Did you know that Halloween was a time when mischief and mayhem were the order of the day? Pranks were common until it came to the point when authorities have to pass ordinances prohibiting them! Fortunately, Halloween today is filled with more treats and fewer tricks.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the beloved traditions have to change to fit in with the times. These include trick-or-treating, family gatherings, and neighborhood parties because these aren’t in line with social distancing recommendations.
The good news: You and your family and friends can still enjoy Halloween festivities despite the restrictions brought by the pandemic! You can still decorate your house, give out treats, and engage in a scavenger hunt, even enjoy drive-thru haunted houses. But you have to adopt the health and safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
First, if you’re the host of a Halloween party, keep these tips in mind to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections.
- Plan outdoor gatherings and activities instead of indoor ones, if possible. Physical distancing is easier to implement in a wide, open space, and it’s also well-ventilated. If an outdoor gathering isn’t possible, ensure that the indoor space is well-ventilated, and physical distancing can still be adopted. Open the doors and windows for more ventilation, if the weather permits.
- Limit the number of guests for both outdoor and indoor gatherings. Invite people from your local area, too, as much as possible.
- Inform your guests that safety protocols will be in places, such as the use of face masks and alcohol, frequent handwashing, and physical distancing. Ask your guests, too, if they can avoid contact with non-household members for 14 days before the event.
If you’re invited to a Halloween gathering, you should consider the above-mentioned measures in considering whether you will attend or not. You may want to ask the host about the type of venue, the number of people invited, and the types of activities planned, as well as the safety protocols being considered. Bring your supplies, such as extra masks and alcohol, if you plan on attending.
When you’re in the Halloween gathering, you should adopt these safety protocols, too! You may or may not request other guests to adopt them, too, depending on your level of confidence and closeness with them. But if you feel like you’re putting your health at risk due to other guests’ irresponsible actions, you should consider leaving.
- Limit your close contact by keeping your physical distance of at least six feet. Avoid areas where it can be harder to keep your distance, such as dining areas and restrooms. Again, go for an outdoor venue, if possible.
- Use the restroom when there’s a limited number of people in it. Think about washing your hands before and after using the toilet, avoiding contact with high-touch areas, and even disinfecting surfaces before touching them.
- Avoid gestures promoting close contact with others. These include shaking hands, giving hugs, and fist-bumping. Go for waves and verbal greetings – from a distance, of course.
- Limit shouting, chanting, and singing, particularly when you’re within six feet of other people and when you’re not wearing a mask.
We cannot overemphasize these top three recommendations for COVID-19 risk reduction: Wear your mask properly, wash your hands or disinfect them often, and keep your distance! Studies have shown that these are simple yet effective precautions against the coronavirus among the general populace.
Halloween celebrations in 2020 will be radically different from previous celebrations, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy them! We have to be more cautious in protecting ourselves from infection. We also recommend these ten tips on getting the most from the holiday.
1. Go Big on Your Home Décor
Get into the holiday spirit by putting in the extra energy into decorating your home! Think of 2020 as the year to pull out the stops in Halloween home décor, both inside and outside, for the fun of it. You can let your children decide the décor, from the bats hanging on the ceiling to the witches perched on brooms atop the tree, too.
With your children cooped up due to the pandemic, you will find them bursting with ideas. You may have to be the adult here and guide their creativity, especially when it comes to safety and energy efficiency. For instance, you may veto the idea of putting live spiders on fake webs, creating driving distractions for motorists, or keeping candles lit overnight.
Here are several Halloween décor ideas that we think will look great – and safe, too – in your home.
- Welcome guests to your home with a DIY friendly ghost or a scary skeleton. You can source the supplies, such as colored paint and skeleton frames, from online shops to limit contact with others. You can let your imagination run wild by putting pumpkins, bats, and other critters beside the door, perhaps add spooky lighting at night.
- Transform a large mirror into a Halloween mirror by spraying its surface with a matte finish spray, which will create a creepy effect. Place artificial candles on a candelabra on a table near it for a haunted house effect.
- Turn regular doormats into monster-inspired mats placed on the front door and interior entryways. Store them for next Halloween, too, so your carbon footprint can be reduced.
- Light up your home with pumpkin jar lights and spruce them up with hay and pumpkins. Choose real pumpkins, if you can get hold of them, but artificial ones are just as good. You may also go for lights in tin cans, skull lamps, and even white Christmas lights, all of which will provide illumination and ambiance.
With your children looking forward to Halloween, you can decorate nearly every inch of your home! The festive atmosphere will shoo their blues away and get them excited for Halloween, pandemic or not.
2. Get Cooking for a Halloween Feast
With more time on your hands for a holiday, you may want to whip up a feast for you and your family! There are plenty of traditional Halloween treats that can be on your holiday table – caramel apples, pumpkin pie, apple bread, caramel corn, and candy corn. You will have your hands full preparing these treats a few days before Halloween, too.
