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How to Celebrate Halloween Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Author:

Linda Sarhan has been a freelance writer and researcher for 20+ years and has a B.A. in English and creative writing.

Let's stay safe this Halloween season.

Let's stay safe this Halloween season.

Let's face it—modern-day Halloween is a social holiday typically characterized by lively parties, frolicking from door to door to stock up on sweet treats, and enough practical jokes and laughter to last the year. However, the global coronavirus pandemic that causes COVID-19 has many people rethinking how they will celebrate Halloween this year.

Because Halloween is usually such a social holiday, concerns about the spread of this potentially life-threatening virus have the Center for Disease Control (CDC) urging people to still observe social-distancing guidelines and the proper use of face masks. The CDC has published official guidelines for celebrating the upcoming holidays with an entire section devoted to Halloween. They have also provided an easy-to-understand breakdown of activities that are considered low, moderate, and high-risk. This article features a list of suggested activities that fall under the CDC's low and moderate-risk categories.

Carve Pumpkins

The United States produces over 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins each year (Ag Marketing Resource Center, 2019). But where does the tradition of pumpkin carving originate? While pumpkins are native to North America and grow in abundance in versatile climates across the United States, the practice of carving them actually comes from a tradition popularized by Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s. Aside from carving gourds, turnips, and potatoes to place a candle in to light a room at night, many saw them as a fun reminder of an Irish folktale called

For most people, pumpkin carving is a favorite Halloween holiday pastime, while others see it as a creative and competitive sport without giving a thought to its Irish background and folklore. Over the centuries, pumpkin carving has become the iconic face of modern-day Halloween.

What better way to have fun this Halloween while safely social distancing than to decorate your home—inside and out—with an array of carved pumpkins. This can be a great activity for both adults and children. Depending on the age level, younger children can use paint, glitter, stickers, and markers to decorate their pumpkin masterpieces. Adults and teenagers can take part in carving faces, spooky scenes, or whatever imagery comes to mind. Some people have taken this pastime to a whole new level by creating carved-pumpkin sculptures.

Whatever your level of expertise, pumpkin carving should be at the top of your Halloween holiday checklist especially when you are trying to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking for an array of pumpkin carving templates and patterns? The folks at PumpkinPile.com have you and your pumpkin covered with printable designs.

Decorate Your Home

Since more people are spending time at home and social distancing, consider focusing more on your Halloween decor. While stores, both online and physical retail, have a wide range of products to fit any theme, there is an increasing trend for creating your own DIY decor. There is a large following for DIY projects, especially for Dollar Tree projects. Not only does the Dollar Tree have physical retail locations, but you can order supplies by the case at their website DollarTree.com.

Coming together as a family or household unit to decorate is a fun way to spend time together and enjoy the fun this holiday brings. Here are a few ideas when it comes to decorating your home:

  • Spend time as a family creating amazing DIY Halloween decorations.
  • Pick a —or several—to decorate both the inside and outside of the home.
  • Participate in a decorating scavenger hunt is when a new item is added each day and the other members of the house have to find which decoration has been newly added.

Have a Trick-or-Treat Drive-Thru

As we navigate safety during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, many people are even more concerned about what this means for trick-or-treating which is the main tradition observed on the night of Halloween. Some people are not as concerned, whereas some cities across the country are banning trick-or-treating this year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that trick-or-treating, including trunk-or-treat events, is considered to be a high risk for the transmission of Covid 19. However, many neighborhoods across the United States are standing firm in what they are calling as a "compromise" with CDC recommendations and guidelines. Due to the concern of crowds of children and parents hitting the streets to walk door to door in search of treats, the trick is to allow the children to participate in this annual right of passage while limiting exposure to the coronavirus SARS-COV-2 that causes Covid-19.

Some neighborhoods have decided to have the homeowners sit out by their mailboxes or along the street as parents drive through the neighborhood, stopping at each house as costumed children hold their trick-or-treating bags out the window of the car for homeowners to contribute to their candy haul.

Pros

Children and parents will not be walking in crowds passing other crowds of trick-or-treaters, which exposes a greater risk of spreading the coronavirus. While children will be in the safety of their parents' vehicles, they can still participate in the tradition of trick-or-treating.

Cons

There is still a risk of transmitting the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 because there is no way for parents to know whether the household passing out candy either has or has been exposed to SARS-COV-2. In a study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found that the virus that causes COVID-19 can live up to three hours in the air, four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on stainless steel and plastic surfaces (N van Doremalen, et al., 2020). Most candy packages are plastic, so even the trick-or-treat drive-thru idea exposes the entire family to the risk of possibly bringing the virus home with you.

