LOS ANGELES — Finally it’s time to start dreaming of fall … those chilly nights, crisp apple cider and, of course, Halloween! Everyone’s favorite, with costumes and candy, scary make- believe (and candy), trick-or-treating (and CANDY), fun decorations and … Stop.
In case you forgot, the coronavirus is still a very real boogeyman, lurking behind every mask. Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health has already put the kibosh on Halloween traditions such as haunted houses and parties and recommends people avoid door-to-door trick-or-treating or even “trunk-or-treating,” by which children collect treats walking from car to car at gatherings in school or church parking lots.
“Door to door trick-or-treating is not recommended because it can be very difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and at front doors, ensure that everyone answering or coming to the door is appropriately masked to prevent disease spread, and because sharing food is risky,” according to the new health order.
“This year, it’s just not safe to celebrate in the ways we usually do,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told The Times. “We are recommending that trick-or-treating not happen this year.”
Canceling Halloween may seem particularly harsh, considering all the challenges and disappointments kids have faced this year, but health officials are doing everything they can to reduce the spread of the infection, which some fear could see a resurgence this fall.
“Viruses don’t take holidays,” said Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA’s School of Public Health. “Until the community has low transmission rates, lots of things won’t be back to normal. The way a virus transmits doesn’t change because we’re in holiday mode. In fact, it often makes us less cautious because our guard is down. We have to accept the fact that the virus is dictating the precautions we have to take.”
Lest you’ve forgotten those precautions, that means 6 feet of social distancing (i.e., no kids crowding around a candy bowl at your front door), wearing masks (not cute Halloween masks, but protective masks that cover your mouth and nose), avoiding crowded, confined spaces (like haunted houses, where people do a lot of screaming, thus expelling germs) and practicing good hygiene (washing hands often and absolutely no bobbing for apples).
But really, this is Halloween we’re talking about, near the top of every child’s can’t-wait list. Can we really just lock our doors, turn off the lights and say, “Better luck next year?”
No, darn it, this is America, land of the free and home of “There’s got to be a way,” so, of course, people are already working on this problem.
Not surprisingly, the National Confectioners Association is all over this issue on its Halloween Central website at alwaysatreat.com (#HalloweenIsHappening). The website includes statistics, such as 74% of millennial moms and young parents say Halloween is more important than ever this year, and tips for how to celebrate Halloween out of the house or in.
Several other online groups have weighed in with ideas. We asked friends and family and on Facebook, gathering seven creative tips for how we can celebrate Halloween this year without infecting our kids or ourselves.
Go BIG on decorating
This may well be the year to pull out the stops decorating in and outside your home, just for the fun of it. String up some lights. Invest in a fog machine. Stuff some old clothes to make a headless scarecrow … or invest in something more elaborate at local stores. Decorate or carve multiple pumpkins — have a family contest and ask neighbors to vote on their favorites (just remember that pumpkins don’t last long once they’re carved, so hold off on carving until a day or two before Halloween). Or you could grab a marker and draw on gourds for “carvings” with more staying power.
No grab bowls
We need to rethink the way we pass out candy, says Rimoin, the UCLA epidemiology professor. Kids crowding around the door and expelling potentially virus-laden droplets as they shout “trick or treat” is a no-go, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find other ways to pass out candy. Rimoin recommends individually bagging treats and leaving them on a table on your driveway for children to take as they walk by. You can wave from the porch, replenish between visits and keep an eye on little ghouls who want to take more than their share.
CeeAnn Thiel, owner of Mrs. Tiggy Winkles Gift Shoppe in Riverside, has a wrought-iron fence around her home. She’s planning to hang candy from the fence for children to grab as they pass. And Pete Van Well, an orchardist in Wenatchee, Washington, told his Facebook friends he intends to hang candy from the tree near his front porch so children can “pick their treats the way we pick apples.”
Keep it indoors
One mom said on Facebook that she plans to fill a Halloween bag with candy, hide it in her house and then turn off the lights so her child has to search for the goodies in the dark. Variations on that theme could include a scavenger hunt in the house or yard, or a set of clues for older children to decipher.
Eerie, glowing … eggs
Break out those plastic eggs you use to hide candy at Easter and decorate them with scary faces or decals, an idea we found at indywithkids.com. Fill the eggs with candy and hide them outside or around the house. If you stuff them with glow sticks, you can even turn out the lights or search the yard at night for eerie, glowing eggs.
Haunted houses are not recommended, but you can screen Halloween-themed movies indoors or out if you have a projector and a screen or some other blank surface. The nice thing about home-based scary movies is you can adjust the scare-o-meter to fit your family’s tastes (and terror tolerances). If you want to invite other families, the website rocketcitymom.com suggests buying some hula hoops at a dollar store to establish 6-foot boundaries between family groups. And, of course, provide each group with its own supply of treats so no one is sharing popcorn or other items from the same bowls.
Boo someone, sweetly
Think of “booing” someone as a kind of random act of kindness for Halloween. Wrap up a (nice) Halloween treat, drop it at a neighbor or friend’s door, ring the bell and run like crazy. The idea is to spread some holiday cheer. There’s even a website with poems and posters you can print out, at beenbooed.com. (The website suggests doing it anonymously. However, we suggest you first call or send a text to alert recipients to the arrival of a sweet treat, so it doesn’t get tossed in the garbage.)