How 6 Parents Are Trying to Salvage Halloween for Their Kids This Year

How 6 Parents Are Trying to Salvage Halloween for Their Kids This Year
Image:Joe Clark/Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

For some, the air outside is crisp again, beckoning pedestrians to put on a sweater. Advertisements celebrating the return of pumpkin spice have appeared on television. Storefronts are engulfed in orange color scapes. Suddenly, I’m overcome with the urge to pick apples, knowing full well that I have no desire to eat a basket’s worth of Red Delicious, and apple pie is the least-best of all the pies. It’s officially fall, which means it is basically Halloween. And yet, this year’s Halloween festivities are going to be very spooky indeed—with social distancing ordinances in place, celebrations are limited. It sucks.

Not going to club or watching a local band cover ghostly hits on Halloween as an adult is a bummer, but it’s not a formative experience—it’s nothing like trick or treating as a child, or going to your first haunted house, or sticking your fingers in a bowl of wet spaghetti after Tyler’s mom, dressed as a Zombie, assures you it’s brains but hopes you have fun at the party regardless. Because of that fact, I reached out to a handful of moms of young children across the country to find out what their plans are for Halloween this year—and how they are attempting to salvage the holiday for their kids.

Of the women I spoke to, it looks like (outdoor) trick-or-treating is off the table: cozy candy movie nights in are in, as are socially distant trips to a local pumpkin patch. Our conversations have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Ali, Los Angeles, California, mother of an almost two-year-old daughter:

Last year [my daughter] Wendy was 10 months old on Halloween, and we did take her out trick-or-treating. We parked near our friends’ house in Silverlake, had pizza and drinks, and then we all walked with our kids up to this neighborhood that goes all out with decorations. The street is closed to traffic and people have full lighting rigs and sound systems in their driveways. A couple houses were giving out glasses of wine for parents trick-or-treating too. There’s a lot of celeb spotting. We saw [Smashing Pumpkins’] James Iha dressed as a robot or alien or something. It is insanely crowded and obviously would be impossible to maintain a distance this year.
The city department of health sent out a memo last week saying trick-or-treating and trunk-or-treating would be strictly prohibited this year which was a bummer, but then the next day they sent an update that it was not recommended but not prohibited. I do think there’s a safe way to do it since it’s outdoors. I saw Party City is selling table set-ups for safe trick-or-treating, the question is just how many people will follow the rules—but that’s kinda been the question this whole time with all activities. I can’t see it being very enjoyable to trick or treat the way we did last year in a city as big as L.A., so we’ll do a modified Halloween.
L.A. has a ton of safe options to celebrate Halloween this year. We usually go to the pumpkin patch at Underwood Farms, I’d like to check out Descanso Gardens Halloween decorations. There are a few drive-through experiences this year in lieu of hayrides, and I think checking out the hardcore Halloween decorations (like in Toluca Lake and Studio City) in the weeks leading up to Halloween will be fun for her, too. On the actual day of Halloween we will probably get dressed up and do a spooky candy hunt a la an Easter egg hunt with her one friend she’s been seeing during covid. I’m thinking it’ll involve glow sticks and The Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. Then we’ll watch a festive movie or two like Hocus Pocus and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow cartoon. Eat some pizza, dance to the “Monster Mash,” make it a party. I love to decorate for holidays so there will be all sorts of festivities the entire month of October. Forest fires may have burned down the apple orchards, and the pandemic may have dashed our plans to go on a hayride and pack in to crowded neighborhood streets to collect candy, but I’ll be damned if we don’t celebrate Halloween. We’ve already watched Hocus Pocus twice and it’s only September.

Destiny, Columbus, Georgia, mother of two, a two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter:

[I’m] sure if trick-or-treating is allowed [here, but] we never trick-or-treat. I usually just let my kids dress up and give them candy and we do a movie night-type thing. A friend of mine’s brother was shot on Halloween while trick-or-treating when we were young, and I’ve just stayed away from it ever since.

