Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2014, and was recently updated.
Last Halloween, my 11-year-old son was made to feel bad about dressing up in a full gorilla costume to go trick-or-treating — by our neighbors, who apparently opened their doors and questioned his age. So this year? Let’s just say he’s not so into the idea.
While I noticed that he brought home only one-third of the candy his little brother did last year, I thought that maybe my younger son just hustled a little harder for his stash (he’s dedicated that way). Maybe he asked for more candy (he’s forward that way). Or maybe the neighbors just knew him better (he’s social that way). I never dared to imagine trick-or-treating age discrimination, but apparently it’s a thing.
According to a 2016 reader poll by TODAY , 77 percent subscribed to a trick-or-treating age limit. And I guess I get that. I mean, it might be weird to find my almost 40-year-old husband trolling the neighborhood for Mars bars. But what really surprised me was the fact that nearly one-third of those who responded felt that 13-14-year-olds were too old to participate in this time-honored Halloween tradition.
Um, excuse me, but aren’t 13 and 14-year-olds still kids? Why, yes; yes they are. And aren’t the majority of these kids in 8th grade, AKA the suckiest of all grades (second only to 7th grade)? Why, yes; yes they are. I mean, what is wrong with you people?! Give these kids some damn candy for their teen troubles!
Besides, it’s not like these kids have anything better to do on Halloween night. What’s the harm in allowing them to meet up with friends, throw on a costume, and feel like a kid again for one night? We spend so much time complaining that our kids are growing up too fast, and yet the minute they attempt to engage in an age-appropriate juvenile activity, we shame them for it? Come on.
But all that is child’s play compared to the recent news that several towns are banning older trick-or-treaters from going door to door — and worse, some are even making it illegal. (Yes, as in your 7th-grader could actually face jail time for knocking on doors, hoping to get a Snickers bar.)
According to ABC News affiliate WPVI-TV, anyone over the age of 13 who is caught trick-or-treating in Chesapeake, Virginia can be sent to jail for up to six months —and FINED. In Newport, Virginia, kids can trick-or-treat until they reach 7th grade, or hit age 12. After that, it’s considered a misdemeanor. There are also several cities in North Carolina with 9 PM curfews and legal restrictions for kids who dare to trick-or-treat after 12 or 13.
It’s not just a thing in the South, either. Apparently, several towns in South Jersey have a 7 PM curfew, and at least one town invokes the age ban for kids over 12, WPVI-TV reports.
What has happened to us, people?!
Speaking with TODAY back in 2016, a 16-year-old named Ryan said he felt compelled to stop trick-or-treating because of all the comments he received.
“My friends and I got some negative comments, like, ‘You’re too old to be trick-or-treating,'” he shared. “We noticed that we would be given barely any candy, while the other kids would be given handfuls. It wasn’t really the candy that was important, but the sense that the adults didn’t want us there that put me off from continuing to trick-or-treat.”
Honestly, that’s what bothers me most. Ryan, just like my older son, didn’t outgrow trick-or-treating in his own time; the unapologetic public did it for him. They made him feel ashamed for participating in a perfectly acceptable Halloween custom.
He wasn’t jacking candy bags from unsuspecting 3rd-graders or trolling the neighborhood to toilet paper cars. He was just celebrating Halloween like he always did, soaking up those last bits of childhood while he could.
I was surprised when a neighborhood mom recently told me she didn’t like giving candy to older kids. I didn’t know if she forgot I was the proud owner of one or just assumed I’d agree with her short-sided point of view, but she chatted at length about how expensive Halloween candy was and how it was a waste to give it to older kids “who are too old anyway.”
But that wasn’t even the worst part; she proudly admitted to slamming the door on the faces of older costumed kids.
(Hey look, lady, it’s a free country, but I wouldn’t piss off the tricky teen crowd if I were you.)
And so I say this to the older trick-or-treaters: Don’t let anyone steal your confection-coated thunder. If you want to dress up and festively request candy from strangers, do that. Feel like a kid. Have fun. Come to my house and I’ll treat you right. Let the Halloween Scrooges deny you your sugary goods. There are other houses, other candy bowls, and other neighbors who not only approve of what you’re doing, but salute you with sugar. We, too, were teens not ready to hang up our candy bags. We, too, were looking to have this kind of sweet fun while we still could. And so can you. So should you.
(Okay, unless you live in Chesapeake, Newport, or certain towns in North Carolina or Jersey — in which case, you might want to stick to your curfew.)