My husband and I always loved Halloween and Halloween parties. Some years we would throw parties, or we would go out to parties at clubs.
When I got pregnant for the first time, the baby’s due date was October 26. Of course she decided to arrive on a Halloween night instead, shortly after 11 PM. I remember nurses at the hospital wearing Halloween themed headgear that night. Once our daughter had joined us, Halloween took on a whole new meaning for Chris and I. It was no longer loud music and colorful shots. Instead, it became about cute costumes and costume parades and Halloween parties that were simultaneously birthday parties. Plus, lots of trick-or-treating. We would take our daughter – and later all our kids – out in our neighborhood, and also in the neighborhoods of both sets of grandparents.
Time has changed Halloween in our family but it is still important and festive. We never want to have a house that disappoints little kids in the neighborhood. I think this year it’s more important than ever to do our part providing a little Halloween happiness. It has already been a rough year for kids; For adults too obviously, but Halloween is really a kid focused day.
The final quarter of the last school year was a mess. Birthday celebrations, school rituals and rites of passage were all cancelled or significantly diminished. Kids lost time with friends and teachers at school. Sports and activities stopped. Summer vacations, summer camps and lots of summer activities were cancelled. Everyday routines had to be changed in adjusted because of the pandemic. The new school year started with tons of changes, new routines and strict requirements. Is one of those requirements going to be the cancellation of Halloween fun? Plus, Halloween has grown from being a single night of spooky fun for kids into being a billion-dollar industry with events, parties and parades intended to entertain people of all ages. Completely canceling Halloween would be another economic disruption in a year that has been full of them. Yet, the safety and well-being of people has to come first. So where does that leave us, the ghosts, the goblins and the ninjas?
According to all the research I’ve been doing, experts say you can still enjoy Halloween and trick-of-treating, but you have to be smart and you have to take some precautions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is considered the most trusted authority about health related issues. During the pandemic, I think just about everybody has heard it referred to over and over again. Throughout the pandemic, the CDC guidelines have repeatedly been refined as more information is learned about coronavirus. Certain things about its guidelines have been very consistent though, including advice to avoid large crowds avoid indoor activities as much as possible, and use face coverings.
Risk categories of behaviors
The CDC puts activities into 3 categories: higher risk, moderate risk and lower risk. Here are some examples of each:
- Crowded indoor parties
- Haunted house attractions where people may be crowded together and screaming
- Trick-or-treating door to door with face-to-face interaction
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
- Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
- Using alcohol or drugs, which can impair your judgement and increase risky behaviors
- Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19
- Trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goody bags are lined up for kids to grab and go while social distancing
- Make sure your trick-or-treat group stays small – think just 3 or 4 kids and chaperones
- Seriously consider choosing to trick-or-treat alone if you have at-risk family members at home.
- Have a small costume show, costume parade or other outdoor gathering with masks and social distancing of 6 feet.
- Go to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can social distance.
- Visit pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people maintain social distance.
- Have an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart.
- For any event where screaming will likely happen, increased social distancing is advised. The greater distance lowers the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
- Pumpkin carving with members of your household
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
- Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
- Decorate your house, apartment, or living space
- Plan a Halloween scavenger hunt. You can give children lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors.
- Have a virtual Halloween costume contests
- Have a Halloween movie night with people you live with
- Plan a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat candy search with your household members in or around your home instead of going from house to house
Ways to make Trick-or-Treating as safe as possible
Expert seem to agree that modified trick-or-treating can significantly lower any risks. Here are some of the best suggestions for doing so:
- Leave baskets of candy outside your home with a sign encouraging self-service
- Leave goodie bags at your front door or at the bottom of your front walk
- Having kids wear gloves
- Have kids carry hand sanitizer
- Set out pool noodles or other markers so people have visual markers for the 6 feet of distance
- Remember the usual safety rules and avoid costumes that can be a tripping hazard or impair vision
Gatherings and parades are just not a good idea this year. 2020 would have been the 47th Annual Village Halloween Parade in NYC, a raucous event that I attended a couple of times in my life. The organizers of the event cancelled it. In a press release it was explained they did so, “… because we love you all too much to endanger you and we care about your health and well-being.”
If you are considering hosting or attending any type of gathering at all, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Indoor gatherings generally are riskier than outdoor gatherings
- Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation are riskier than those with good ventilation.
- Gatherings that last longer are riskier than shorter gatherings.
- Gatherings with people attending who traveled from different places are riskier than gatherings with just local attendees.
- Higher levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering location, or where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees.
- Gatherings with people attending who do not adhere to social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and other measures are riskier than gatherings with attendees who do engage in these behaviors.
- Do not use a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of at least 2 or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose, and doesn’t leave any gaps
- Never wear a costume mask over a cloth mask! Doing that can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
- Consider using a Halloween-themed cloth safety mask.
- If you use or allow props, disinfect them often and don’t share.
When trick or treaters get the candy home
I could not find any credible recommendations for taking time to disinfect every wrapper. The best recommendation I could find is to just let everything sit for 72 hours before diving in.
My son would have cooperated with that. My daughters, on the other hand, would have plotted covert ops to get to their candy target. With that kind of pressure, I would have compromised by disinfecting some and letting the rest wait
Whatever you decide to do
You’re not a Halloween gargoyle or goblin if you decide to not hand out candy or other items this year. The pandemic is very real and the degree of its impact on our lives varies from day to day, week to week, and place to place. You have to make the best decision for yourself and your family.
No matter what you decide to do, at the end of all night on Halloween, you should take a few minutes to disinfect your doorknobs, doorbell, mailbox, buzzer, doorknocker, and anything else anyone may have touched.
Here at my house we already have a bin of ‘help yourself’ sealable bags filled with candy already prepped and ready to be set out on the front step.
For my older daughter’s Halloween birthday, it will just be family and 2 of her friends for birthday cake for a total of 10 people. Everybody will be appropriately masked up, and when it’s time to eat the cake we will social distance across 3 rooms in the house. Will it be perfect? Of course not. But there will be joy in her birthday and in Halloween because we are here to celebrate.