How old is too old for trick-or-treating?

Illustration for article titled How old is too old for trick-or-treating?
Photo: Peter Muller (Cultura/Getty Images)

My kids turn 12 next month, and have basically been planning for Halloween and trick-or-treating since Labor Day. Which costume will allow for warm clothing depending on the weather, which friends to go out in a pack with, which route to take through our trick-or-treat-mania neighborhood (and which house always hands out the full-size Hershey bars). I dread the future Halloween when they’ll say they’re too big to go trick-or-treating, but judging from the unbridled enthusiasm of themselves and their friends, that day appears to be far off in the future—high school, maybe.


So I was surprised by some news stories over the weekend that reported on some towns that are limiting trick-or-treaters after a certain age. CBS News reported that “Virginia city threatens trick-or-treaters over the age of 12 with jail time to thwart Halloween mischief.” Chesapeake is actually “threatening jail time for Halloween troublemakers over 12 years old.” Way to suck all the fun out of the tweens’ favorite day of the year, Chesapeake. Attempting to clarify, the city’s website tries to draw the distinction between an older sibling taking their younger brothers and sisters out versus a bunch of hooligans smashing pumpkins. Still, any person found trick-or-treating after 8 p.m. could be guilty of a misdemeanor, as could “anyone older than 12 or beyond seventh grade found trick-or-treating” in Virginia cities like Newport and Norfolk. This is outlandish. Even if the trick-or-treater was 18 (granted, that would definitely be on the high end of the TOT age limit, if not a few steps over it), is that really committing a crime?

Unsurprisingly, USA Today and other publications have immediately come out to explain, “Why banning 13-year-olds from trick-or-treating on Halloween is ridiculous.” After all, “Teens trick-or-treating, provided they’re respectful to the people around them, are not doing any harm,” unlike other activities like “Vandalizing property. Going to parties with alcohol or illicit drugs. Heck, an already moody teenager sitting sadly at home feeling like they missed out is a bummer enough reason to let them get dressed up and get some candy.”

I agree strongly with USA Today. Calling trick-or-treating a misdemeanor seems like a dumb way to get some kids into trouble that really don’t need to be. Honestly, I don’t even care if they have costumes: Not everybody has the money for such things, and I live in a neighborhood where tons of people come in from other areas to trick-or-treat there. I get it—it’s where more candy is available, unlike possibly less affluent neighborhoods. One day to benevolently hand out candy to anyone doesn’t seem like too much to ask, and am at a loss to consider what kind of havoc has happened previously in Virginia to necessitate such a strict ruling? I hope my kids—and everyone’s—are able to trick-or-treat for as long as they want to, for as long as possible.

So I will hand out candy to even the most minimum effort, as long as my bags of fun-size bars hold out. And I find that sometimes, the older kids even get extra-creative. I remember once, pre-kids, my husband and I were handing out candy to a group of post-8 p.m. older trick-or-treaters. I did ask one casually dressed teen, “Hey, what’s your costume?” He opened his jacket to show me a T-shirt that read, “This shirt is my costume.” Fair enough.

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.



I love Halloween and its a crazy holiday if you stop to think about it but I’m 100% of the camp that says come and knock on my door, I’ve got candy for you. I don’t care if you’re 5 or 15 or 50. Its a fun day with no crazy morality or religious thing tied to it. Lets all dress up as whatever you want, go out and get candy and have fun.  We should all do more fun things that have no obvious point to them.