A Facebook message went around this week wondering what age kids should stop Trick or Treating for Halloween.
My answer was 112.
Why would anyone want to stop dressing up, going door to door in costume, and getting candy to boot? When I was kid, “aging out” of Halloween was a time of despair. Of course the holiday was a little different back in those days when kids were safe to roam familiar neighborhoods on their own, we gathered treats that often were homemade, and the worse thing we had to worry about was having someone’s brother jump out from behind a tree. Too many times as a kid my brother jumped out at me. I screamed and became a puddle on the floor . . . or perhaps created one.
But I still love the idea of dressing up, and I’m not alone. Larissa Faw, writing for Forbes magazine, even suggests that adults have hijacked the holiday. But even if you think you’ve grown too old to trick or treat, if you’re lucky, you may get to do Halloween again with your kids or maybe, someday, grandkids.
Yes, we went through the years when parents were afraid that the Halloween ghouls were real, like the year of reports of needles in candy. That led to local hospitals x-raying candy for very frightened parents. I never did that, but I did scan the candy looking for hidden dangers—and to swipe some of the good stuff. Please don’t tell the kids.
I will never forget Matt’s first Halloween when Spiderman tried to worm his way into the house to watch TV at the neighbors’ houses. It took a couple of houses for him to get the real point of this holiday: candy.
For several years, Matt was Yoda or a Gamorrean Guard and Maggie was Big Bird. Matt loved Star Wars more than any kid I ever knew. Maggie stuck with Big Bird, proclaiming she would be Big Bird when she grew up. She’s since made other career plans.
One year, Michael and his buddies had a bonus candy gathering at a local nursing home that held an annual trick or treat event with the residents. That year, the boys dressed in suits a la the Men In Black movie, and we moms worried that the residents might think they were young undertakers coming to take them away.
Less than a block from our house lived the Goulds, who naturally turned their home into a Ghoul House on Halloween. Their display was groundbreaking and exciting, with college students jumping out from a casket on the front lawn. Little kids had to decide if they were brave enough to dare seek candy there. Not everyone was.
That house became so infamous that parents dropped vans of kids in the neighborhood—meaning that all of the neighbors practically needed a second mortgage on the house to pay for candy for hundreds of kids each year.
This year, I’ve been watching the progression of a highly decorated house in my neighborhood, and I plan to drop by on Halloween night. I’ve been assured adults are welcome. I am younger than 112 after all.
So what are your Halloween memories? How does your celebration of the night today compare with what it was back in the day? And how are you sharing these stories with your kids and grandkids?
About today’s contributor: Susan T. Hessel, a La Crosse, Wisconsin, personal historian and Guided Autobiography instructor, loves hearing stories about Halloween (or anything else). She’s pleased to not have grown up in an era when Halloween pranks included tipping over outhouses. Sue is At-Large Director for the Association of Personal Historians.
Photos from Sue Hessel’s family collection.