When do you stop trick-or-treating?

How old is too old?


Photo Courtesy of Haley Phelps

Celebrated across the world on Oct. 31, Halloween has become a fan-favorite holiday. Pumpkin carving, scary movies, and costume parties have evolved into household traditions of this renowned celebration. Arguably, the most practiced tradition of Halloween has become trick-or-treating, where Disney princesses, pirates, and superheroes go door to door asking for candy. However, at what age does one stop trick-or-treating?

Halloween dates back 2,000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a celebration of the culture’s new year on Nov. 1. Over time, the Catholic Church infused itself with the celebration by moving All-Souls Day, a day to honor the dead, to Nov. 2. The All Saints’ Day celebration, which consisted of parades and dressing up in costume, was also called All-Hallows. The night before became known as All-Hallows Eve, and eventually, Halloween.

During Samhain, it was popular for children to go door-to-door reciting prayers on behalf of the recipient. In return, children were rewarded with sweets at each door. Thus, trick-or-treating was born. 

In many cultures around the world, trick-or-treating has been depicted as an activity for young children. Infants, toddlers, and pre-teens are shown to indulge in trick-or-treating, making society tell us that once you reach a certain age, you are “too old to go trick-or-treating.”

In fact, some places in America make it illegal for people of a certain age to go trick-or-treating. One town in Virginia even threatens a misdemeanor charge for adolescents, which is a lightened sentence from its predecessor punishments of fines up to $100 or up to six months of jail time. 

According to a Chesapeake, Virginia city ordinance, “If any person over the age of 14 years shall engage in the activity commonly known as ‘trick or treat’ or any other activity of similar character or nature under any name whatsoever, he or she shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

The law in Belleville, Illinois, the place where candy corn originated from, has an actual Halloween Solicitation, which forbids children in the 9th grade and above “to appear on the streets, highways, public homes, private homes or public places in the city to make trick-or-treat visitations.”

These types of “Halloween Laws” are becoming increasingly popular with other places such as South Carolina and even provinces in Canada creating laws of their own. Consequently, some parents have begun to roll their eyes at the severity of these laws and punishments.

“If a 17-year-old wants to dress up with their friends and trade candy at the end of the night, I think that’s great,” etiquette expert and author Catherine Newman told TODAY. “Little kids die of happiness when they see big kids dressed up. It validates their excitement,”

According to the Legal Information Institute, an adult is someone who has reached “the age of majority,” which refers to “the age at which a person will be defined by law to be an adult,” To add, the institute states that “most states have set the age of 18 as the age of majority.” 

This means that generally, anyone under the age of 18 is considered a legal child. If trick-or-treating is for children, then legally anyone under the age of 18 has the right to participate in trick-or-treating.

It’s understandable that many people, mainly adults, do not want teenagers ringing their doorbell on Oct. 31. For decades, violence and vandalism by teenagers had become just as traditional as gaining candy on Halloween night; however, as long as older kids are respectful and out at a reasonable time, there’s no problem with everyone being allowed to trick-or-treat this year.