- Despite the pandemic, there are ways to celebrate Halloween this year.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for a safe Halloween.
- Traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating should be avoided, according to the CDC.
Costumes, candy, tricks, and treats all scream Halloween. But with the pandemic still underway, this year’s festivities may look different.
“Unfortunately, the CDC does not recommend our traditional trick-or-treating. Going from door to door, being face-to-face with multiple people should be avoided during these times,” Dr. Christopher Kelly, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told Healthline.
In addition to trick-or-treating, in its guidelines for Halloween, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also suggests avoiding the following activities to help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- parking lot gatherings where treats are handed out from trunks of cars
- indoor costume parties with a lot of people present
- indoor haunted houses
- hayrides or tractor rides with people you don’t live with
- festivals in rural areas outside your community, if the area you live in has community spread of COVID-19
- drinking alcohol and using other substances, which may cause you to make unsafe choices
The good news is there are ways to celebrate Halloween without putting yourself or others at risk.
“It may take a little bit of planning, but just like any costume, all it takes is a little creativity, and it can be the best [Halloween] yet,” Kelly said.
Here are a few ideas health experts suggest you may want to consider, plus the level of risk.
1. Up your Halloween flair (low risk)
To get in the holiday spirit, cover your living space with all things creepy.
“Decorating the house can still be a safe way to get into the spooky spirit,” Kelly said.
Since pumpkins are a key prop for the day, try carving or decorating pumpkins with your family inside your home or outside with others.
“Pumpkin carving can even be a group activity if it’s done outside on a warm fall day while maintaining distancing,” Kelly said.
2. Put on a costume (low/moderate risk)
Halloween lovers can still show off their costumes.
In fact, Shelli Dry, OTD, occupational therapist and director of clinical operations at Enable My Child, says having your family try on multiple costumes and holding a photo shoot could add fun to the occasion.
If you’re looking to do more than wear your costume at home, the CDC recommends having a virtual Halloween costume contest.
“Of course, a virtual costume contest is always a possibility, but at this point even kids are tired of virtual anything. An outdoor Halloween parade is a great way for kids to interact while still maintaining distance. Just remember a costume mask is not the same as a protective cloth mask, and our new-normal rules of social distancing still hold true,” Kelly said.
The CDC cautions to not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be difficult to breathe. Sticking to just a Halloween-themed cloth mask may be safest.
3. Hold a Halloween movie night (moderate risk)
Hosting an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family and friends spaced at least 6 feet apart is a safe way to celebrate the season.
“Use single-serve packaging for treats and popcorn with single-serve drinks in bottles or boxes, and have everyone pack and prepare their own child’s snacks, and set up chairs at a distance from each other,” Dry said.
Finding a drive-in movie theater featuring spooky films might be a fun alternative.
4. Organize a scavenger hunt (low risk)
Instead of going around the neighborhood house to house in a traditional scavenger hunt, hold a scavenger hunt with your household members in or around your home.
Put together a list of Halloween-themed items for kids to find from a distance while they walk around the neighborhood.
Dry suggests hiding clues around the house to lead children to a special surprise.
“[Take] those traditions that work and [build] upon them to make a new tradition,” she said.
5. Venture to an outdoor haunted house (moderate risk)
If you can find a haunted house that’s outside, allows you to walk through in one direction, and enforces appropriate mask wearing and physical distancing of at least 6 feet apart, the CDC states it could be considered a moderate-risk activity.
However, because screaming may occur (releasing respiratory droplets), the greater the distance from other people, the better.
If haunted houses aren’t an option, visiting a pumpkin patch or apple orchard are options as long as using hand sanitizer before touching the pumpkins and apples is encouraged — and wearing masks and maintaining physical distance is monitored.
“The key issue for families will be setting up the expectations in advance with their children and allowing the child to take part in the planning and preparation for the holiday,” Dry said.
6. Trick or treat with a twist (moderate risk)
For most kids, the best part of Halloween is the sugar.
“Of course, Halloween is nothing without the candy. Organizing a safe way to distribute candy may be tricky. Distribution tables with individually wrapped goodies can be an alternative to ringing doorbells. Keeping your path close to home with neighbors you know could also lower your risk,” Kelly said.
The CDC suggests placing wrapped goody bags at the end of a driveway or yard so families can grab and go while continuing to physical distance.
If you want to skip trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, Dry suggests hiding Halloween candy around the house like you would for an Easter egg hunt.
“Creating a celebration for the children that incorporates some of the old routines and helping them reframe their expectations of the holiday will be crucial in helping maintain good social-emotional health and wellness,” she said.
Finding safe ways to celebrate is important for the mental health of kids and adults
Dry says it’s crucial that parents find a way to let their children celebrate holidays during the pandemic while maintaining health precautions.
“Since the pandemic began, we have seen stress and grief responses in children when they miss out on some of their life events, like birthdays, vacations, graduations, and other large group celebrations,” Dry told Healthline.
Kelly agrees, noting that while kids may not know the details of what’s going on in the world, they know that things are different.
“Children miss school. They miss their friends. They sense the stress that most adults are experiencing during these trying times. Therefore, any opportunity we can get to establish some semblance of normal should be taken advantage of,” he said.
“It’s OK for kids to have fun and laugh, even during a pandemic. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for the adults to get in on the fun as well,” Kelly said.
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