Halloween is a holiday that celebrates the spooky and the abnormal, yet there is a strict set of social standards and rules surrounding the night’s celebrations. It’s a night of obscene amounts of candy and wacky costumes, and as innocent as this may be, not everyone is welcome to participate. In 2019, the city of Chesapeake, Virginia edited an ordinance in order to ban anyone over the age of 14 from trick-or-treating. Despite the advent of restrictions like these, the attitudes on older trick-or-treaters may be shifting. A 2017 Canadian report from the Angus Reid Institute found that while more Canadians over 55 no longer participated in trick-or-treating after the age of 12, a quarter of millennials continued to trick-or treat until they were at least 15. Trick-or-treating is a fun tradition, and participation should hinge only on a trick-or-treater’s willingness to be respectful of others, not their age.
With concerns of bullying and vandalism, it’s easy to understand why people don’t want teenagers and adults to participate in trick-or-treating. Additionally, parents of younger children have expressed concern over older trick-or-treaters negatively impacting their child’s experience as older children may push past or harass younger children participating. If these are parents’ main concerns, then the problem does not lie with the age of trick-or-treaters, but with their etiquette and manners. Setting rules and boundaries for trick-or-treaters within living communities through neighborhood emails or posting signage could be an easy solution to this problem. Such notices can ban acts of property damage, pranks such as egging houses or being disrespectful of other trick-or-treaters. Having rules that don’t exclude because of age can be an effective way to let participants know what is expected of them and what kind of behavior will get them removed from the activity.
Completely banning older children from participating is not the solution to safety concerns. Communities might consider implementing set time blocks for different age groups and establishing curfews for people participating. Homeowners’ associations concerned about property damage could create neighborhood watch schedules throughout their communities on Halloween to make sure children of all ages adhere to any pre-established community rules. It should also be said that regardless of safety concerns, those with developmental disabilities should never be barred from trick-or-treating. Other trick-or-treaters, parents and families passing out candy should encourage polite and considerate teenagers or adults to join in. What’s fun about Halloween is that it is loosening up by wearing silly or scary costumes and enjoying an obscene amount of sugar. Having to worry and listen to judgements and commentary from others around you takes away from that fun. By shaming older participants, one becomes the problem they were worried about by taking away a pleasant experience from someone.
The day that avid trick-or-treaters are deemed too old for candy and fun costumes is the day that Halloween dies. Furthermore, it’s not just about getting candy. If this was the case, people would just go to the store and buy some. Trick-or-treating is about the experience. It’s about the sense of accomplishment one feels at the end of the night when they pour out their candy to compare stockpiles with their friends after a long night of walking around the neighborhood. Halloween is a real bright spot for those whose lives involve more responsibility and less pleasure. It should be socially acceptable for teenagers and adults to do things simply because they are joyful. One night of innocent fun where people can let go of the monotony and obligations that come along with their day to day lives is an excellent way to hold onto the best parts of youth.