Childhood can be a difficult thing to let go of. Sitting on Santa’s lap, jumping in bouncy castles, wandering wide-eyed through the toy store and running amok on the playground are all beloved childhood pastimes, but once you become old enough to grow a full beard, continuing with these traditions is, shall we say, frowned upon by modern society. One of the hardest childhood traditions to let go of? Trick-or-treating on Halloween and stocking up on all that sweet, sweet candy. But how old is too old to be trick-or-treating, exactly?
We’ll start by saying that if you’re chaperoning little kids, there’s no age limit (all we ask is that you wear a costume and be enthusiastic). We’re talking here about putting on your costume, getting together with your friends and going door-to-door just like you did as children. At what age does the person opening the door on Halloween find a group shouting “Trick or treat!” vaguely threatening rather than adorable?
We started by consulting authorities on the subject: parents. In an informal poll, most of the parents we asked (all of whom have plenty of experience handing out candy to trick-or-treaters) agreed that once you get to be about 15 or 16, it’s time to find better ways to spend your Halloween evening. “Fifteen, but only if you’re in costume and if you’re nice,” one mother of three said.
And that seems to make sense to us. By the time we were that age, it began to feel a little bit awkward to be participating in a tradition that’s generally reserved only for children. Also, viable alternatives — going to parties, cooking up Halloween treats with friends or visiting a spooky attraction — began to present themselves and sure seemed like a lot more fun than going door-to-door with 8-year-olds.
If you’re over the age of 18 and you simply can’t let go of that desire to trick-or-treat every year, then it might be representative of a more complex issue than the need to fill up a pillowcase with Skittles — namely, the need for praise and affirmation.
“It’s not necessarily about age; it’s about intention,” Dr. Charles Schaeffer, a New York-based psychologist, told us. “If your intention is to receive the compliments, warmth and responsiveness children usually receive from adults when they trick-or-treat and you’re above 18, you might be working out things better suited to a therapy room than a neighbor’s front steps.”
So, in short, if you’re starting to look like an adult and feel like an adult, then it’s probably time to start acting like an adult and make peace with the fact that your trick-or-treating days are behind you. Doing otherwise is one of the rudest things you can do on Halloween.