Adult trick-or-treating: Are adults hijacking Halloween?


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Zachary Mulrenin

The Halloweens of my childhood were mostly centered about myself and my little brothers. We would dress up as our favorite Power Rangers, or dinosaurs, or zombies, or whatever have you. The days of decorating the house and assembling our costumes all culminated on 31 October of every year, when we would roam the neighborhood soliciting candy from neighbors and strangers. I pretty faithfully participated in Halloween until I started high school around the age of 13.

At that time, Halloween started to seem to me like a children’s holiday, and the adults didn’t go trick-or-treating. Adults don’t celebrate Halloween unless they have small children! This was my thinking throughout my teenage years. It wasn’t until I grew up and started making my way in the real world that Halloween and costumes crept back into my consciousness. Suddenly, I was getting invited to Halloween parties, and encouraged to dress up once a year.

I don’t remember my parents ever getting this excited about Halloween! Is my generation hijacking Halloween from the children? Are we the first generation to know what fun is? Has it always been this way, and I just never noticed? Costumed parties are not just limited to Halloween celebrations. With the mainstream acceptance of “nerdy” culture, participation in cosplay at conventions across the nation has soared in the past decade.

With more adults than ever consuming video games and cartoons, even those who do not regularly participate in cosplay have an ever-expanding pool of content to draw inspiration for Halloween costumes from. Does this contribute to the perceived rise in adult participation in Halloween? Before I started writing and researching this op-ed, I was of the mind that adults such as myself have absolutely hijacking Halloween! According to an NPR article entitled “Halloween for Adults: A Scary History,” adults have always enjoyed the festivities that Halloween brings.

While indeed more adults have been dressing into more costumes for more occasions than just Halloween, adult participation in Halloween has always been high. Then, a thought occurred to me – of course adults never hijacked the holiday. Adults have always been running the show!

Take a walk around suburbia and observe the Halloween decorations. I remember the spooky decorations that my neighbors and others put up to attract trick-or-treaters (some were very convincing – one neighbor always stuffed clothes in his lawn to give the appearance of a grisly accident scene). Children don’t put those up –adults put those up for the children! Not every adult parties on Halloween, but many participate.

It is worth noting, however, that while adult participation in Halloween is nothing new, consumers have been spending more and more on Halloween each year, particularly those in the millenial demographic. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend an average of $83 on Halloween goods this year – up from last year’s average of $74.

Additionally, thanks to the huge increase in usage of social media and other sharing websites over the past decade, Halloween-related topics become much more visible to everyone, which may also contribute greatly to the perception that adults are “hijaking Halloween” (really, how many children do you have friended on Facebook?).

So, after some research, it appears to me that while the visibility and industry of Halloween has increased, adults are not hijacking Halloween. Adults and children alike have always enjoyed the festivities of Halloween and have always participated in a myriad of ways.

Besides, in the end, is anyone really concerned with who’s doing what on Halloween? Have a Happy Halloween!