Halloween isn’t what it used to be.

Even though the costume shops are always crowded and candy sales seem to be higher than ever, the trick-or-treaters, and their families, seem less committed.

In my own hometown, they’ve set a curfew of 9 p.m. In the next town over, trick-or-treating is only allowed between the hours 3 and 7 p.m. And where I just moved from it’s only allowed between 5 and 9 p.m. AND the city requests that kids older than 13 not participate.

Why limit the age? Would you rather have teenagers be partying? What are they supposed to do when everyone else is having wholesome fun and eating candy?

It may not be so strict here in California, but week-long Halloween activities, including church and school celebrations, seem to distract kids from the real Halloween experience of running down the street, knocking on doors and asking for candy – even in the rain.

When I was a little girl, nothing stopped my brothers and I from going out on Halloween – not the cold, not the snow, not even an argument between my parents. Sometimes we would go out several times in one night, emptying our heavy pillowcases onto the living room floor, donning a different costume and hitting the best houses (those with full size candy bars) again. My mom would drive us to different neighborhoods and, if we were really motivated, different towns.

She enjoyed it, too. I don’t remember her dressing up, but she did eat a lot of the candy. The houses that gave out caramel apples were her favorite (at least I thought they were). We couldn’t eat the apples since they were homemade – possibly with razor blades, drugs or poison – so she did the duty for us. It went the same way with the candy that I meticulous checked for holes, rips and other signs of tampering – that was mom’s.

Other goodies would be traded (or later stolen) by and with my brothers. I never kept the most popular candy, which would fill most of my bag – Reese’s and Tootsie Pops. I’d barter with my brothers, trying to score a Twix or, if I was lucky, some Pop Rocks.

I loved Halloween and was disappointed as my brothers grew too old and disinterested to go trick-or-treating with their younger sister. But I trucked on, going out with friends when I was well beyond age 13.

But it wasn’t just about the candy. In fact, it was hardly about the candy. I loved having a reason to dress up, especially if it meant I could go out, be social and possibly see classmates or even my crush around town. Everyone would play along, pretending that I really was royalty, a sneaky ninja or a pirate and I would do the same. I love it when people play along with fun things, especially when they’re with me!

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I also love all the lead-up to Halloween – looking at costumes and decorations, and building my costume over several weeks from thrift store finds. This past Halloween I was Rainbow Brite, which seemed to be a hit at the bar in Oakland my Star Trek character friend and I went to. The year before, I was an award-worthy Rosie the Riveter.

Yes, I am proud of my costume creations and I like to show them off.

My wonderful friends still dress up, too.

I don’t see myself ever skipping Halloween or ever not dressing up. And, if I ever have kids of my own, I want to make Halloween the most exciting holiday ever. No curfews! No healthy treats! For at least one day a year, it’ll be a candy feast. And, dressing up? Well, I’ll let them do that every day.

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow her on Twitter at @RiaSestito or email her at msestito@napanews.com.

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Public Safety Reporter

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. S