Halloween is for kids, isn't it?

By Tom Purcell, Special to the Katy Times
Posted 11/3/22

It’s a question worth asking in these nutty times: how old is too old to trick-or-treat?

On the question-and-answer website Quora, some people ask if the age of 12 is a good time to hang …

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Halloween is for kids, isn't it?


It’s a question worth asking in these nutty times: how old is too old to trick-or-treat?

On the question-and-answer website Quora, some people ask if the age of 12 is a good time to hang up the ghost costumes.

That sounds about right to me. My mother would have decked me if I’d tried to collect candy in the 9th grade.

Trick-or-treating has long been a rite of passage of childhood—that is, it used to be.

Other people responded to Quora that they see no reason for older people—adults in their 20s and beyond—to canvas their neighborhoods in costumes collecting free candy.

But in the past three decades Halloween has clearly gone from being just a fun-filled childhood event to a serious adult event.

In 2009 I talked with Robert Thompson about Halloween. He’s a pop-culture expert who is the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

He explained that the post-World War II years were the golden age of Halloween for kids but beginning in the 1990s it had been claimed by adults.


He said then that Halloween had become the one day of the year that adults could really let themselves have fun by dressing up and doing something outrageous that they would never do the rest of the year.

In other words, it became the one day of the year in which adults could blow off stress by mocking the incredible complexity of modern life.

In more recent years, however, the “anything goes” mentality of Halloween for adults has given way to caution about wearing costumes offensive to others or being recorded on video at a party letting yourself go a little too much.

As our hyper-sensitive culture continues to lose its sense of humor—as people are ready to complain or sue at every perceived slight—Halloween is starting to fall victim, as well.

More and more schools and communities are banning Halloween celebrations.

I suppose it makes sense, then, for adults to try to eke out some Halloween fun by trick-or-treating for candy, as well.

When I did it in the ‘70s kids were everywhere working overtime to fill their pillowcases. You hardly saw a parent anywhere.

But now more parents are dressing up as they trick-or-treat with their kids and some even want to get treats for their efforts, apparently.

More college kids are hitting the neighborhoods around their campus to collect free candy—after a raucous happy hour at the pub, no doubt.

Food & Wine offers a tongue-in-cheek set of five commandments for adults who wish to trick-or-treat.

Wear a great costume, the magazine says, but it’s best to chaperone a kid, so you don’t appear like a total weirdo.

Put candy in your pillow case beforehand, so that it’s clear you are looking to collect free confections.

Say “trick or treat” like you mean business.

And if you can’t find a kid, wear a frumpy dress coat and pretend to be two kids—one sitting on the other’s shoulders.

It’s all sound advice, I suppose.

A growing desire for perpetual adolescence among today’s “adults” is revealing itself all over the place.

From delaying moving out of their parents’ homes and delaying marriage and parenthood to dressing like teenagers at age 60, nobody is eager to become a full-fledged grownup these days.

I just hope my neighbors will fill my pillowcase with candy, because I’m “dressing up” as a middle-aged adult.

Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, which features pet advice he’s learning from his beloved Labrador, Thurber, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.