The Year Halloween Died

Halloween is all about ghouls, ghosts and skeletons. It’s one of the few celebrations in our country where it’s totally socially acceptable to bring the topic of death front and center.

We didn’t know when 2020 kicked off that we’d be facing something much more sinister this October 31 than teenagers in grim reaper costumes. We’d be mourning the death of Halloween itself. The ferocious bear that is 2020 wasn’t satisfied by everything it had already devoured. This year wanted to unwrap and swallow whole the night of glowing pumpkins, childhood fun and another excuse for college kids to drink. 2020 is the year Halloween died.


When COVID-19 really got going in March of this year in the United States, many of us figured the stay home orders would last a few weeks, at most. The idea that students would be distance learning in the fall was beyond comprehension.

Masks are a staple of Halloween, not something most people are used to wearing everyday while in public.

There are a few basic steps we’re all asked to take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Wash our hands frequently. Wear a mask. Maintain six feet of physical distance from those who don’t live with us.

Well, shoot. Beyond the masks part (and I don’t think the infectious disease experts were referring to Batman masks over the eyes), it sounds like traditional trick-or-treating is out.

Halloween is just so damn fun, though. It’s maybe the one day a year when we take time to visit our neighbors. Halloween is the day we can become the person or thing of our wildest dreams, and then become our usual selves again with a little makeup remover. From babies to senior citizens, we are free to let loose, give in to fantasy, and have some fun. Three candy bars before dinner? Why not?

Halloween’s joy extends beyond trick-or-treating. There are parties where the host or hostess doesn’t have to worry about dusting, because fake cobwebs are being added to overshadow any real ones. Haunted houses pop up in garages across America, and terrified visitors creep through, arm in arm and scream on scream. Dressing up for school is part of the Halloween fun, from adorable kindergarteners to gothic teenagers. Even in the workplace, adults get in on the act with costumes and candy.

There’s one small issue with all of this revelry in 2020, of course. Traditional Halloween celebrating involves people. Lots of people, close together.

We can’t celebrate Halloween the way we have in the past. Traditional Halloween is dead, and that’s sad.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best out of Halloween this year. Halloween is all about creativity and innovation. So, let’s get cooking on some ideas!

Who’s to say we can’t go on  a costume parade around the neighborhood, with neighbors out front tossing candy to socially distanced groups of kids?

We have survived distance learning so far, even though it’s not always pleasant. On Halloween, why can’t we add some costumes to the mix? Distance learning costume contest, anyone?

We can decorate our yards to the nines, because cruising the neighborhood in a car to take in the sights is totally acceptable.

I don’t know about you, but I’m over Zoom in general, so forgive me if I don’t screech with joy like a manic witch at the thought of virtual Halloween parties. But we can totally put on spooktastic jams and have a monster mash contest with our own families and household members. Truly, the attitude we choose to have in front of our children about Halloween in a pandemic will be the most crucial factor in whether our kids have a fun or miserable Halloween this year.

Traditional Halloween is dead and gone for the year. Bury it in the yard under a styrofoam tombstone with a corny joke on it next to a skeleton hand sticking up from the ground. But, unless 2020 repeats itself, hopefully Halloween will rise from the dead for next year.

Not only that. We have already handled the crap that 2020 has thrown at us so far. We are tough.  We are resilient. We have kept kids occupied with lots of devices, but also some crafts and learning.

If anyone can make apple cider out of questionable apples this Halloween, it’s us.

So rise up, Halloween 2020. It’s time to celebrate a year to remember.

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