Halloween: How to celebrate without giving yourself a Covid scare
This year will be ‘different’, says Simon Harris. Here’s how to have a good time safely
Adults may love it or hate it, but Halloween is a highlight of most children’s year.
Trick or treating (often with very few tricks on offer) is an annual excuse for children to dress up in ghoulish costumes and masks and get bagfuls of sweets from their neighbours. And teenagers often spend hours outdoors or indoors in large groups.
But, not this year.
Dublin City Council was quick to cancel traditional Halloween events for 2020 – moving what was left online. And many other organisers followed suit, cancelling Halloween festivals and fireworks displays right across the country.
As Level 3 restrictions to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 will possibly continue beyond October 28th, it may be time to come up with alternative ways to celebrate Halloween.
“We should prepare children for a new version of Halloween rather than disappoint them at the end of the month,” says Helen Corrigan, senior occupational therapist with the child and adolescent mental health services in South Wexford.
Corrigan believes that children have faced so much uncertainly, with all the different restrictions, that it’s not fair for them to be waiting for Halloween to be normal this year.
“Parents should make the decision now that trick or treating is off the agenda and talk to their children about finding new ways to do things at home,” says Corrigan.
She suggests that younger children would enjoy ringing the doorbells of their own homes and be surprised by treats handed to them by their parents.
“Parents could pre-arrange to go knock on the doors of their grandparents or aunties’ houses if they live nearby, but young children would get fun out of running around outside their own houses and pretending to be a different person at each door,” says Corrigan.
The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on Halloween in September, noting that traditional Halloween events such as trick or treating, costume or haunted house parties are high risk for spreading Covid-19.
And Dr Ronan Glynn from the National Public Health Emergency Team has said that, while Halloween hasn’t been cancelled, the public is advised to plan festivities within a Covid-19 environment.
Doing a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt in your garden at dusk, letting off sparklers when it gets darker or toasting marshmallows over a fire pit are other simple activities that young children will enjoy without needing to mix with other families.
This may be an opportunity to decorate your living space and make home-made costumes from old clothes or ripped sheets.
“A lot of people have said that the Covid-19 lockdown has brought a slower pace of life, so parents could bring back some of the traditions from their youth such as decorating black sacks for costumes,” says Corrigan.
Aisling Carroll, a mother of three children aged between 9 and 13, says that it’s important to keep the essence of festivities so the children can dress up while not trick or treating per se.
She suggests that a few parents could get together and donate €5 each so that wrapped bags of sweets with children’s names on them could be put together in advance.
“Maybe we could set up a decorated stand with lanterns on the green near our houses with one adult dressed up – and wearing a face mask and gloves – giving out the treats,” says Carroll.
If Covid-19 restrictions become more severe, the children could come by at staggered times so everyone isn’t there at the same time.
Some children – when asked – might also prefer to carve pumpkins with their parents at the kitchen table or have a Halloween movie night or spooky storytelling session with siblings. Not every child enjoys the heightened atmosphere of scary masks, bangers and fireworks going off while large groups of people in scary costumes come knocking on their doors.
“It’s about finding out what they love and figuring out a way to do it at home this year,” says Corrigan.
“It’s a time in which they explore their identity, perform and test out being someone they haven’t been,” she says.
She suggests that because teenagers won’t be able to go out and meet up with their friends this Halloween, parents should “get out the house” and give them some space to have costumed zoom chats.
“Give them the space to experiment, don’t comment or shame them if they wear something outrageous, sexy or horrifying. It’s a time for them to get a little relief from the norm,” says Meehan.
She says Halloween can be a bit tricky for 8-12 year olds – the age group sometimes dubbed as Tweenies – who are too old for childish games and too young for teenage games.
“This age group like to show other people what they are doing so get them to look online for ideas to make their own costumes or make or give you the recipes for cool Halloween food. Let them be the creators of their own Halloween. It’s a time for them to try out new skills and stretch themselves.”
Extended family members could also post little packages to children to be opened on Halloween night.
“They could even do zoom trick or treating and chat to family members while they open the envelopes they received from different people,” suggests Meehan.
And remember, wherever you are on Halloween night, the public health advice on social distancing, hand-washing, coughing/sneezing etiquette and face coverings must still be abided by.
“And, if people are giving sweets to children who are calling to their houses in a planned way, remember that sweets and chocolates must be in wrappers. It’s not the time for a free for all with lots of hands reaching into a box of jellies,” says Meehan.
In a video released on his Instagram account this weekend, the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris spoke about Halloween. “In the past when we’ve been blunt and honest with our kids they’ve responded with such resilience,” he said.
Addressing Irish children directly he said: “Halloween is going to be different this year. It’s not a good idea to go traipsing round to everybody’s house, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time … Let’s make sure the only fright we give each other is the frightening Halloween games we play, and not the fright of people getting sick.
“It will be a different Halloween and I know you’ll understand that, because you’ve been better than maybe the adults in this pandemic.”