Regardless of the risks, if a trick-or-treat drive-thru is something you are considering, there are neighborhood apps, such as NextDoor app, that will help you communicate and organize this type of modified trick-or-treating in 2020.

Have an In-Home Scavenger Hunt

Many parents are looking for alternatives to trick-or-treating and attending Halloween parties and carnivals to ensure their children are safe during the coronavirus without sacrificing the fun memories Halloween brings.

Having an in-home Halloween scavenger hunt will take a little bit of planning. First, you will need to create several goodie bags stuffed with treats—and maybe a few fun tricks, too. There are a couple of ways you could set up the scavenger hunt on Halloween night.

In Search of Treats

Much like an egg hunt on Easter, you can hide Halloween candy and other treats around the house for the kids to find.

  • Fill goodie bags with candy and trinkets.
  • Bake homemade treats to add to goodie bags.
  • Use full-size candy and chocolate bars.
  • Add some fun "tricks" to find, such as individual servings of Trix cereal, magic tricks, and small empty boxes.

Riddle Me This

This setup may take more time and thought depending on the age-level. You can use goodie bags filled with treats or gift boxes and bags. There are a couple of ways to play this. Create a riddle that leaves a clue to where the next treat is hidden. The riddle could be as simple as "a place where shoes are kept" to a more complex riddle poem to foster more critical thought in older children and teens.

Also popular among older kids and teens are setting up a line of boxes filled with treats. In order to open the treats, they must answer a complex riddle to be able to open the next box. If they get the answer correct they can open the box and enjoy the treats that are within. If they get it incorrect, have a trick box or envelope with an action card. Actions cards could be things like extra chores for a week to stop and do 20 push-ups.

At-Home Halloween Carnival

While most people typically head off to Halloween parties and carnivals, the CDC suggests that attending crowded gathers on Halloween will put you at a higher risk during the coronavirus pandemic. Consider staging your child their very own private carnival at home, whether in-home or outside in the backyard. Every carnival game they complete they can add candy or a home-baked goodie to their trick-or-treat bag.

Go on a Neighborhood Halloween Tour

After decorating your own house and lawn with fun fall and Halloween scenes, consider going on a neighborhood tour to see all of the Halloween decor and displays your neighbors put up. This is always a favorite activity that makes Halloween memorable for all ages. Add a little spice to your tour by playing a few games while taking a tour of neighborhoods.

Scavenger Hunt Bingo

Create a grid board with a list of potential Halloween decor that can be found in a yard display. Some of these can include jack o' lantern, ghost, witch, bats, skeleton, cauldron, tombstone, and more. Make each card different. The first person to see all of the things on their board and mark them off, wins! You can be creative with the prizes, such as a bag of candy, toys, and other treats.

Scavenger Hunt Race

This is a great scavenger hunt idea that can be played in competition with friends, extended family, and groups that do not live with you. First, you compile a checklist of items to find on your neighborhood tour and send the list digitally to all participants. As you or your team locate the items on the list, take a picture of the item if possible or write down the address you found the item. The first team to check off each item wins!

Some Things to Consider

  • Respect the privacy of residents on your neighborhood tour.
  • Teams should be comprised of members of the same household.
  • Create a group video chat for the scavenger hunt.
  • Select a team member that will be focused on driving who does not distract easily if participating in a mobile group chat.
  • Select one team member, who is not driving, to be the one with the host device joining the group chat.
  • If you do not want to use the group video chat method, consider using Facebook groups or post pictures to Instagram creating your own specific hashtag (#). You could even choose to go LIVE on social media with your findings.

Purchase and Decorate a Halloween Tree

Consider getting a Halloween tree this year. This is a full-size tree, much like a Christmas tree. Some companies sell Halloween trees, but it is always fun to make your own to fit your style and decor. Either buy or recycle an old artificial Christmas tree and spray paint it black, orange, purple or whatever color you associate with Halloween. Once fully dried and set in place, add some Halloween lights and decorate with Halloween ornaments. The ornaments can be simple party trinkets or making ornaments from bakers' clay and painting them. Some companies are starting to sell Halloween ornaments as the Halloween tree becomes more common among family traditions. The Nightmare Before Christmas movie theme is often a popular theme with Halloween trees.

Under the tree, you can wrap various treats from candy, toys, and other goodies. To add a fun element, consider wrapping a few "tricks", such as Trix cereal, an empty box, and age-appropriate prank gifts. Some traditions put the tricks and treats under the treat throughout the season. Other traditional ideas include waiting until the kids are all tucked in bed to place the tricks and treats under the tree so they can wake the next morning to more surprises.

