When the CDC released its guidelines about Halloween and trick-or-treating, I wasn’t entirely surprised. They are along the lines of all the COVID-19 guidelines: wear a mask and stay six feet from people outside your household. The CDC doesn’t outright say “don’t trick-or-treat,” but they do say that you shouldn’t make direct contact with anyone outside of your family unit, including during the exchange of candy. They recommend setting up a table outside your home, laying out the treats, and allowing kids to take them.
In other words, trick-or-treating as we know it—where your kid goes around ringing doorbells, saying “trick-or-treat,” schmoozing with the person who answers the door for a bit, and then putting their grimy hands into a bucket and selecting their favorite candy … yeah, that’s shit’s cancelled.
As much as I was sad to hear the news that my kids would not be participating in one of their favorite traditions (and mine too!), I wasn’t shocked. Disappointed, yes. But I’m kind of used to living through a string of disappointments this year. #fuck2020
What did surprise me, though, is the number of people who are basically ignoring CDC guidelines (or maybe they aren’t aware of them) and deciding that trick-or-treating is totally on, baby. Yup, a number of people on my local message board are asking which of their neighbors are trick-or-treating, and even planning Halloween parties. Big freaking parties, some of them indoors. In the middle of a fucking pandemic, while cases are on the rise.
I literally can’t even right now.
Listen, folks. Unless you have been living under a rock—or on a planet other than earth—you know that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Over 220,000 people have died in this country alone. And things aren’t getting better. Many experts believe we are entering a third wave of the virus. Already parts of the Midwest and South are surging with cases. Many hospitals are nearing capacity. We’ve gotten a little better at treating COVID, but we can expect many more deaths and suffering as we get deeper into the fall and winter.
I lived through spring 2020 in the NYC area, when no one knew what hit us and when hundreds of people were dying daily. The never-ending sirens, the freezer morgue trucks, the makeshift graveyards. My family barely left our apartment for weeks on end. This virus is no joke. It’s the real deal. It’s our once-in-lifetime moment where we need to buck up and act serious. Where we need to make sacrifices for the good of all.
This isn’t just about your kid and their precious holiday experience. Yes, for the most part, kids get milder versions of COVID (though some die and some are long haulers). But the concern here isn’t just your kid or your family contracting or spreading the virus. This is about making sure that you don’t spread this damn virus all over your community and infect the most vulnerable people in it.
Yes, trick-or-treating isn’t the highest risk activity out there, at least in theory. It’s an outside activity, which is safer than an inside one. If everyone stays in their family cohort, masked, and if candy exchanges don’t involve contact between trick-or-treaters and candy hander-outers, then it probably wouldn’t be that risky.
But you know what’s really going to happen, don’t you? Kids are going to go out there, and as the excitement and sugar enters their system, all the carefully laid out rules are going to go to shit.
Masks will be removed. After all, you can’t eat candy without one, and do you think your kid is actually going to wait till they get home or are far away enough from others to eat their favorite candy bar?
And social distancing? Come on. We know how Halloween is. Narrow sidewalks get crowded with kids. Kids mingle with their friends. Everyone is excited and has a hard time waiting their turn. The whole point of Halloween is the magical feeling of being out at night in a costume, high on sugar, without inhibition.
Let’s not forget that some families will send their sniffly kid out trick-or-treating too. Because it’s “just a cold,” right? A cold that could be COVID and infect your neighbors.
It’s hard to believe that Halloween wouldn’t quickly turn into a super spreader event if families just went out and did it the normal way. And if trick-or-treat is followed by an after-party, especially one that’s indoors? Forget about it—that would be a total travesty.
I get the impulse to want to try to make this pandemic as non-sucky for our kids as possible. I love, love, love Halloween. I understand that our kids only get a certain number of Halloweens during their childhood when the magic is still alive. I want my kids to have as fun and carefree a childhood as anyone else.
But I think our parenting culture just wasn’t ready for this pandemic. We are so hell-bent on our kids not missing out on a damn thing—we want perfection, and we want it now—but that is just not going to fly during a time like this.
Seriously, your kid can live with a less than traditional Halloween. If they don’t trick-or-treat for one freaking Halloween, nothing bad will happen. Nothing at all. There was one Halloween that I had the chicken pox (this was before there was a widely available vaccine for it). I had my French maid’s costume all ready. I was set to go trick-or-treating with my BFF. And instead, I was covered in itchy red bumps. I remember sitting on the couch and crying.
But did that experience ruin my life? Is Halloween forever tainted for me? Of course not. If anything, it’s one of my most poignant Halloween stories. It’s one I tell my kids when they are disappointed about missing out on something. I explain to them how we can survive disappointments, and that if everything was perfect all the time, life would be less interesting.
The thing is, this Halloween isn’t going to be like The Chicken Pox incident of 1988. Your child can still have Halloween. We are planning to go out during a non-crowded time of day to look at local Halloween decorations. Then we’ll have a candy treasure hunt at home. We’ll turn out all the lights, put on scary music, give our kids glow sticks, and have them go to town finding candy and filling their pumpkin buckets.
Honestly, I think it will be a Halloween to remember. And we’ll be protecting our fellow citizens and saving lives to boot.