What will Halloween look like?

Pandemic changes celebrations but candy still sells

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions of how Halloween will be celebrated is becoming increasingly relevant. Will there be gatherings? How are communities approaching the issue of trick-or-treating safely? What can people do to stay spooky, so to speak?

In an informal survey of 20 students from Monte Vista High School and Live Oak and Tassajara Hills elementary schools, just two high schoolers said they were still planning to participate in trick-or-treating or partying in person on Halloween. The others all gave the coronavirus as the reason they decided against traditional celebrations. 

“I don’t want to risk my safety or others’ safety for this holiday,” said senior Nisha Thiagaraj. “I mean, it’ll come again. It’s not going to go away.” 

There have also been warnings from local officials regarding Halloween activities. In a KRON4 story published on Sept. 16, Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said, “We are concerned that the traditional trick-or-treating is kind of risky during a COVID-19 pandemic.” 

County health officials said people won’t be fined for trick-or-treating but strongly advised against taking part in activities involving a lot of close contact. 

Still, Halloween is a favorite holiday for many and almost an essential part of growing up. Many are reluctant to abandon these time-honored and beloved traditions, including retailers for which Halloween sales make up a significant part of revenue.

In the months leading up to Oct. 31, stores stocked their shelves with Halloween candy and decorations, expecting people to purchase these products and continue the tradition of dressing up and somehow getting a hold of candy. Surprisingly, despite the apparent lack of people engaging in traditional Halloween activities, some candy stores said they fared better than before the pandemic began.

Sweet Street, a small candy shop in downtown Danville, sold out of Halloween candy by Oct. 14, when usually there is still candy left after Halloween. 

“A lot of parents are overcompensating because they want to make Halloween special for their kids,” said Sara Hepner, one of the owners. 

Hepner said her customers found creative ways to celebrate while taking virus precautions into account, such as setting up scavenger hunts for candy or putting up much more extravagant decorations.

“We bought candy just so we could eat it because we’re not going trick-or-treating but we still want candy,” junior Joyce Tong said. 

The KRON4 story also provided examples of ways to celebrate Halloween while following health guidelines. Children could trick-or-treat from their cars: adults set up tables for candy so that doors and doorbells don’t need to be touched.

Bill Tom, an engineer, said his family planned to decorate a car with Halloween decorations and put the candy in the trunk for kids to get their treats. “It’s called ‘Trick or Trunk,” he said. 

More on Contra Costa County’s health guidelines is available on this press release.