But why be such a busy bee when your children can help with the preparations and have fun at it, too? You should ask your kids to pitch in since they will be the ones gobbling it all up! Besides, you will also pass on traditions, make memories, and turn chores into teachable moments.
You may also want to experiment with the traditional menu or recipes for Halloween. With 2020 being a non-normal year, making a few changes won’t hurt. Make these treats and start a new family tradition, too.
- Halloween bark is a delectable treat that rivals the peppermint bark of the Christmas season.
- Pumpkin ice cream float combines Halloween’s best – the sweetness of pumpkin with the holiday chill.
- Cereal treat eyeballs are crispy but chewy and downright fun to serve and eat.
- Homemade Butterfingers are a great way to enjoy the beloved candy while also getting your hands dirty with chocolate.
- Reese’s bats are as cute as they are delicious, not to mention easy to make even for young children.
- Ghost cookies will soon evaporate into thin air – or end up in the mouths of the young and old alike – as soon as your back is turned.
- Halloween layer cakes are fairly easy to make yet turn out amazing, just the perfect centerpiece of every table in your home.
- Dracula denture cookie sandwiches look so realistic you may not want to pick them up, but there’s no turning back once you do.
- Chocolate apple cat faces are a step up the usual caramel apples but are easy to make, too. Get creative with chocolate sprinkles, heart-shaped candies, and banana-shaped candies.
Don’t forget the adults’ eating pleasures! You can make a few seasonal cocktails that will fuel their holiday spirits, and we have the perfect ones.
- Pumpkin spice white Russian is a classic drink with a kick.
- Pomegranate-rum punch is a sparkling spiced cocktail that will perk up your party.
- Tart cherry eyeball punch is a refreshing mix of lychees, cherry juice, and fresh orange juice with chilled sparkling water. Add light rum or vodka for that extra buzz.
- Professor’s poisoned apple is safe to drink, but it’s exciting to look at with its steam (dry ice, baby!).
And throw in a few flavorful and filling treats for the adults, too. Pumpkin deviled eggs pulled pork and pineapple sliders, and fig hearts wrapped in prosciutto are great ideas.
But you can also order in pizzas, soft drinks, and booze, and you’re all set! Halloween should be a fun day and night for you, too, so slaving over the stove is a no-no.
3. Chill with Movie Marathons
If you and your family choose to skip the party, parade, and trick-or-treating, you can chill at home with a movie marathon. You will find plenty of old classics and new favorites on streaming services, such as Disney+ and Netflix. You may want to discuss the movies you and your family want to see a few days before Halloween.
Are you planning on a movie marathon with other non-household members? If you are, you should also lay down ground rules to protect everybody. These can include watching the movies outdoors via a projector, a bring-your-own food and drink agreement, and keeping a safe distance.
Disney+ has probably the most family-friendly scary movies that families should consider, and it has numerous classic films that parents can enjoy, too. Start with Halloweentown, a Disney Channel original film about an adorable young witch and her siblings. Then, follow it up with Don’t Look Under the Bed, Hocus Pocus, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Netflix has an impressive list of horror movies, including old favorites like The Witches, The Addams Family, and Sleepy Hollow. You can choose from a wide range of sensibilities, too, from dark comedies to serious gore so everybody can be satisfied with the marathon. Line up Hubie Halloween, The Forest, and In the Tall Grass – we guarantee that everybody will scream!
Amazon Prime has more than its fair share of horror movies that will make the monster under your bed tame. Start with The Cabin in the Woods, followed by Come to Daddy, Night of the Living Dead, and Train to Busan. We think that the people behind Amazon Prime love the horror genre because dozens of them choose from it.
HBO Max streams great horror movies, too, many of which will give you the creepy-crawlies. Doctor Sleep, The Conjuring II, and From Dusk Till Dawn make the top of our list. But you can always check out its top horror movies and choose the ones that will make your skin crawl and your soul scared.
The beauty of movie marathons is that there’s nothing to do but immerse yourself in the frightening world of monsters, figurative and literal.
4. Drive-by Trick-or-Treating
Take a page from the fast-food book and plan a drive-by trick-or-treat with your neighbors! Designated adults in the neighborhood can drive by in their respective cars and gently toss treats at costumed children waiting in their yards. This way, children stay in their homes’ general vicinity while still enjoying Halloween, from their candies to their costumes.
Plus, it’s a chance for aunts, uncles, and grandparents to see their little family members in their costumes and give them special treats – from a safe distance, of course. Children are among the most vulnerable cohorts and should ideally stay at home and keep their distance from others.
Drive-by trick-or-treating isn’t possible in some neighborhoods, but there are creative ways to continue with the Halloween tradition.
