Halloween Etiquette: How Old is Too Old to Trick or Treat?
Trick or treating is fun. There’s the drama of getting dressed up, mapping out your route, finding the biggest container you can get your hands on and setting out to fill it up by the end of the night. It’s dark outside, and with all the little costumed people milling about in the dark, a tad spooky. There’s also the suspense of wondering what kind of candy will be waiting for you behind every door, and the silent prayer that no one hands out raisins this year. But when should you give it a rest?
I’m going to admit something. I went trick or treating in my 20s. I got a lot of strange looks, some of them dirty, but I did it. I sort of had an excuse. I was taking my then-boyfriend’s younger siblings around the neighborhood, and I figured if I had to make the walk, why not get dressed up and score some chocolate in the process? But I got the feeling that the candy hander-outters were less than pleased with me, despite the fact that I tried to hide behind the crowd and merely stick my sack into the action. I also felt really corny saying “trick or treat’ in the highest-pitched voice possible at every door.
Before that, the last time I’d been trick or treating was in high school. I was 17 at the time, and though the looks were slightly less dirty, my friend and I still got greetings that I wouldn’t totally describe as pleasant. There’s something about looking eye-to-eye with the person who’s giving you candy that makes it all feel like a charade. When you’re a child, you have an excuse. You’re small and they’re big. You’re cute and they smile at you. But when you’re a teenager, it starts to feel like you’re just trying to get free candy. Which is exactly what you’re trying to do.
Before that, my previous trick or treating experience was in my early teen years. I was probably about 13, but not having gone through puberty fully, I looked about 10, and I was with my younger sister, so I was totally legitimate. The expressions on the door-openers’ faces were sweet as could be. And so was the candy we amassed. Yum.
Based on my experiences, I’d say once you have your driver’s license, you’re too old to trick or treat. I mainly choose this cutoff point because by age 16 or 17, most teens have gone through puberty, are more or less fully developed (though there are exceptions) and have made their first rite of passage into adulthood: driving a car. So at this point, the child’s territory of trick or treating is off limits.
Of course, there’s really no correct time to stop. It’s mostly a question of how badly you want candy, and how much you’re willing to compromise your self-respect and endure the strange looks at the door.