But who left the tricks and treats?

  • The whole family can gift each other tricks and treats to open the night of Halloween or the next morning.
  • Families who follow the Peanuts by Charles Schultz fandom prefer the children wake up the next morning to see what the Great Pumpkin has brought them. After all, Linus van Pelt says the Great Pumpkin is a supernatural figure who rises from the pumpkin patch on Halloween and goes around bringing toys to believing children.
  • For those of the Nightmare Before Christmas fandom, they end the night of Halloween by watching the movie and waking the next morning to find that Jack Skeleton has left them both fun tricks and treats because Jack, the pumpkin king, aspired to be like Santa Claus.

Coronavirus pandemic or not, having a Halloween tree is a fun element to add to your Halloween family traditions. Not only does it add to your home's seasonal decor, but it can be a much-anticipated treat for the whole family.

Have a Family Movie Night

Nothing gets people into the Halloween spirit than a good movie night with family or friends. Whether you want to have several movie nights throughout the month of October or plan a binge-watching marathon, it is sure to a great time to create family memories while staying safe at home.

Let the family get dressed up in their favorite costumes, pop some popcorn, and other favorite movie treats as everyone unwinds and relaxes in the safety of their home. If possible, consider setting up an outdoor movie event to add an extra element of fun. Consider purchasing a projector and screen for your Halloween movie night.

Popular Kid-Friendly Halloween Movies

  • Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest (2013) Ages 3+
  • Room on the Broom (2013) Ages 3+
  • Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie (2005) Ages 3+
  • Super Monsters Save Hallowe-en (2018) Ages 4+
  • Double, Double, Toil & Trouble (1993) Ages 5+
  • Toy Story of Terror (2014) Ages 6+
  • Dear Dracula (2012) Ages 6+
  • It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) Ages 6+
  • Scoob! (2020) Ages 7+
  • The Addams Family (2019) Ages 7+
  • Hotel Transylvania (2012) Ages 7+
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) Ages 7+
  • Halloweentown movie series (1998 - 2006) Ages 7+
  • Under Wraps (1997) Ages 7+
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Ages 7+
  • Mary and the Witch's Flower (2018) Ages 8+
  • Don't Look Under The Bed (1999) Ages 8+
  • Casper (1995) Ages 8+

Popular Preteen-Friendly Halloween Movies

  • Goosebumps (2015) Ages 9+
  • Frankenweenie (2012) Ages 9+
  • Coraline (2009) Ages 9+
  • Hocus Pocus (1993) Ages 10+
  • Paranorman (2012) Ages 10+
  • Monster House (2006) Ages 10+
  • Corpse Bride (2005) Ages 10+
  • The Haunted Mansion (2003) Ages 10+
  • The Witches (1990) Ages 10+
  • Ghostbusters (1988) Ages 10+
  • The House With a Clock in Its Walls (2018) Ages 11+
  • The Addams Family (1991) Ages 12+

Popular Teen Halloween Movies

  • Harry Potter movie marathon (2001–2011)
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
  • Fun Size (2012)
  • Tower of Terror (1997)
  • Twitches (2005)
  • The Monster Squad (1987)
  • The Craft (1996)

Rated-R Halloween and Horror Movies

  • Halloween: 11 movies (1978–2018)
  • Friday the 13th: 12 movies (1980–2009)
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1974)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street: 7 movies (1984–1994)
  • Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  • Jeepers Creepers: 3 movies (2001–2017)
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 9 movies (1974–2013)
  • Scream: 5 movies (1996–2022)
  • Scary Movie: 5 horror/parody movies (2000–2013)
  • It: 2 movies (2017 and 2019)
  • Saw: 8 movies (2004–2017)

Do Some Halloween-Themed Crafts

While children and parents alike normally look forward to Halloween parties and trick-or-treating, some have turned to craft activities and other DIY projects to keep up the Halloween fun during the coronavirus pandemic. From uping your home decor game to just enjoying fun-filled family activities, Pinterest is filled with a wealth of Halloween-themed craft ideas.

Halloween Crafts for Kids

  • DIY Toilet Paper Roll Bats: Toilet paper roll bats are the perfect quick and easy Halloween decor, or you can use them as Halloween treat boxes! Make these in just a few minutes!
  • Witchy Pinecone Owl: You'll be having a h-owl-ing good time this Halloween with this cute nature craft for kids. The Witchy Pinecone Owl is the perfect homemade Halloween decor!
  • 4 Cute Halloween Face Mask Crafts for Kids: Let kids make their own spooky or silly Halloween costume face mask this year with these easy how-to instructions for a cat, butterfly, monster, and beard face mask.

