Trick or treat: How old is too old?


Every Halloween where I have opted to stay home (as most Halloweens as of late), I took the critical role of door-answerer. I provided fun-sized, individually wrapped future cavities to those whom such a problem poses the least risk — children whose adult teeth have yet to come in. I’ve watched the endless parade of miniature ghouls, witches, superheros (and invariably a character from a movie the child sporting the costume is way too young to have watched) collect candy and run eagerly to the next door.

Sometimes, though, I’d answer the door and find myself staring at my high-school peers, holding a pillowcase expectantly as I begrudgingly gifted them candy.

It’s always evaded me as to why high schoolers still go trick-or-treating, and why I will invariably come face-to-face with some of my classmates, even though they’re seniors. Many will argue that there’s no limit to Halloween and that anyone at any age should be allowed to go trick-or-treating. And who would I be to put an age limit on having fun?

My issue arises with the fact that many high schoolers that opt to go trick-or-treating simply aren’t children anymore, and see trick-or-treating as a means to an end instead of an enjoyable activity in and of itself. Increasingly, I’m answering the door not to 5’9” figures draped in a bedsheet, but an unabashed gaggle of teenagers in sweatpants and hoodies. While children find joy in dressing up (it’s half the fun after all), many high schoolers see trick-or-treating as a quick and easy way to stock up on free candy.

Candy, however, is a limited resource. Every house only has so much to give kids, and high schoolers who are in it for the candy can just go buy a bulk pack (or buy it the day after, when it’s sold at a discount) to satisfy their sweet tooth. High schoolers who swipe handfuls of candy from bowls deplete the stack for the flocks of children for whom the holiday is really for.

Which begs the question: How old is too old?

There’s no clear answer or concrete cut-off I can provide to satisfy everyone. To me, I feel someone should only be trick-or-treating past middle school if they genuinely care about the spirit of Halloween. To high schoolers, even seniors, who legitimately enjoy the act of trick-or-treating and dressing up, I won’t deny you your fun. Trick-or-treating should end when the person in question no longer believes in the spirit of Halloween. This doesn’t mean that all the seasonal festive fun has to end, though — you still get to enjoy candy canes and presents even after you outgrow Santa. There’s lots of seasonal activities for October, like haunted houses or R-rated movies, that you can now enjoy that you’re older.

So my question to high schoolers who still faithfully don their costumes (or just go door-to-door as they are): what are you really going door to door for? Is your candy crusade genuinely in the spirit of Halloween, or do you just want candy and the opportunity to stay out late with your friends? If your answer is the latter, maybe you should stay home this Halloween.