How should we celebrate Teen Halloween?


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Halloween used to be my favorite holiday.  I loved dressing up in elaborate, homemade costumes and going trick or treating.  I loved it more as I got older.  I think the fun of trick or treating peaked for me in high school.  Yep, I was a teenage trick or treater.  Trick or treating with friends – especially friends who could drive – was exponentially more fun than trick or treating with your parents.  My friends and I hung on to trick or treating as long as we could, going for the last time our freshman year of college.  I had just turned 18, and judging by the response of the adults in the neighborhoods we chose to pillage, we were officially too old to be trick or treating.

From then on, I had to navigate the strikingly different progression of adult Halloween traditions that involve serious partying (either at bars, nightclubs, or house parties) and hyper-sexual costumes for women.

In only one year Halloween stopped being about this:

And started being about this:

I am grateful that I made it to age 18 before I began participating in these types of Halloween celebrations. According to ABC News, however, many cities are banning teenagers from trick or treating.

This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Banning teenagers from trick or treating forces them to find alternatives and for most kids, that will mean finding an unsupervised house party or college party with alcohol.  And since at a party you’re dressing to impress your peers, and you wont be in the company of elder neighbors or small children, young women may be more tempted or pressured to dress like a “sexy kitten,” “sexy nurse,” or Snookie. And if a teen doesn’t have a house party to go to, they could also be tempted to engage in the more traditional types of “mischief night” or “cabbage night” vandalism. Boredom is a huge motivator behind pumpkin smashing, egging, and TPing.

I suppose some might argue that teenagers are competing with younger children for candy, and that their participation might deprive some youngsters. I feel like this is a minor problem.  For one, teens are likely to go out a little later than the youngsters and will most likely be grabbing up the leftovers.  Also, if one were to run out of candy before the teenagers arrive, it wouldn’t be a tragedy.  Since teenagers can buy their own candy whenever they want, teen trick or treating isn’t about the candy.  It’s about dressing up and hanging out with your friends.

As a society, we get up in arms about the sexualization of young girls and about the perils of binge drinking.  So why on earth would we force teenagers to cut their childhood even shorter, slap on a corset and cat ears, and pick up a solo cup?  In this case, it really might be better to get teens back out on the streets, hitting the pavement for a few Kit-Kats and M&Ms.


  1. I’d generally agree with you, but seeing the exception back home does make me pause a little bit. In the type of urban setting in New Haven, most of the teens weren’t going to get supervised, no matter where they were or what they were doing. Halloween was a great opportunity for snatch-and-run robberies, because sad old people would open their front doors all night. We got robbed a couple of times that way. At least at a house party, kids be in someone else’s house, and not mine.

    Halloween’s just a fraught holiday with lots of fraughtness in general. At least there’s candy.


    1. Hmmm you have a point. I now see that my vision of Halloween is pretty limited, and colored by my experience growing up in a rural/suburban area with relatively low crime. I suppose in a higher crime area, it could be scary to open your door to a 6 ft teenager wearing a mask…

      But then again, I wonder if those looking to rob houses would do it whether or not teenagers were allowed/expected to be trick or treating? Would a ban on trick or treating actually curb that type of crime. Hmm.


  2. If it makes you feel any better, I stopped trick or treating at 16.
    Mid to late teens seems to be the normal cut-off age based on everyone I know, not , say, 12.
    And yes, I was in a suburb when I was trick or treating so it was relatively safe. But even though this was the mid 80’s we still all heard the stories of the kids abducted and things being put into candy.
    Halloween is potentially dangerous, but I think you are on the right track: unsupervised teens and alcohol is far more dangerous. For far over 99 percent of the trick or treaters halloween is a night of fun, not danger.


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