By Lylah Jakubiak
The spooky season is finally underway. All around America, children busy themselves in preparation for the last day of the month: Halloween, the one night of the year when costumed children roam the streets in search of the esteemed king-sized candy bar. Throughout Batavia High School, students are already making plans for the special night.
The Halloween pandemonium brings up an important conversation for BHS parents and students: how old is too old to trick-or-treat? Halloween, specifically trick-or-treating, is notoriously centered around young children. That said, wholesome tradition doesn’t seem to have a defined age limit. So, at what point is trick-or-treating outgrown, and should high school students participate?
To answer these questions, 35 BHS students took a poll on their opinions about Halloween. While every participant in the poll said they still participated in fall traditions, their opinions on when to stop trick-or-treating differed.
Twenty percent of students surveyed believed that 8th grade is the last year for trick-or-treating. Another 11.4 percent believed that freshman year was the last year. The poll received 14.3 percent for sophomores, another 14.3 percent for Junior year, and 20 percent for seniors. The remaining 20 percent of those surveyed said continuing trick-or-treating after high school, in college, and beyond, is acceptable.
The clashing opinions aren’t only limited to students. Adults seem unsure of the answer, too. The 538 Blog enacted a poll containing 921 participants, asking various Halloween-related questions. They found that 18 percent of respondents believe eighth grade is the last year for trick-or-treating. At the same time, another 18 percent believed trick-or-treating is not an age-restrictive activity. The two most prominent opinions seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum: either there is no age limit to trick-or-treating or, the tradition should stop after the 8th grade.
A poll by Today.com contradicted both BHS’s survey and 538’s. It discovered that, out of 1,712 participants, 60 percent believe teenagers should be allowed to trick or treat.
This sixty percent represents the defenders of teen-treaters, those who believe that restricting the age of trick-or-treaters is unnecessary. They argue that Halloween is not an age-restricted holiday, and everyone should be allowed to participate.
Cathrine Newman, an etiquette expert, tells Today.com, “It’s nostalgic for them to go trick-or-treating. Let them be little again for just one night,” said Cathrine Newman, an etiquette expert. “Little kids die of happiness when they see big kids dressed up. It validates their excitement.”
A family therapist, based in Denver, Sheryl Ziegler, adds to Newman’s statement, telling Today.com, “If you have older kids, remind them to be mindful of their bodies and manners.”
Ziegler and others also comment that trick-or-treating is preferable to teens being on their phones or getting in trouble elsewhere.
Even so, critics of teen participation in the tradition still worry. They say that teens could scare, destroy property, and indulge in rowdy behavior late into the night.
One article titled “National Poll: Should Teens Go Trick-or-Treating?” by Evolve Treatment, reiterates this beautifully. They write, “The whole treat part sounds suspiciously like an excuse to roam the neighborhood at night, with no adult supervision, identities conveniently hidden by costumes and masks.”
Some cities even have laws regarding age-limits for trick-or-treating. In Chesapeake, Va., a law restricting the age limit to those 14 and under was passed in 1970, with a max of $250 in fines if caught. Trick-or-treating age restrictions don’t only occur in other states. In fact, in 2008, Belleville, a city in southwest Illinois, received media attention when they enacted a trick-or-treating age-restrictive law. This law stated that no one over 12 could legally trick or treat in the city. While laws like this have existed for decades, in recent years, they have grown increasingly common, forcing the public to take another look at their own opinions on the subject.
While some do agree with placing restrictions on teen-treaters, according to the polls, the general public does seem to lean towards allowing teens to trick-or-treat, even if the exact age is debatable. While there are speculations about teens destroying property on Halloween night, the concerns seem like a small cry against the overwhelming majority.
So, at what age should be the last for trick or treating? Sure, the answers vary, but the meet-in-the-middle suggests stopping at some point in high school. Considering that many of the Today Show’s readers believe that there is no definite age you should stop trick-or-treating, it’s ultimately the decision of the trick-or-treater.
So, take the polls, data, and expert opinions to make the most informed decision. Just don’t be afraid to indulge in an innocently nostalgic holiday. After all, that king-sized candy bar is just around the corner.
Abrahamson, Rachel Paula, and Elise Solé. “How Old Is Too Old To Trick Or Treat?” Today Show, 2 October 2023, https://www.today.com/parents/how-old-too-old-trick-or-treat-t164758. Accessed 17 October 2023.
Hickey, Walt. “Here’s When You Should Stop Trick-Or-Treating.” 538 — Election Polls, Politics, and Analysis – ABC News, 30 October 2015, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/heres-when-you-should-stop-trick-or-treating/. Accessed 17 October 2023.
Jones, Allie. “How Old Is Too Old to Wear a Halloween Costume?” Gawker, 22 October 2021, https://www.gawker.com/culture/how-old-is-too-old-to-wear-a-halloween-costume. Accessed 17 October 2023.