- Leave individual bags of candy on the porch or fence for children to pick up. This way, they don’t have to dip their hands into a bowl of candies and increase their risk of infection. You can also hang these bags on your fence or hang low on a tree as if the kids are picking apples.
- Make a candy slide or chute where you can let the bags of candy slide down toward the children. But if that’s too much work, you can also use a pole to hand them their treats.
You can also hand out the treats from the trunk of your car, a method known as trunk-or-treat. Just remember not to get too close to the children, and a pole may be a fun way to do it, too.
5. Experiment with Weird Science
Children have a natural curiosity about their world, and it manifests in many ways, including exploration and experimentation. Well, why not direct their curiosity into weird yet fun science experiments that can be done at home? The best thing: You can tie up these experiments with Halloween!
Many weird science experiments for kids can be conducted with common household items, too, so there’s little to no extra expense. You should guide your kids, nonetheless, lest your living room ends up with a mountain of slime!
The slime experiment is a great way to start young kids in science because it’s fun and easy. Plus, they will learn to measure ingredients, mix with their hands, and make observations, valuable life skills.
For the slime, the necessary ingredients are:
- 3 cups of foam shaving cream
- Food coloring as needed
- ½ cup of Elmer’s white glue
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- One tablespoon saline solution
Just mix these ingredients in a bowl in the order presented above and voila! Your kids will have a slime that they can use as decoration and toys.
If you have extra pumpkins lying around, you can engage your kids in the puking pumpkin experiment. Make a hole on top of a big pumpkin, remove its guts and make either a happy, scary, or scared face on it. Let the kids pour ¼ cup baking soda into its hole, add a squirt of dishwashing soap and a few drops of coloring, and squirt vinegar into the mix. Now that’s a puking pumpkin!
Here are several more Halloween-friendly weird science experiments for you and your kids. Be sure to have fun and set aside the schoolteacher explanations!
6. Challenge Yourselves with a Scavenger Hunt
While a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt requires planning, it will neither zap your enthusiasm for the holiday nor burn your wallet! Just be sure to hide the items and prepare the clues a day or two before the hunt so you won’t have to run around like a headless chicken. You may also choose to make it a competition between groups or a teamwork activity for everybody.
The vital aspects of a scavenger hunt – and we mean for all types of scavenger hunts, whether it’s for Easter, Christmas or Halloween – are the following:
- Treasure hunt clues point the way to the hiding places but in a challenging way. You don’t necessarily have to come up with your clues since there are plenty of online resources.
- Hiding places in and around the house – or in other people’s lawns, patios and porches, if it’s a neighborhood hunt. Keep in mind that children may be included in the hunt, so appropriate hiding places should be considered. For example, there should be no high hiding places to encourage children to climb ladders or chairs.
- Prizes are a must because these are the hunters’ rewards and add to the thrill of the hunt. Go for Halloween-themed prizes in keeping with the season. Examples include light-up pumpkin necklaces, Halloween pumpkin samplers, glow-in-the-dark bouncing eyeballs, Halloween-costumed rubber ducks, and Halloween-themed stuffed toys.
You may also want to keep these tips in mind when planning your scavenger hunt.
- Set a time limit for the game, so there are more excitement and urgency to the hunt.
- Place the prizes in less obvious hiding places. Sometimes, hiding them in plain sight makes it more fun, such as a new stuffed toy hidden among older ones.
- Hide fewer prizes but with more value, so these become even more desirable. Small but highly desired toys for the children and small pieces of jewelry are a few examples.
- Use lights to create a spooky atmosphere, such as dimming the lights in one area and turning off the lights in another part of the house.
You may even ask the participants to hunt for the objects in their costumes. It’s a surefire way of getting everybody in the mood.
7. Get Your Virtual Groove On
Halloween is a holiday for gathering family and friends, both near and far. But with the travel restrictions and health risks, many of your usual guests may be absent, or you may be unable to visit them. Don’t despair as we have technology that allows virtual parties!
Zoom is among the most popular videoconferencing apps today, and it’s one that you can look into. But don’t just go calling your family and friends like you would on an ordinary day! You have to add something extra to set the holiday mood.
- Send the invitations and not just digital invitations – we’re talking about traditional paper invitations that no one seems to get in the mail anymore! There’s a certain happiness in receiving something unexpected in the mail, something that we should strive to give to others, even if it’s something as simple as a paper invitation. Besides, it’s fun to get a paper invitation to a virtual party!
- Ask your virtual guests to wear their Halloween costumes. The more outlandish, the better because it will add to the fun! You can have everybody do a little runway walk to showcase their costumes, and then everybody gets to choose the winner. Be sure to take photos of the costumes, too, so you will have mementos of your possibly first-ever Halloween virtual party.
