How Halloween Might Look Differently in the Pandemic

mom holding child's hand while trick or treating

Virus may push pause on a beloved tradition — trick-or-treating? Is it safe?

Trick-or-treat may turn into sick-or-treat if you’re not careful.

In the next few weeks, parents across the United States will have to answer the question: Is your child trick-or-treating this year?

Halloween is an escape of reality. A reminder of childhood, of tradition, of unabashed euphoria, and of wholesome delight. Whether you are a minimal participant or full-scale participant head-to-toe-covered in costume, you likely share in the annual festivities. But will that change in 2020? 

Fast Facts 

  • 148 million U.S. adults expected to participate in Halloween activities
  • 62% U.S. adults expected to hand out candy this year
  • 53% U.S. adults expected to decorate their home

Americans spend nearly $9 billion a year on Halloween. The typical American spent $86 on Halloween in 2019, according to the National Retail Federation. Between costumes, decorations, and of course, candy, we’re spending a lot. And this year is no different. Most Americans are planning to celebrate Halloween despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the NRF says. Despite fewer expected to engage in holiday rituals, spending is likely to remain above $8 billion. look at how much Americans spend on Halloween

Activities will likely change out of concern for public health safety. For fear of the spread of COVID-19, public health officials have discouraged trick-or-treating. Some officials have suggested taking extreme measures around the holiday.

Los Angeles County public health officials walked back guidelines that banned trick-or-treating activities. Those officials continue to discourage the quintessential tradition, citing difficulty to maintain social distancing at porches and doorsteps. Does that mean a total nix of Halloween activities? Americans plan to celebrate Halloween 2020

Why we need Halloween  

Americans are longing for normalcy in a year when normalcy is in short supply. Halloween can serve to help us maintain a sense of ritual during these not-so normal times. 

Yet, while COVID-19 hangs in the balance, obstacles stand in the path of a “normal” night of fun. Halloween in 2020 has left questions unanswered. 

Is it safe to trick-or-treat?

Can you catch coronavirus from Halloween candy?

Can children be transmitters of the coronavirus?  

The answer, like everything else with this, is, “Who knows?” 

We’re all at risk for COVID-19. We’re also at risk for mental health issues with an interruption of rituals. A night of spooky activities means a lot to children of all ages. It’s important to balance the risks, experts say. A goal of staying safe from COVID-19 and safe from mental depression being the suggested remedy.

Is there a safe way to trick-or-treat? 

Oh, so neighborly to drop the neighborhood kids a piece of candy and watch them meander about with overstuffed pillowcases one night a year. The costume-filled, candy-packed spectacle bridges communities. 

Trick-or-treating stems from an inherent face-to-face interaction — a strong no-no in the COVID-19 era. But experts say there are ways to keep the tradition going that safely minimize the risk of transmission. 

There’s no way to ensure zero transmission, health experts are quick to point out. But some activities may preserve elements of tradition while helping curb the spread. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has pushed a middle-ground approach that balances science and freedom. Traditional trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating activities are both discouraged due to an increased likelihood of disease transmission. One-way trick-or-treating, as well as virtual trick-or-treating are recommended alternatives, among other options.

  • One-way trick-or-treating: Here’s how it works.
    Individually-wrapped goodie bags are lined up for quick and easy pick-up at the end of the driveway or yard. Prepare these ahead of time by fixing bags, and line them up so that children can avoid having to reach their hands into a commonplace, like a bin.
  • Virtual trick-or-treating: Here’s how it works.
    Heard of Mars Wrigley? They’re only the largest candy producer in the world and makers of some of your favorites, including Snickers, M&Ms, and Skittles — and now the creators behind Treat Town. This app-based virtual experience gives users the chance to “knock” on the doors of their friends and family, and also receive credits that can be redeemed for real Mars Wrigley candy.
  • Trick-or-treating scavenger hunt: Here’s how it works.
    If this sounds a lot like an Easter egg hunt, it kind of is. Have kids engage in a trick-or-treat-style search around your house or yard.
  • Pandemic pod trick-or-treating: Here’s how it works.
    In the wake of COVID-19, a good rule of thumb is to keep your network small. Experts recommend an alternative to trick-or-treating is to only do so within a small network of close friends and family.

Different doesn’t have to mean a bad thing

This year has clung to a unified theme — different.

Different doesn’t mean bad. Different just means different.

Halloween gives us the freedom to get creative like we haven’t before.

Halloween do's and don'ts

Here are some ideas for you to steal for this Halloween: 

  • Dress up. That’s right, dress up. Nobody said costumes were exclusive to parties and trick-or-treating. Why not wear your costume on a day’s Zoom calls? Better yet, take a family Halloween picture to share on social media. Need inspiration? Here are our inexpensive Halloween costume ideas.
  • Carve up. The age-old tradition of carving pumpkins is a safe and fun activity in 2020. Consider sharing pictures of your creation to social media. You may also host a virtual carving contest or even a socially-distanced carving party.
  • Spook out(side). Spending too much time inside these days? Us, too. Here’s a chance to get outside and decorate your yard, porch, or patio. Decorating your home can be an inexpensive and safe activity for you and your neighbors to enjoy. The National Retail Federation expects more Americans to decorate their homes for Halloween this year.
  • Night in. How about a movie with your closest loved ones? Whether an edge-of-your-seat thriller, or a family-friendly classic like “Hocus Pocus,” a movie is a quick way to relive beloved traditions. Have a projector? Consider an outdoor movie night with close friends and family.
  • Treat yourself. Give the sourdough starter a break, OK? Halloween is an opportunity to indulge. Get creative with some sugar and flour and bake some festive Halloween treats for you and your family to enjoy.

Health officials advise all who intend to engage in Halloween activities to plan early and identify safe alternatives. Local municipalities may have restrictions on some activities.

Los Angeles County, for example, does not permit any Halloween gatherings with non-household members, even if outdoors. Consult your area’s rules and regulations while planning Halloween activities.  

Is the great pumpkin safe, Charlie Brown? 

It’s the great pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Before you and the Peanuts gang jet off to a pumpkin patch, the CDC advises you take precaution. While outdoor activities are encouraged under CDC-recommended guidelines, you are asked to exercise cautions. These include wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance from non-household members, and frequently using hand sanitizer. 

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