DIY Halloween Decor

  • 12 Dollar Tree DIY Halloween Decorations to Scream About: Generic Halloween decorations? BOO. I’m over it. If you are too, try these ridiculously easy Dollar Tree Halloween DIY decorations. Make sure you follow our Dollar Tree page to get the best deals...
  • Homemade Halloween Decorations: Mariah is sharing a roundup of quick and easy homemade Halloween decorations. Your house will be the spookiest on the block this fall!
  • The Best Halloween Decorations: The Best Halloween Decorations! These Halloween inspirations jam-packed with wonderful (and wonderfully spooky) Halloween crafts and inspirations.

Have a Virtual Halloween Party

The CDC discourages gathering in large groups, especially indoors during the coronavirus pandemic. This puts a damper on the Halloween party planning. Not all is lost! In 2020, we have the technology to bring people together while staying apart.

Video Conferencing

Consider using a video conferencing platform to host a virtual Halloween party. This is a great option for both adults and children with adult supervision. While this still takes some planning and RSVPs from invited guests, look on the bright side - you will save money on the cost of refreshments! Here are a few things to consider when planning a virtual Halloween party:

  • Halloween music playlist or appoint a guest DJ
  • Halloween trivia games for adult parties
  • Show and tell for kids' parties
  • Talent show
  • Spooky Halloween storytelling
  • Halloween drinking games for adult parties
  • Costume contest
  • and much more!

Facebook Groups

Schedule conflicts? No problem! Create a VIP Facebook group and post throughout the week of Halloween - or all month long! This is great for teens and adults. Encourage members to engage with posts. Here are some post ideas:

  • Halloween humor and memes
  • Halloween polls
  • Halloween games
  • Go LIVE and encourage other members to do the same, showing off their costume and Halloween vibe.

Have Virtual Costume Contest

People young and old love to get dressed up for Halloween and show off their costume creativity. However, not being able to show off your genius costume skills at a party or while trick-or-treating may snuff out your Halloween spirit, but it doesn't have to.

Have a Live Virtual Party

You could host a virtual party and add a costume contest element with a prize to encourage more participation. Consider awarding virtual/digital gift cards as prizes and design winner certificates that can be emailed and printed by the recipients.

Create a Social Media Post

Encourage people to dress up and take selfies of themselves in costume and post to the comments. You can design a spooktacular social media graphic at Canva.com.

Create a Costume-Contest Facebook Group

Create your own VIP Facebook group and encourage members to go LIVE showing off not only their costume but their level of Halloween spirit. Post fun Halloween memes, games, and riddles. Interact in the comments on each post.

Campfire, Ghost Stories, and S'mores

Missing the cool, crisp air of trick-or-treating you are so fond of? Consider planning a family campfire in the backyard. Whether you have a backyard fire pit or simply use a wood-burning or coal grill, it really adds to the ambiance of Halloween, especially when stuck at home. After all, what respectable Halloween ghost story doesn't start with a campfire?

Note: Be mindful of any city ordinances in place in your area regarding backyard campfires and follow fire safety at all times.

Observe campfire safety guidelines.

Observe campfire safety guidelines.

Campfire Foods

It just wouldn't be a Halloween campfire without treats! Here are a few recipes ideas perfect for enjoying All Hallow's Eve:

Ghost Stories

Ghost stories, campfires, and Halloween go hand-in-hand. Consider unplugging from the world for a bit and unleash your creativity by improvising a spooky ghost story with a dramatic flair. If coming up with ghost stories is not your forte, here are a few you can read to your ghoulish crew.

Do you have young children and looking for less spooky Halloween tales? Consider reading their favorite Halloween storybook by the light of the campfire. If unplugging is not a concern, YouTube has dozens of Halloween storybooks perfect for young children. You can make a story playlist ahead of time so the evening will run smoother.

Have a Safe and Spooky Halloween!

While we have to reconsider certain Halloween traditions and observances due to the coronavirus, SARS-Cov-2, we can seek comfort that these necessary modifications may be temporary. As a part of social responsibility, it is best to consider ways to celebrate while still slowing the spread of this potentially life-threatening virus - if not for your sake than for others. Who knows, some of these new Halloween traditions may linger on long after the coronavirus is gone?

References

  • Ag Marketing Resource Center. (2019). Pumpkins. Iowa State University and USDA Rural Development. https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/vegetables/pumpkins
  • CDC. (2020). Holiday Celebrations. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
  • N van Doremalen, et al. (2020). Aerosol and surface stability of HCoV-19 (SARS-CoV-2) compared to SARS-CoV-1. The New England Journal of Medicine. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 L Sarhan