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Halloween in the Age of Covid

Ahhh, fall. Cooler weather, changing leaves, pumpkin-flavored everything and…Covid-19. How exactly will all our favorite fall activities work with social distancing? To be honest, I’ve been thinking about Halloween since June. But I quickly noticed when I mentioned my thoughts about the fall and winter holidays, people almost always said they hadn’t even begun to think about these things. I instantly felt like I brought them down, the Debbie Downer of 2020.

In August, my children suddenly asked about Halloween. Without a peep from me, they came to the conclusion that it, like everything else, was going to be different this year. And just like they’ve done time after time since March, my 6-year-olds blew me away with their flexibility. We began brainstorming about alternative ways to celebrate.

So whether you’re planning to stay home or you’re trick-or-treating with modifications, here are some ideas to safely celebrate this year:

  1. Make (or buy) a Halloween pinata. Fill it with your kids’ favorite candy. I really sold this to my boys by pointing out they don’t get to choose the candy other people give them. This way, they will get only the exact candy they want. Score! We are going to attempt to make our own pinata, but I have no idea how that will turn out.
  2. Have a pumpkin hunt. My son came up with this idea today. “Remember how we got to search for hidden pumpkins at school last year?” I’m thinking I’ll buy some small pumpkins and hide them in the yard, kind of like an Easter egg hunt. Or my dear friend Target has an 8-pack of foam pumpkins for $8.
  3. Coordinate a Halloween candy parade. Sort of reverse trunk-or-treat meets (age-appropriate) Mardi Gras. Toss the candy to kids and still keep your distance!
  4. Work with your neighbors to have spaced out tables with adults overseeing the candy from a safe distance. Maybe put hand sanitizer on the tables too.
  5. Make all the Halloween crafts. These look especially cute, but there are tons of ideas.
  6. Put together a Halloween mystery box. You know, with slimy noodles for guts, grapes for eyeballs, slivered almonds for finger nails -- all the icky things. Here’s a list of options to include. Warning: some are pretty gross.
  7. Halloween-themed foods for a fun dinner. My kids were super excited coming up with ideas for this. Hot dog mummies wrapped in crescent rolls, ice cubes with spiders frozen in them, carved orange peppers to look like jack-o-lanterns, pizzas with spiders made from olives. The possibilities are endless -- from appetizers to sweets, and some really spooky ones. (Think I'll skip the shrimp cocktail “brains” and the freaky face made with prosciutto myself.)

  1. To avoid contact with lots of people on Halloween, place your candy outside the door. And while you’re at it – make sure your kids know it’s not cool to steal all the candy from a house (don't be THOSE people).
  2. Or place the candy at the end of your driveway and sit back a bit so you can still see the kids in costume without getting too close.
  3. Make individual bags of goodies so kids can just grab one instead of reaching into a community bowl. Requires more effort, sure, but cuts way down on the germ factor.
  4. Have a Halloween candy hunt. Fill a bag or container with candy favorites and hide it in your house or yard. Turn the lights off and have kids hunt with flashlights. Or send them on a scavenger hunt with clues around the house.
  5. Use a grabber to hand out candy. You could even play with this idea to make the grabber look like a creepy skeleton arm. No kids reaching into a bowl, no touching their bags or buckets, but still all the fun. Side note: we got a grabber when I was pregnant and couldn’t bend down at all. It was so handy then, and we still use it now for things like extracting toys that kids have dropped behind furniture.
  6. For little kids, have your partner take them outside and come back to your own house. While they’re out, you put on a costume to surprise them at the door. I have a vivid memory of the Halloween my mom shocked us by dressing as a witch, complete with fake nose and painted face.
  7. If there were ever a year to go all out on Halloween decorations, this is the one. Cover your house in fake spiderwebs, put up orange lights, make a graveyard. (Similarly, this just might be the year we make our kids’ dreams come true with inflatable Christmas decorations.) But this doesn't have to mean buying a bunch of stuff -- you and your kids can make decorations too!

15. Plan a trunk-or-treat with a small group of two or three families. Kids can show off their Halloween costumes and get the goods from people they actually know.


Whatever you do, wear your mask, keep your distance, and carry hand sanitizer.

The kids will still have fun!

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