Nia, Fredericksburg, Virginia, mother of a two-year-old son:

I don’t celebrate Halloween. But I might take my son to the pumpkin patch depending on how they are handling social distancing for the event. We don’t trick-or-treat at all. There are going to activities involving trick-or-trunk in my area—where adults load up on candy, put it in the car, meet at a parking lot and kids trick-or-treat from car to car—but we won’t be involved in that either.

Melanie, Queens, New York, mother of two sons, a one-year-old and a three-year-old:

It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I don’t know yet if trick-or-treating is banned in my area, but I don’t think I would be comfortable with it if it were still on. We all do still want to decorate, carve pumpkins, and wear costumes regardless because Halloween is a big deal for us. We may see a few close family members who we’ve already been around during the pandemic, and maybe just share a ton of candy amongst ourselves. Thankfully my kids are young enough to (probably) not miss trick-or-treating, so we’re just going to make Halloween as fun as possible.
I’ve considered going to a pumpkin patch at some point in October. We go to lot of parks and people are great about keeping distant from each other, so I think a pumpkin patch would pose the same low risk level.

Amy, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, mother of two sons, a 12-year-old and an 18-year-old:

While there haven’t been plans announced yet on if trick-or-treating is allowed in my area, I’m choosing for my son (12) not to participate due to COVID. I also will not be handing out candy, but will instead decorate my porch as well as in the inside of my home to still make this time of year fun for my son. On Halloween night, I plan on having my son’s favorite Halloween treats scattered around the house for him to “hunt” and then enjoy as we watch our favorite Halloween movie—The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Colleen, Providence, RI, mother of a five-year-old daughter:

To be honest it hadn’t even occurred to me to think about Halloween… My first instinct around this is that it’s way too early to say what we’ll do, with schools opening in person I just feel like it’s not out of the question that we’re all back in lockdown in a month. In a good year we fall into the “figure out the costume two days before Halloween” category of parenting. I’ve been approaching most of my pandemic-related decisions in similar fashion—burying my head in the sand in full avoidance mode until a few days before the deadline when I go into hand-wringing and obsessing mode and then sort of stumble into a kind of half-hearted decision and then go right into second-guessing mode. In the beginning we all spent soooo much time and energy thinking and planning and reading hundreds of emails from schools and camps etc and then everything would change anyway. Or you’re just choosing between two impossible scenarios. So I just don’t see the point in planning/thinking too far ahead anymore, my head just wants to explode with it all. [Rhode Island governor] Gina Raimondo actually just announced that Halloween will NOT be canceled this year, but it’s obviously not going to look the same. But when you take the knocking on strangers’ doors for free candy out of the equation it starts to feel a little sapped of joy to me. It’s such a wacky tradition to begin with—and I’ll be honest, a holiday with the goal of terrifying children feels a little redundant in this moment.
Like, last week we had been planning and talking and getting our daughter excited about starting school in-person on October 8. It was an impossible decision but we just said fuck it, we’re gonna try this because if we don’t something even worse than covid might happen. Then of course a few days before her first day of kindergarten she had a tiny fever and a little cough and we all felt like crap and so we were just automatically out of the game, she missed her first day of school and we spent the morning getting covid tests—itself a horror scene in a parking garage where she had to listen to me practically screaming with that thing shoved up my nose and then I lost my shit and burst into tears and then had to hold her down while they came for her! Definitely burned into her memory forever. When we got back our negative results we gave our daughter the good news and without missing a beat she was like, “So what’s the bad news?” It was a gut punch—and sort of crystallized the effects of the past six months on a child’s psyche.
But I dunno! Hate to be negative about it, I’m sure there are parents out there figuring out exactly how to make it the most memorable Halloween ever. Maybe it will be great—Zoom parties, distant Trick or Treating, outdoor parties? I guess we’ll probably pull some costume stuff out two days before and come up with something! I think my kid will be happy with whatever as long as she gets to dress up and eat candy. God knows kids understand that everything is messed up right now. And I think parents have to sort of put on a good face like with everything these days—even if they’re going crazy inside.

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