On Halloween night, you can expect to see gaggles of children escorted by parents, older siblings, aunts, uncles or family friends. You can expect to see dogs, parents and babies too young to know what’s going on or that they should enjoy the candy they have earned by being dressed up as they have been. As a trick-or-treater, you knock on doors and expect to be greeted by some person who is too old to trick-or-treat (whether an adult or young-adult) and are instead spending their Halloween evening at a party, holding down the fort at home to greet trick-or-treaters or watching scary movies, after the Charlie Brown special. You can expect all this and more, and not think anything out of the ordinary; children are getting dressed up and leaving the house, parents are escorting and plotting which pieces of sugary goodness to take for themselves from their children’s loot later on, teenagers are, preferably, off the street and keeping out of trouble, and all is normal, and all is well.
But is it normal?
At seven, eight, nine, we think there is nothing out of the ordinary about what we are doing and what we will continue doing for many wonderful years to come. We will dress up, and we will go out, and we will get our free candy, and that is simply the way it will always be.
But then the year comes when there are whispers, perhaps when you were eleven or twelve, and the Halloween season comes around, and you giddily start preparing and planning for the big day: what you’re going to dress up as, how much candy you’re going to get, how cold it’s going to be that night, who’s going to go with you—you are excited, and you are planning, and it is normal and usual and fine.
Someone makes a passing comment about how you only have a year or so left to do this, or maybe, in some people’s minds, you’re already too old to be doing it. But you ignore them, you ignore the nagging pit in the bottom of your stomach, and you buy your costume and you get your pail or bag or bucket, and you go out to collect your free candy.
But the year comes, suddenly, somehow, without you noticing at all, when you are deemed Too Old to go trick-or-treating, when the adults in your life inform you that you’re grown up now, that dressing up and going out as such is for children and you must leave it all behind. You must watch your younger siblings, you must give out the candy to those still Young Enough to collect their free candy; you must, and you will, because you are Too Old.
Or perhaps it is a decision on your own part, perhaps you see yourself as Too Old and you have confined yourself to your house, to your room, to the duty of passing out candy instead of collecting it, to scaring, to partying, to watching scary movies. Perhaps you have decided that trick-or-treating is a task best left to those who are still Young Enough.
The question is, who decides what is Too Old for trick-or-treating? And indeed, when is someone deemed Too Old to go trick-or-treating anymore?
Fivethirtyeight.com conducted a survery last year wondering that same thing, and they found that “About 57 percent of respondents picked an age between 12 and 15 as the age that kids are too old to trick-or-treat,” putting a flexible but still sound enough limit on what some see as the cut off for trick-or-treating. In another poll conducted by TODAY, it was found that “73 percent of those surveyed agree that somewhere between the ages of 12 and 17, kids should call it quits.”
Though many others agree that there should be no age limit on trick-or-treating, they then go on to say contradictory things, such was the case with Phil Tompkins, who was interviewed by TODAY, and who was quoted as saying, “The kids that put in an effort get the good bucket — the best candy — even if they are older, but worked hard on their costume, that is OK with us,” but who then went on to also say, “If you can grow facial hair or have more than a training bra, you might be too old,” further solidifying that most people, at the end of the day, believe there should be a time and point where trick-or-treating come to an end.
When you ask people you know personally who are well past the age long since deemed Too Old to go trick-or-treating, you often hear things like, “I would go trick-or-treating if I could this year,” showing that, in a lot of cases, it’s not necessarily a lack of want to go trick-or-treating on their ends, it’s more to do with believing everyone else thinks we’re too old to go, that older people would turn us away and not give us our treats. In many cases, we don’t think we’re Too Old to go trick-or-treating, everyone else does.
So are you too old to go trick-or-treating this year?