100 Days Til Halloween
Greetings Halloween Fiends!
Here we are at the glorious day 100!! 100 days until Halloween. If you haven’t felt the internal frenzy yet, you probably will soon.
I’ve been seeing posts on Twitter about cancelling Halloween. First, let’s be clear: NO ONE can cancel Halloween. While it is possible that large parties or parades may not and should not happen and that large trick-or-treat gatherings of children such as “Mall-O-Ween” or crowded parking lot “Trunk-or-Treat” may be cancelled, Halloween in and of itself will go on, as always. No one can cancel your birthday. No one can cancel Christmas. No one can cancel Halloween.
Hallowe’en (Hallows’ Evening, All Hallows’ Eve) is a richly historic, seasonal celebration that allows reflection of the past year with a look to the future and upcoming winter season of solitude. It is a time to connect spiritually with ancestors while the veil is thin, to celebrate the harvest (sometimes with competitions such as those at the county fair), to rejoice in surviving another hot and humid summer (for many of us), and to rekindle friendships with mid-autumnal gatherings and breaking bread.
Seasonal activities such as pumpkin patches, corn mazes, haunted trails, and home haunting displays can and should be done safely to ensure reduced exposure to the COVID-19 virus. On-site food and beverage consumption may need to be eliminated so as not to encourage mask removal. Where space allows, outdoor seating areas can provide safe relaxation/mask removal opportunities. Make it a fun seated space by having a few hay and straw bales (in lieu of tables) scattered in groups, so that social distancing is established. Encourage folks to bring their own blanket to place out in pre-marked, properly spaced grassy areas around the activity grounds. Invite them to bring their own snacks. Increase distances between designated parking spaces and hire a parking attendant. Have seasonal Halloween-themed party music playing to add to the ambiance, reduce stress and lift spirits. If restrooms or portable toilets are offered, they will need be sanitized several times daily. Hand-washing (mobile sinks) and sanitizer stations are available as rentals and should be provided near restrooms. Eliminating onsite food and beverage will reduce the need for toilets.
Limiting the number of guests in an area, requiring proper face coverings/masks, offering hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations, and utilizing good entrances and exits to direct and control traffic can be used for COVID-19 safety. Look to larger organizations such as Universal Studios and the Disney resorts and properties for what has/hasn’t/is/isn’t working. Using something similar to “boarding groups” or “return times” so that guests know when they will be safely welcomed can reduce bottle-necking, anxiety, and help enforce the six-foot distance and crowd gathering maximums (differs from state to state/city to city). Wrist bands in colors designating specified activity time can encourage folks to get in and out within their specified time, rather than allowing guests to mingle for hours. Of course, the placement of multiple signs stating mask requirement and social distancing recommendations will be needed and the message must be clearly stated.
Indoor activities, such as enclosed haunted houses, and hay rides may be the trickiest Halloween events to be successful in a COVID-19 Halloween. Breathing the air from hundreds of people shuffling through small spaces for hours a night, for several weeks, will be difficult to manage. Limiting daily tickets sales, extending hours and days of operations, increasing the time between guest admission, and requiring face masks may not be enough? Would installing air purifiers throughout the haunt and spraying air disinfectants every half hour work against a highly contagious virus? Many hay ride attractions sell tickets to fill each wagon to capacity before the next one is loaded. But sitting shoulder to shoulder, even in an outdoor ride-through attraction may be too close. So, for this to work, limits such as six people or one family group per wagon may need implementation. Face masks would still be needed, of course. At this point, there are no easy answers to fit every Halloween situation.
Modern, American Halloween is also a time for trick-or-treat for children and adult costume parties. While parties this year may be taboo, if not irresponsible, trick-or-treating is certainly doable. Here are tips for making trick-or-treating possible with social distancing and safety:
For those who will go trick-or-treating:
Opt for your local neighborhood for trick-or-treating versus any organized event where crowds will gather. This is my preference anyway. Rather than loading up your kids and leaving your neighborhood to drive to a “high income” neighborhood with expensive, spectacular displays and full-sized chocolate bars, walk your own neighborhood. Walking your neighborhood allows for friendly communication with those who live nearby. You can take time to converse with the children, get exercise, take photos, and compliment your neighbor’s decorating efforts. If you have a buggy or wagon, decorate it and add battery-operated lights to make your own festive show. If you approach a house with a lot of children at the door, hold back. Take turns.
If you live in a rural area where you must drive to take the kids trick-or-treating, visit those who have left a porch light on and placed a glowing jack-o-lantern out front. Wouldn’t it warm their hearts for you to stop? For some people, trick-or-treat night is the only time they get visitors. So, if you have passed their home in previous years because you needed to “get on to the neighborhood where your kids get the most bang for their buck”, why not consider stopping this year.
Now, with some homes in highly prized neighborhoods receiving three to five hundred or more kids a night, trick-or-treat becomes more like herding cattle through a chute. Next! This is what you want to avoid: long lines, crowds of people, and “party” atmospheres of groups. For a lot of people, trick-or-treating has become a night of quantity versus quality and that is not necessarily a good thing.
Avoid Doorbell-ringing. Instruct your children to avoid doorbells. If no one is at the door, then knock. Shouting TRICK-OR-TREAT can also work to alert homeowners of their arrival. The goal is to avoid touching anything.
