According to Hans Broedel, University of North Dakota history professor and expert on early traditions, the Halloween activities we enjoy today evolved from a medieval custom in which kids asked for treats in exchange for praying for the dead of the household. In addition to little kids offering prayers for treats, it was also traditional for big kids to get in on the act by playing tricks – vandalism and such – on their neighbors.
Over time, Broedle says, Halloween became more of a little kid’s holiday and less of an excuse for big kids to act out. In fact, these days you are more likely to catch a teenager going door to door collecting candy than to catch one egging a house. Unless you happen to live in the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois or any of the other towns where trick or treating by teens has been banned.
In Belleville, Mayor Mark Eckert says that in his community, trick-or-treating by high school-aged kids is officially forbidden. He says the move was prompted by complaints from single mothers and senior citizens who were frightened by “6-foot-tall kids” showing up at their doors on Halloween. If parents don’t have the good sense to tell their teens they are too old to trick-or-treat, Mayor Eckert is happy to do it for them.
When I was a kid my father said to me, ‘You’re too damn big to be going trick-or-treating. You’re done.’ When that doesn’t happen, then that’s reason for the city governments to intervene.
Belleville isn’t the only town tired of seeing big kids enjoying Halloween. Meridian, Mississippi, Bishopville, South Carolina and Boonsboro, Maryland all prohibit kids over the age of twelve to trick-or-treat on Halloween.
I personally don’t have a problem with big kids joining in the fun on Halloween. In fact, I rather like it. Not only does it keep them busy and out of trouble, I think a teen – especially a 13-year-old – is still a kid and should be able to put on a costume and act like one.
What about you? Do you think teens should give up the ghost and forget about trick-or-treating?
Image: Joe Mabel/Flickr
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