In a Pandemic Year, Create New Halloween Traditions

“Are we still doing Halloween?” a currently popular meme asks. “I’m already wearing a mask and eating all the candy anyway.”

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, enterprising celebrants across the country have shared their socially-distant, coronavirus-unfriendly ways to incorporate traditions with newfound realities – including candy chutes constructed of PVC pipe, candy displays in yards, and more.

Local and state officials are urging residents to take precautionary measures this year – or even eschew old traditions to create new ones.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the safest activities are “those that put you in direct contact only with people you live with,” suggesting that families use the evening to carve pumpkins and decorate their homes, prepare a meal, or participate in an online costume contest.

But if you must, the DSHS said that outdoor activities with plenty of space for physical distancing are preferable – things like neighborhood costume parades or scavenger hunts.

“Instead of door-to-door trick or treating, leave individually bagged treats at the end of the driveway or on the front steps so children can pick them up without direct contact with other people,” the state agency said. “Large, indoor gatherings and anything that brings you face-to-face with people you don’t live with should be avoided.”

And, by the way, “a costume mask is not a substitute for a protective cloth face mask.”

“Build a protective mask into your costume, and don’t wear separate protective and costume masks at the same time because that can make it more difficult to breathe,” DSHS said.

More locally, with Dallas County now back in the “Red-High Community Risk for COVID-19 Transmission,” traditional activities such as trick-or-treating are discouraged, a joint statement from Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson pointed out.

“Alternatives such as virtual costume contests, cookie decorating, in-home candy hunting, and watching Halloween movies are safe choices for families looking for ideas,” they said.

“This year’s Halloween at home will be a chance to create new family traditions,” Jenkins said. “My family will be celebrating at home by carving pumpkins, taking an “edible brains” baking class and watching scary movies.

“While traditional activities will have to be put on hold this year, there are plenty of safe and family-friendly alternatives that public health professionals recommend to keep you and your loved ones safe during the current pandemic. Our COVID-19 community risk is high in Dallas County, so Mayor Johnson and I are joining together to ask you to heed their advice and incorporate safer activities into your celebrations this year.”

“Halloween, like many holidays, is usually a day to gather with our loved ones,” Johnson added. “This year, however, we need to keep our distance to protect our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our communities from COVID-19. I understand people are tired of the pandemic, and I would love to take my boys trick-or-treating this year and join friends at a Halloween party.

“But we will instead celebrate at home as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. I join Judge Jenkins in urging other Dallas families to do the same this weekend as we work to slow the spread of this virus and keep Dallas safe and healthy.”

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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