It is that time of year again friends. The leaves are changing, and sweaters are coming out of storage. Fall always seems to sneak up on me, but this year everything since COVID-19 feels like a blur!
Halloween is the first fall holiday in my hometown, and it is a big deal! There is never a sleepy night. In addition to trick-or-treating, there is the downtown hayride parade and numerous costume parties at the local university.
Since I will be home for the holidays this year, I checked in with my childhood friend Mario on how his children, their family and the community will be celebrating Halloween in this new COVID-19 era we are all living through.
Unfortunately, rates are spiking in most of the country again. That does not mean we cannot participate in Halloween, but we have to be smart and safe about it! I hopped over the usual Halloween lawn decorations and cackling porch skeletons to the front door.
Things almost seemed normal until I saw Mario waving at me wearing a jack-o-lantern face mask.
“Hey Terpii! So glad to see you home for Halloween! It has been years! Come with me to the backyard to help me put together these candy baggies.”
I hopped to the backyard, which was also decorated with cool lights and festive gold Día de Los Muertos skeletons.
“First, let us wash our hands over here. Remember to wash them for at least 20 seconds,” Mario winked at me, pointing to their outdoor sink.
“I’m so excited to be home Mario. It will be just like old times … except totally different with COVID,” I croaked.
“That is true, but we are still going to have lots of fun. I have been brainstorming ways for the kids to celebrate, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  has posted some pretty great ideas, too.”
I hopped up excitedly, “Oh! Tell me about your plans! Which activities did the CDC post that you like?”
Mario and I each set up our own table six feet apart so we could start making little goodie bags.
“According to the CDC, the lowest risk activities are doing things either virtually or at home with your own family,” Mario said.
“We decorated the yard. We will be carving pumpkins tonight as a family while we watch Halloween movies. Then, we liked the idea of a virtual costume contest for the kids and their friends followed by a candy scavenger hunt here at the house.
But since schools re-closed and the kids have been distance learning, we realized how important it is for them to get outside for some fun. So, we decided to consider some more of the moderate risk activities the CDC recommends.”
I put on my pumpkin-colored gloves so I could start putting the candy in each baggie. “What are the moderate risks you have considered?” I asked.
“Well, just packing this candy to put on tables down in front of the house is considered moderate risk. Basically, anything the kids are doing outside the house is considered a moderate risk. So, we are doing our best to keep that risk as low as we can.
Either my partner or I will watch the trick-or-treat station and make sure people are socially distancing as they grab goodie bags. One of us will then go with the kids to trick-or-treat around the block and keep an eye on them.”
“Will it be hard preventing the kids from running up and touching their friends when they see them in their costumes?” I asked.
“They are pretty used to things by now but just in case, we’re dressing up our youngest like a blueberry with an inflatable costume. That way if he gets too close to someone, he just bounces away from them. Cute and clever right?! Our other two will be a zombie surgeon and a cat.”
So Halloween is sort of a perfect holiday for this situation, given the prevalence of masks, right?
“Not exactly. The CDC says Halloween masks are not as effective and should not be a substitute mask option. Also, the CDC does not recommend wearing a cloth mask under a Halloween mask, so we will get creative and customize cloth masks to match their costumes. Children under 2, of course, do not have to worry about all these details. Also, anyone with breathing issues does not need to adhere to the CDC guidelines when it comes to masks.”
“I guess that is the cost of doing business on Halloween these days, but anyway, that sounds so fun! What are your friends doing with their kids?”
Mario had already made twice as many candy baggies as me and was practicing tying one of them to a string.
“What if I loosely tie the baggies to different branches of the trees in our front yard and then make a sign that kids can ‘pick’ a bag, like apple picking and trick or treating combined? It is still a moderate risk, though. … Let me think about that some more. Sorry, I just keep trying to brainstorm ways to give the kids an adventure during these crazy times. …”
I smiled at Mario.
When we were kids, we had so much fun every Halloween and during Día de los Muertos with his family. He always loved the holidays. I understood how much it meant to him to give his kids and the kids in his community similar happy memories.
“Some of the kids’ friends will be going to the socially distanced costume parade in town. I heard there might be a socially-distanced Haunted Forrest, too.
Anything inside is high risk. We were talking to some people about maybe planning a Halloween drive-in movie night, or maybe having someone project a movie in the park and ask people to sit six feet apart. There are tons of ideas floating around!”
“I feel sorry for families whose kids are in high school or are home from college. It must be a lot harder keeping them safe and stopping them from going to high-risk parties,” I chirped.
“I have been worrying about that day since before COVID Terpii! Do not remind me now,” Mario laughed.
Once all the baggies were ready, we put them in a secret hiding place so the kids would not find them before Halloween.
“So, Terpii, any ideas for your Halloween costume this year?”
“Well, I always wanted to be Prince Charming before the kiss, but this year that is probably too high-risk!” I laughed.
It will be a unique Halloween experience for sure, but I hope some of Mario and the CDC’s recommendations help you come up with a fun plan to celebrate. Until next time, please be safe out there, and remember to always wear a protective mask!