Last Halloween, we celebrated in a new county. As I stuffed myself into a pair of pants that made it seem as if I was riding the shoulders of a baby, our equally-new-to-the-neighborhood neighbor yelled across the way, asking what time trick-or-treating was over. My wife and I remember looking at each other in confusion, what was this lady talking about?
“Doesn’t Trick-or-Treat end at, like…10pm or whenever kids are sick of walking around?” I responded.
Perhaps I’m a product of the late 70’s and grew up in the sticks, but even so, it had never occurred to either of us that cities could actually put laws on the books to tell people what time their celebrations should end. Back in the day, when we were out of candy or simply going to bed, we turned the porch light off. This was a simple indication that my old man had enough and was done answering the door. The message was clear and kids moved on down the block for their next fix.
However, the headline of this article bears repeating: Our town has a ban on Trick-or-Treating. Okay, so not a complete ban, but when my wife started researching this incredibly antiquated law, we uncovered the following: in the 1970’s the city councils [AKA fun-destroyers] of both Chesapeake, VA and also Suffolk, VA (and probably a handful of others around the country) created similar laws that stated that Trick-or-Treating must be over by 8:00pm and that no one over the age of 12 is allowed to Trick-or-Treat.
I’m sorry, what? No one over the age of 12 is allowed to dress up and visit door-to-door?
As a kid growing up in the Northeast, we would hike house to house for HOURS on Halloween night, dragging full pillowcases down the road behind us. My childhood is awash in memories made on this one night dedicated to sugar and good-natured debauchery. My wife went trick-or-treating well into her high school years (she’s a total geek, but I find that hot), sometimes taking her younger siblings and other times just going with her friends… and her aunt and uncle hosted an annual Halloween costume party in Atlanta where EVERYONE, no matter age, is welcome. The bottom line? Halloween should be a good time for everyone.
If you want to curtail the amount of toilet paper and eggs (does anyone still do this? My wife and I are actually thinking about going TP’ing…) tossed at Old Man Ziegler’s run-down house, I can understand a curfew. But at least make it reasonable. Eleven? Even ten o’clock would be palatable. Individual homes can decide when they’re done. But in our city, the idea that this ONE NIGHT a year has to end before it’s even truly dark feels a tad insane. Hell, some kids don’t even get done with after-school activities and sports practice until dinner.
As if that isn’t enough, you know what’s almost as crazy as this early stop time? An age limit.
“Aren’t you too old to be Trick-or-Treating?” Does this sound like you? You must live in our county! Ok, fine, before I had kids, I may have said this a handful of times – but it was only after older kids turned up at the house with no costume–not even a mask or a sword–holding backpacks… sorry bro, no Twix for you.
But for those that made even minimal effort – my advice is, don’t ask if they’re too old. Don’t be THAT person. There’s not a child on the planet who is “too old” to do something innocent and fun. Don’t steal that from them. Do them a favor and just roll with the punches. In addition to kids who just want to enjoy this night, the “older kid” you’re shaming may be a kid who doesn’t want to grow up, who is more immature than his peers, who has a disability, who is struggling with anxiety, depression, or someone who is bullied.
Just pump the brakes for a moment and ask yourself if it’s worth it to save ten cents? Kids KNOW they’re growing up—they don’t need you to tell them; they likely know it will be one of their last Halloween nights out collecting candy, if not their last.
Being a teenager is tough – part of them wants to be a grown-up, but the other part is desperately holding on to those few strings of childhood… as they should. There’s a bittersweet part of crossing that line – they don’t necessarily need you underscoring it for them.
And that brings me to the real issues that I have with laws like this and it’s that childhood is fleeting. The concept of ‘being a kid’ is dangerously near the brink of being completely eradicated by ridiculous, over-reaching laws and policies such as this.
I’d rather ANY teenager who has ANY interest in dressing up—or not—and knocking on doors for some good old fashioned fun, do so. Because what are the options? To be out drinking, driving, doing drugs, smoking, getting into trouble with boyfriends/girlfriends, creating chaos, TP’ing my house (**actually if you’re planning this, lemme try and get you the address of our City Council Members…) or just generally staying home unsupervised. I’ll take some teens hopped up on Almond Joys any day of the week.
If you’re a teenager dressed up on Halloween, we welcome you at our home.
I challenge all City Councils across the country to knock it the F off. Get out of this business. Our laws in Virginia are OLD on the books, but cities across the country are enacting NEW LEGISLATION! Enough is enough. I put out a call to action to my local City Council to amend or abolish this law. I urge you to check the local ordinances in your city or town, and make calls to your City Council Members. Let’s take back Halloween for our kids (and for us! Daddy needs some Reese’s!).