- Let every household show their Halloween food and drinks, too. You may even want to have a contest of the spookiest snacks – just the appearance since it’s impossible to taste the food. Your party should also include cheers and toasts, perhaps even choose the best toastmaster.
- Ask everybody to have a Halloween-themed background, too. Every detail that will set the mood and start a conversation will be welcome. Nobody wants a boring virtual party that ends and stops with generic greetings, backgrounds, and topics!
You can also plan activities that kids and adults will enjoy. Sharing spooky stories and handing down scary stories from grandparents are great ideas for keeping the conversation rolling. Scavenging for prizes in and around your home while others also do so in their homes is fun, too. Going on virtual tours featuring scary places like the Eastern State Penitentiary, the Winchester Mystery House, and the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic will extend the party, too.
8. Go on a Bike Halloween Costume Parade
If you live in a tight-knit neighborhood, you may consider a bike Halloween costume parade for the kids! It’s a great way for them to stretch their legs, show off their fancy costumes and decorated bikes, and get their treats. Plus, they can also keep their distance and ride their bikes home afterward.
Don’t stop with bikes either! You can also ask parents to let their kids come with their wagons, wheelchairs, and kiddie cars, which can be decorated any way they like. Think of wagons as pirate ships, wheelchairs as command centers for space ships, and bikes as fairy-winged vehicles.
Yes, adults can also join in on the fun. Golf carts, bikes, and wheelchairs may have to be decorated for the parade, but that’s the fun of it.
The kids can pick up their treats along the parade route, too. They can pick up individual bags of candies, for instance, from the fence posts, patios, and poles, or the adults can give it to them.
Be sure to add spooky music to the parade, too! Not only will music set the ambiance, but it will also announce to the neighbors that the parade is coming down their way. You can either pump music from a wireless speaker connected to an iPhone or let the kids with musical talents lead the parade and make the music – or both but in an alternating arrangement so the kids can enjoy the fun, too.
Children may have to be reminded frequently to keep a good distance from each other during the parade and wear masks as part of their costumes. Physical distancing can be implemented while enjoying festive activities!
9. Get Together with Your Neighbors for a Spookfest
If you live in a low-risk area, you and your neighbors can plan a small gathering for Halloween complete with the works – a fire pit, s’ mores, and a couple of movies. You can agree on arranging your tables and chairs so every household is safe from each other while the children should wear masks. You can have a party, but the health protocols should be in place.
If there isn’t a common space for a party, every household can set up tables and chairs in their front yard, backyard, or driveway. It will seem like you’re in a large gathering, but everybody’s still within their property lines. With every house in a festive mood, it’s a Halloween to remember!
If you and your neighbors are up to it, you can also plan a few interactive activities on the driveway. Examples include Pinning Lids on the Jack-o-Lantern (a twist on the game of pin the tail on the donkey), Bozo Ball Toss, and Ladder Ball. These games can be rotated through every driveway, but cleaning and sanitizing the areas between games should be done.
A sound system can also be set up in the middle house where danceable music can be played. Go for Halloween- themed music like Thriller by Michael Jackson, Monster by Lady Gaga, and She Wolf by Shakira. You and your neighbors can dance like there’s no tomorrow in your respective driveway or yard, perhaps spill out to the streets while still keeping a safe distance.
10. Drive and Scare Yourselves Silly
If you and your family have had enough of the shelter-in-place lifestyle, but you don’t want the risk of public gatherings, you should add drive-thru Halloween experiences to your list! Many options are popping up like mushrooms across the country, and these are becoming popular, too. The options range from so-called haunted roads to haunted houses, but all of them don’t require the driver and his passengers to get out of their vehicle to be scared silly.
The Haunted Road in Orlando, Florida, features scary creatures that spring out of the dark, and make the skin crawl even though they are clearly make-believe. There’s also the Haunted Drive in Texas, an existing drive-thru attraction with new features that make the $20-$30 fee worthwhile. The Bloodshed Farms in Columbus, New Jersey features The Last Drive, a drive-thru attraction with menacing characters and twisted creatures.
But if your local area doesn’t have drive-thru Halloween attractions, you may want to consider making one! Again, your neighbors may be willing to pitch in by decorating their front yards and driveways with spooky stuff. Your block can then become a drive-thru destination for you and your neighbors – and the best thing about it is that it’s free!
The COVID-19 pandemic may have upended how we celebrate many of our beloved American traditions, including Halloween, but it won’t stop us from celebrating! We have to be more creative about setting the mood, gathering our family and friends, and enjoying the holiday in the new normal.
When you think about it, the new normal has also ushered in many appealing new traditions that may well last for years to come. You may want to continue with the neighborhood parades, mix traditional food with new recipes, and visit more drive-thru attractions in 2021 and beyond.