Here’s What the CDC Wants You to Know About Celebrating Halloween This Year

published Sep 28, 2020
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Whether you plan next year’s elaborate Halloween costume on November 1, cobble together a DIY look at the last minute, or fall somewhere in between, one thing is universal: Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Halloween will look very different from what you and your favorite little monsters are used to.

Because it’s so crucial for people to adhere to social distancing guidelines, traditions like trick-or-treating and costume parties are pretty ill-advised. It’s also as important as ever to wear a mask, no matter how much it might “clash” with your costume. That might be a bummer in the short-term, but it’s for the best, as communities continue to band together to slow the spread of the virus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.

To help people navigate a quarantine-era Halloween, the CDC recently released guidelines to help people assess the risks involved with traditional spooky season festivities. While you are the best person to decide what makes sense for yourself, your family, and your community, it’s worth keeping in mind that some activities are way safer than others—and that what you decide will likely impact your neighbors and other people you interact with, too.

You can click over to the CDC’s website to read the guidelines in full, as well as check out their tips for holidays like Yom Kippur, Día de los Muertos, Diwali, and Thanksgiving. Here, we’re providing a condensed version of how healthy people can observe Halloween without getting themselves or their loved ones sick.

Note: If you suspect that you or someone in your household may have contracted the coronavirus, it’s best to stay home and self-isolate if at all possible. The CDC also spells this out on their website: “If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.”

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

High Risk: Trick-or-Treating

Going from door to door to gather fun-sized candy bars from neighbors is probably out of the question this year, and regulations may vary in your town. (The city of Los Angeles even temporarily banned the activity before walking back its guidelines to a very stern recommendation against it.) Even if some people do decide to venture out, it’s possible that they’ll be met by fewer goodies than last year, given that people may be less than eager to interact with strangers at their front doors.

Apartment Therapy already rounded up five save alternatives to trick-or-treating for you, all of which limit the risk of contagion to varying degrees. While you can set up a one-way trick-or-treating station at your porch or driveway, the CDC considers doing so a “moderate” risk activity and stresses that you space grab-and-go bags so that ghouls and goblins don’t crowd around to grab their goodies. The communal candy bowl is definitely out this year, and be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after touching anything you give away.

Low Risk: Decorating Your Place

Grab the cotton cobwebs and put out as many festive candles as you want. It’s pretty safe to decorate your home for Halloween, and doing so early can even help you get into the festive spirit. (Need proof and/or inspiration? Look no further than our House Tour editor Adrienne Breaux’s New Orleans abode.) Whether you favor kitschy accents or dramatic details, we’ve got you covered.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Craft Stylist: Brigitt Earley

Low Risk: Pumpkin Carving

The CDC approves of your annual tradition of turning gourds into artwork. If you’re decorating with neighbors or friends, try to do so outside and with at least six feet distance between you. Planning a pumpkin-carving or DIY painting activity with your kids? You should have little to worry about, but be sure to wash your hands well before and after you get pumpkin guts all over them. Alternatively, the Instagram-favorite pink pumpkins require no carving at all, and will last that much longer on your front porch because of it.

High Risk: Hayrides, Regional Fall Festivals, and Indoor Haunted Houses and Parties

Basically, it’s less than ideal to partake in any activity during which you’d be in close proximity with other people who aren’t in your immediate household. The risk increases if these events are indoors, aren’t well-ventilated, or don’t allow for social distancing at all times. It’s also not advised to attend these events with a costume mask instead of a surgical or thick cloth mask, given that those rubber character masks aren’t approved to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The CDC notes that attending an outdoor pumpkin patch or apple orchard are “moderate risk” activities, so you can still achieve that festive Instagram portrait if your heart desires. Just be sure to wear a mask at all times, keep enough distance from other people, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and touching anything.

Low Risk: Staying Home!

Whether you’ve always stayed home for Halloween or you’re just not feeling particularly social this year, there are plenty of ways to celebrate at home. The CDC suggests hosting a movie night with your family, and perhaps even hosting movie night on Zoom with your friends. Looking for the perfect piece of entertainment? Disney+ has plenty of

You can also replicate the trick-or-treating experience at home by creating a scavenger hunt that isn’t unlike an Easter egg hunt. (One Apartment Therapy writer has celebrated this way, with small gifts left around the house by The Great Pumpkin, for years.) Stash fun-sized candy and other treats around your home for your kids to find. If they leave a few pieces uncovered, that’s no big deal—think of it as leaving a treat for yourself the next time you do a deep clean on your space.