Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had to find new ways to do almost everything — and the same is true of this year’s Halloween celebrations.

Two mainstays of Halloween, trick-or-treating and Halloween parties, could be very risky this year. Going from house to house, sticking your hands in bowls of candy that many other hands have touched, or being close to people indoors or out, are all activities that could spread the virus. Even if people feel perfectly well, there’s no guarantee that they aren’t sick, and therefore contagious.

That doesn’t mean we have to ditch Halloween entirely. On the contrary, we need some fun — and as much as we can, we need to keep some traditions. We just need to do some tweaking to make Halloween not only fun but safe. The fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year is helpful: you can truly make a day of it, and there’s less worry about getting to bed on time.

A fun and safe Halloween

If you think about what makes Halloween fun, it’s dressing up and showing off our costumes, carving pumpkins, being spooked — and, of course, eating candy. With some creativity, we can do all of those things safely.

The safest thing to do is celebrate at home with your family (or the people in your bubble). That way you don’t have to take any risks. You could:

  • Make a really big deal out of carving pumpkins — or decorating them, for those who can’t or shouldn’t use knives. Use markers, paint, anything you can find. Take pictures. Have a contest.
  • Decorate your house and yard with spooky things. You could make your own haunted house.
  • Wear your costume all day at home. Usually you’d wear it for just trick-or-treating or parties; make the day more special by having everyone in costume (and pretending to be whatever they are dressed up as) all day.
  • Have a virtual costume-sharing party with friends and family. If you can’t organize that, do video calls with every last person you can think of.
  • Instead of trick-or-treating, hide the candy around your home and/or yard, like an Easter egg hunt. If you do it right, the kids can spend hours looking for it (and you’ll probably be finding it for months).
  • Curl up together and have a spooky movie night. Let the kids stay up later than usual (that generally makes kids happy).

Staying safe outside

  • If you do go out of the house, look for a community event or party that is outdoors and allows for social distancing. Pay attention to guidelines in your community that limit the number of people, even at events held outside.
  • Make sure you are wearing a mask –– you could make it part of your costume. Just remember that costume masks do not take the place of multilayer fabric masks that cover your mouth and nose.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and wipes with you.
  • If things are getting crowded and social distancing is getting hard, or people are taking off their masks or not wearing them at all, leave. It’s just not worth the risk.

This really isn’t the year for trick-or-treating; many areas have banned it. If you decide to take that risk, you should all wear masks as described above, limit yourself to a small number of homes of people you know, and keep your distance from them as much as you can. Wear gloves, and when you get home, wipe down the candy wrappers.

You may want to discourage trick-or-treaters at your house by keeping the lights out or putting up a sign (“We are busy playing games with ghosts this year — see you next year!” or something like that). If you do decide to give out treats, consider putting them in separate bags that are easy for people to grab, and leaving them outside your door. You could sit outside with them and greet people, but do so from a distance (and with a mask).

For more information about how to celebrate Halloween safely, check out the websites of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Follow me on Twitter @drClaire

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