Social Distancing. Be aware of others waiting to receive treats. Wait, patiently, at distances approved for your community. Don’t crowd the folks at the door. Be respectful. Keep face masks on. Move from the door (or treat station) and out of the way after exchanging greetings/thank-yous, so that the next in line can move forward. If folks are waiting in line, don’t be a line-cutter. If you approach a home, and you see the homeowner is greeting children without a face mask or social distancing, perhaps move on to the next home. Use waiting time to have fun discussions about the evenings happenings and take photos and video of the children with the spooky decorations you are sure to find. The I-SPY (I spy with my little eye) game is a quick, fun little game that can be played while waiting and teaches children observation skills.
Accompany Children if Necessary. It is common, after a certain age, children go out trick-or-treating without adult supervision or in groups of friends. Perhaps the adults wait down the road, at a distance a few houses away, or at the curb in a car. If you feel your child will not be able to keep their mask on or adhere to social distancing, consider tagging along with them, at least until you are comfortable that they understand the safety measures.
Don’t Forget to Take Along: Be sure to take face masks (an extra one or two in case of emergency), hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, facial tissues, and your own beverages and snacks. Reduce trick-or-treating time to avoid needing a potty break at a public restroom (Another advantage to staying closer to home for your night of treat collecting). If you are “walking” the neighborhood, consider a backpack to hold hand sanitizer, tissue, and a bottle of water so that the hands are free for treat buckets, cameras, and flashlights. Headlamps are great way to provide light for safety, while operating hands-free, providing the lamps are not blinding on-coming traffic. Avoid touching anything that isn’t necessary.
For those who will hand out treats:
Plan out an Entrance and Exit. Much like Disney World moving people into attraction cues, plan an entrance and a designated exit so that children and parents move through in one direction. You can even place X’s on the sidewalk or ground with something like chalk, duct tape, or spray paint so that 6′ social distancing is practiced. Consider adding fun Halloween props as photo opportunities for “selfies” where guests may be waiting.
Avoid Doorbell-ringing. If at all possible, be ready to greet trick-or-treaters as they arrive or encourage knocking. Otherwise, sanitize the doorbell between children/groups of children.
Choose Wrapped Treats. Traditionally, I am a fan of offering fruit and home-baked goods such as caramel or candied apples, pumpkin cookies, popcorn balls, etc. versus only store-bought, processed treats filled with preservatives, sodium, and high fructose corn syrup. However, this is a circumstance where you want things to have been created in what you hope to be the most sanitized, food safety (HAACP), equipment-produced conditions. And you don’t want dirty little fingers to have pawed their way through the treats that are not sealed before the next children arrive. If you do make your own, be sure to wrap them tightly and have them displayed so they are easy for the children to collect.
Offer Non-edibles. Non-edibles can likely be sanitized once the children have returned home. Options include pencils, wrapped tattoos, erasers, necklace lights, noise makers, stickers, jewelry (such as spider rings), packets of pumpkin seeds. At least give children a choice. This is really nice for those who are on restricted diets such as diabetics and vegans.
Place Treats in a Self-Serve Container. So that you may sit or stand at least 6′ away from trick-or-treaters, place treats in a bucket, decorated bowl, plastic cauldron, blow-up coffin, or on a short table (good for wrapped homemade treats such as cookies) six feet away from where you will be. The interaction between the homeowner and trick-or-treater is important, so consider sitting on your porch, in your open garage, on your carport or near the sidewalk, so that you can see and greet the trick-or-treaters, listen to their battle cry (Trick-or-Treat!) and “thank you”, and wave them on their merry, spooking way. If you insist on handing them their treat (understandable), consider wearing gloves and of course, wear a face mask! There are a ton of Halloween-themed face mask coverings available.
Display a liquid hand-sanitizer and sanitizing wipes dispenser near the treat bucket. Even if no one uses them, they will be noticed and appreciated. The offering says “I respect you and I’m glad you are here”.
Dress Up! If you normally host or attend a Halloween party each year, and are fearing you won’t be able to don an impressive costume and immerse yourself in some other persona for the evening, consider dressing up to greet trick-or-treaters. This is not a new practice by any means. A lot of folks do this not only for the amusement of others, but for themselves too. Look who’s a big kid now? Dressing up is FUN!
Lastly, if you or your children are under the weather or too stressed about catching the virus, stay home! There a lot of fun ways to celebrate Halloween at home. Spooky cartoons, movies, and television programs are great fun. Make caramelized popcorn, candied apples, hot apple cider, pumpkin bread, and have a spooky cookie-decorating competition. Play Halloween music, carve jack-o-lanterns and roast their seeds for snacks. Tell ghost stories to one another. Play hide and seek in a darkened house while spooky sounds play on the stereo. Roast marshmallows around a fire pit or backyard bonfire. Walk around outside at dusk and look for flying bats and listen for hooting owls or yipping coyotes. Create a Halloween scavenger hunt around your home or property. Put on costumes and reminisce with tales of Halloween past with grandparents or aunts and uncles via Zoom. Drive around and go “Halloween” decoration lookin’ (like we do for Christmas light season). Lastly, and especially for Halloween 2020, set up a telescope and view the full October moon on the 31st.
As you can see, with a little crowd control, it can be very easy to have “no touch”/”no contact” trick-or-treating in a 2020 COVID-19 Halloween year. A little safety preparation, respect and love for one another, and patience will ensure a happy night for all. But even if you are staying home, there is still much Halloween mayhem to be had.
Though the seasonal celebrations this year may be different, altered or subdued, it will be Halloween, nonetheless. It will be our Halloween and no one can take that away.
Stay spooky my fiends!
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