As twilight falls down upon your neighborhood, you grab your empty pillowcase and a parental figure (but don't have to worry about putting on your costume because you've been wearing it since noon), and head out for an evening full of spooks and goodies. It's one of the biggest thrills as a kid: running up the front steps to a house with its porch light on, as if to say, "Welcome! M&Ms this way!"
However, this innocent joy is snatched from us the moment we're old enough to resemble "hooligans." That whisper of a beard that you might have been so proud of in school will earn you nothing but scowls and dirty looks when reaching into a bowl of candy on Halloween night. Adults waiting on their porch to give candy to total strangers think that teenagers, and teenagers only, are the ones taking advantage of their money and time — when really, everyone is. It's ageist and unfair, and I believe that we should change the eligibility system for who gets to go trick-or-treating once and for all.
If a toddler gets dressed up as a pumpkin by their mom putting them in an orange shirt, does that qualify as a costume? Did that toddler put any effort into that look, or did someone else do all the work for them? Do they even really know what trick-or-treating is? No. No, they don't really know what trick-or-treating is, they didn't put any effort into that look, and no, it should not qualify as a costume. If a teenager consciously chooses to get dressed up, go outside, and walk around and talk to strangers (a feat any anxious person/teen will tell you is not easy) in order to get some free candy, then they must really want that free candy. They are putting in exponentially more effort than that toddler did to get the same result, except one of them is shamed for it. Why? Shouldn't they be out being a teenager?
Yes! Which is exactly why we should encourage teens to trick-or-treat: because the alternative is nefarious and illegal. Adults will be scornful of us if we ring their doorbells on Halloween, but they are the first to complain if they see a group of us hanging around the skate park that same night. So which is it? Do they want us to act our age and hang out and look "suspicious," or do they want us to be involved in a tradition we've looked forward to year after year our whole lives? Apparently there is no pleasing them.
Yet there is a loophole into their hearts: simply have a little sibling! If you take your little brother or sister trick-or-treating, the candy-bearers will only smile and say "Awe!" and, because they are blinded by your responsible and adorable deed, you may snag a piece of candy. Although that trick seems flawless, there is one glaring issue: what about those of us who don't have younger siblings? For the babies of the family: there is no hope. So that still leaves us with an unfair system, in which you still may not get to eat the individually-wrapped goodness that sits waiting on yellow-lit porches.
Which brings me to my fourth point: the adults have already purchased the candy! If a teen were to come along and grab a fun-sized Snickers bar, is that really going to affect them or their wallet? Chances are, no, it won't. You as a teenager ding-donging their door is just one person, the same as if a family were to have one extra kid who needs to snag a piece. It's not their fault you were born, or that you were raised on this tradition, or that a Jolly Rancher just sounds really good right about now.
Above all, trick-or-treating is fun! Toddlers, kids, teenagers, and adults alike are allowed to have fun in their own ways, so they should all be able to enjoy this once-a-year excitement and collect some free candy. Dressing up as a character you idolize or think is funny or whatever you choose to do is a creative outlet, which can be harder to come by as we get older. Eating candy also grows less frequent with age, and trick-or-treating combines them both.
Ultimately, I believe that all people should be allowed to trick-or-treat without shame — unless they hate chocolate and fun, in which case they can be the ones on the porch steps.