Friday, October 30, 2020

Halloween alternatives in time of COVID-19

By Briana Bizier

It was shaping up to be the best Halloween ever. This year, Oct. 31 falls on a Saturday, which means no arguing with overtired, costumed children about going to bed instead of eating another five pounds of candy, and no sending bleary-eyed children to school after a late night of running through the streets with their friends.

What’s more, this year there is also a full moon on Halloween night. It’s October’s second full moon, making it a Halloween blue moon. Perhaps best of all, the day after Halloween, Sunday, Nov. 1, is the return of Eastern Standard Time, giving all the little monsters and their parents an extra hour of sleep.

One socially distant way to celebrate with your
children is to drive around local neighborhoods
and view creative homes decorated for Halloween.
No matter what you do this Halloween, don't
ditch the fun. There are plenty of ways to enjoy
the occasion safely. COURTESY PHOTO
By all indications, Halloween 2020 was going to be one for the record books.

Then came COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, that perennial favorite of Halloween traditions, as a higher risk activity. The town of Raymond, following that advice, scrapped their traditional Main Street Halloween celebration, and Windham offered a drive-through Trunk or Treat last weekend for their residents as an alternative to door-to-door trick-or-treating.

Losing the activity that makes Halloween so special for many children, and even some parents, is a tough blow. While there are alternatives to make this holiday feel special, it’s important to be honest with your children: This is a loss. It’s the latest loss in a long string of loss that dates all the way back to March, when most of us thought this whole pandemic thing would blow over in time to see the grandparents for Easter.

If your children are upset over losing their night of trick-or-treating, it might help to remind them why it’s important that we keep avoiding large crowds and close contact with lots of other people. As awful as it is to cancel celebrations, COVID-19 is worse. Even a mild case of COVID is unpleasant, and scientists and doctors still don’t know what long-term health effects some COVID patients might face over the coming years.

It might also help to remind your children that they are part of something larger. Mainers have done a tremendous job following public health recommendations and controlling this outbreak, and keeping our distance from one another, even on Halloween night, is an important part of our success. We will all miss trick-or-treating this year, but by staying home, we’re protecting the vulnerable and watching out for our community — just like a superhero. Hey, we’re all even wearing masks.

However, as my 10-year-old points out, you can’t just cancel Halloween. Most of our beloved Halloween rituals, such as decorating the house and yard with creepy, funny, or just plain weird decorations, are still perfectly safe. Pumpkins can still be carved into jack-o-lanterns, skeletons can still dance in the windows, and you can still craft that perfect costume.

When it comes to that Saturday night, full moon, Halloween 2020 celebration, families have lots of alternative options. One friend told me she is planning on making Halloween baskets this year as a spooky riff on Easter baskets. Another friend will make a candy scavenger hunt for her older children, leaving them a trail of clues to unravel in order to find their treats. My sister, who lives several states away in a neighborhood with no resident bears, plans on hiding candy in the backyard for her young children to find with flashlights.

If you have older children, it might be fun to take a full moon Halloween hike on a well-known trail, perhaps even while wearing your costumes. Younger children might enjoy a similar hike before the sun goes down, and parents can always offer candy as a reward, or as a bribe, for a hike well done.

Additionally, it is still possible to plan socially distanced trick-or-treating drop-offs with friends and family in town. The CDC recommends giving individual bags of treats instead of letting children paw through an enormous bowl of candies. If you coordinate beforehand, you could drive to houses where family and friends have set out tables of individually wrapped Halloween treats. Just be sure to wash your hands before you dive into those peanut butter cups!

Finally, as we navigate yet another seasonal holiday that has changed dramatically due to COVID, be sure to remind your children - and yourself - that this too shall pass. Pandemics don’t last forever, and someday, we will all trick-or-treat beneath the rising moon once again. <

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