If you’ve looked at a calendar recently or gone on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that it’s Halloween. Halloween, and the month of October, means something different to everyone. You can dress up and party, spend every weekend watching scary movies, or, if you’re a child in North America, you probably get to stay up late and get free candy. There’s a lot of debate about how old is too old for a person to trick-or-treat. I’ll lay my biases out on the table: I went out trick-or-treating every year until I was in grade 12. I love trick-or-treating. So when I saw that in some towns teenagers are banned from trick-or-treating—sometimes under threat of a misdemeanour—I was pissed.
I read up on these laws, which cause controversy every year. They made me mad enough to write this article, so they’re effective clickbait. The laws themselves weren’t all made with malicious intent. They exist to keep teenagers from roaming the streets and causing trouble while young children are out and about. The thing is, the mindset that no teenagers should be out on Halloween just drives them indoors: to house parties, to underage drinking, and to messing with Ouija boards.
I would say that adults generally don’t want to see teenagers out drinking and doing things they shouldn’t. You might agree. Why aren’t we encouraging kids to trick-or-treat well into high school? Everyone still dresses up, they’re probably overworked and hungry, and trick-or-treating provides actual exercise for them after they’ve been stuck in chairs for at least six hours a day.
My large group of friends and I got away with trick-or-treating well into high school because my younger cousin would often join us. Over the years, we’d made traditions. My nana lives in one of our town’s safer, quieter neighbourhoods, so my mom would hand out candy from there. It was home base for our yearly candy collecting ventures. Waiting for everyone to get their costumes on, finally emerging into the crowded streets, and judging people’s costumes as we walked and shivered? Those were some of the best moments of my youth. It wasn’t even about the candy (well, it was a little bit about the candy).
That’s why I am asking those of you who would turn away kids over twelve on Halloween to reevaluate your tactics. Are you setting limits because you don’t want to run out of candy? Because I can tell you that the candy you bought cost next to nothing, and you’re definitely going to have leftovers.
Refusing to give someone a treat just because they look too old can be incredibly hurtful to lots of youth. They might just look older than they are, having hit puberty early. It’s probably already something they stress about. They might be older, but they might not get to eat candy at home. They might not get to eat much at all. It might be that the child is on exchange from somewhere that doesn’t celebrate Halloween the way we do. This might be their first and only time.
There are a billion things to consider before turning someone away. Isn’t it easier to tell them they have a nice costume, drop a Mars bar into their pillowcase, and let them have a good night? And besides, it’s trick or treating. You can’t blame teens, or older children, for enacting some sort of trick in retaliation. That’s just the contract.
Where do you stand on this issue? Were you ever turned away for being too old? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.