way for medieval children and adults alike to play mischievous but harmless pranks on their neighbors, as well as ask for sweet treats from neighbors in exchange for prayers for dead souls. For a long time, it was associated with vandalism and destruction, and was even outlawed during WWII, due to sugar rations. It wasn’t until after World War II that trick or treating as we have come to know it became popularized, with candy companies able to profit over its commercialization.
As a result, there are no set rules. No one can stop you from going door to door and asking for candy, if that’s what you really want. Part of the wonder of being a child is that you don’t question much about why or how things came about; you just sort of accept that this is what you do on October 31st. So if you suddenly start to feel weird trick or treating, it’s a natural part of growing up. And that’s okay.
There is no agreement about a set age limit to trick or treating. But use common sense. Adults should not be trick or treating on their own behalf or without a kid in hand. That’s not trick or treating. That’s just asking your neighbors for free candy.
When it comes to teenagers, there is nothing wrong with kids wanting to live out their childhood for a little longer. It keeps them out of trouble and doing something fun for the night. If a teenager shows up your door and they’ve clearly put effort into their costume, cut them some slack and give them some candy. They’re just as much kids as the elementary school children showing up to your door.
But if you’re a kid whose older than 12, you may want to take some steps to be courteous and ensure the holiday is fun for everyone. Just because you get to stay up later these days, doesn’t mean everyone else wants to, so try and limit your trick or treating until around 8pm, like you would when you were younger. Make sure your costume is appropriate. Remember, people aren’t obliged to give out candy. It’s something they do out of kindness. Smile, and say thank you. And don’t egg or TP peoples’ houses. (It’s childish and illegal.) Let younger children go in front of you, since for many, it may be their first time. As long as you’re respectful of these guidelines, it’s sure to be a fun holiday for everyone.