How Old is Too Old for Trick-or-Treating?


Teenagers going trick-or-treating has been a controversial topic.

As the leaves change color and October comes to a close, one thing becomes abundantly clear: it is spooky season. Ghouls and goblins are decked out on doorsteps. Spirit Halloweens pop up in previously abandoned storefronts. October 31st is a night of shenanigans and mischief for many. One of the biggest staples of Halloween is trick-or-treating. Across the country, children in costumes go from house to house in search of candy for one night of the year. It’s a time-worn tradition enjoyed by many. But how old, exactly, is too old for trick-or-treating?


It’s generally considered that trick-or-treating is for kids. But the age in which someone is no longer a “kid”–and no longer at an acceptable age for trick-or-treating– varies. For example, it’s cute when a six year old in a cat costume rings your doorbell. It’s less cute when a gang of teenagers in hoodies and sweatpants show up at your doorstep. Generally, most kids decide on their own to stop trick-or-treating between the ages of 12 and 17, due to social pressures, lack of interest, or other reasons. 


Still, some municipalities have suggested age limits for trick-or-treating. Just two hours from Flemington, Upper Deerfield Township in Cumberland County recommends that those twelve and older refrain from trick-or-treating. Similarly, Norfolk, Virginia and Belleville, Illinois suggest twelve years old as the limit. In Chesapeake, Virginia, trick-or-treaters over the age of 14 are guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor, potentially facing fines up to $100 and up to six months in jail. However, these types of laws are typically not enforced. 


Those in favor of trick-or-treating age limits say that older teenagers might scare younger children with dangerous activities, stealing candy, and bullying. In an article for Slate magazine, L.V. Anderson writes: “Teen trick-or-treaters see trick-or-treating as a sort of scam—a way of sticking it to the man by obtaining the man’s candy without having to pay the man.” This jaded attitude might sour the mood for joyous youngsters. 


At the same time, though, many continue to trick-or-treat well into their teen years due to a love of costume and genuine appreciation for the holiday. Halloween, then, might be more about crafting the most intricate costume and admiring house decorations than getting free candy. Additionally, teens with younger siblings might end up trick-or-treating longer than average as they assume the role of chaperone, like the character Max in certified classic Hocus Pocus. 


It seems like there is no exact age in which you are “too old” to trick-or-treat. However, it is widely agreed that trick-or-treating past your teen years is weird. So where does that leave high school students? If you don’t care what other people think, and you truly love trick-or-treating, do it! Etiquette experts recommend that teens act politely, dress up in an actual costume (no hoodies!!), make smart choices, and try not to go out begging for candy too late into the evening. If you feel “too old” or none of your friends are interested anymore, there’s still ways to get into the Halloween spirit. Activities like parties, costume contests, haunted houses, decorating, and/or handing out candy might be just as, if not more, fun. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to trick-or-treat is up to you.