COVID Changes Halloween Celebrations

26 October 2020

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

October 31 is Halloween, a very popular holiday in the United States. Many people look forward to Halloween all year long. Today the holiday brings in billions of dollars to businesses and people of all ages take part in celebrations.

This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic means Halloween will look a little different. Many traditional activities and events have been canceled or changed. These activities include trick-or-treating, corn mazes, outdoor festivals, and indoor haunted houses.

People celebrating Halloween must consider new restrictions and concerns for health and safety. The Associated Press talked to families, event organizers and others about the effects of COVID-19 on their Halloween plans.

Big events

Large community events and outdoor festivals across the U.S. have been canceled or changed.

Near the city of San Francisco, California, a well-known Halloween event was supposed to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Now, it has been canceled.

COVID pandemic changes Halloween celebrations in the United States including large outdoor festivals
COVID pandemic changes Halloween celebrations in the United States including large outdoor festivals

The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is a two-day event. In normal times, about 300,000 people come to see the parade and contests -- including California's heaviest pumpkin.

Neighborhood events

Many neighborhoods across the U.S. hold big Halloween parties. Streets shut down to vehicles and people living on the street throw parties.

Some streets become well known for their Halloween celebrations. An area called Webster Groves, near St. Louis, Missouri, is one example. People who live there decorate their houses, give out candy and have parties. As many as 1,000 people visit for Halloween.

But not this year.

One homeowner there said her family plans to decorate the outside of their house as usual. She wants her neighbors to feel the Halloween spirit. But they will not give out candy.

Corn mazes

This year, many farms with corn mazes must also make changes because of COVID 19.

For example, walkways through the fields of corn are wider than usual. The farms are limiting the number of visitors. And people must wear face masks in places where they cannot stay physically distanced.

Haunted houses

Indoor attractions such as haunted houses are having difficulties operating this holiday.

Brett Hays is president of the Haunted Attraction Association. The association has about 800 members in the United States. He told the AP that about half of the country's haunted houses will not be able to run this year because of the pandemic.

A few haunted houses have created ways for people to experience the fun from their vehicles. Others plan to let in a limited number of people at a time.

Haunted houses and other attractions usually make about $1.14 billion in yearly ticket sales, mostly during Halloween season. But this year, many expect to see a 50 percent decrease in usual earnings.

"Nobody's going to have a great year," Hays said.

Trick-or-treating – a Halloween tradition

Trick-or-treating is the main Halloween activity for children and families. Children dress up in costume and then go door-to-door asking for candy, while singing "Trick-or-treat! Trick-or-treat! Give me something good to eat!"

Even people without children enjoy dressing up in costumes and giving out candy to children who come to their door.

But trick-or-treating presents health concerns in the age of the coronavirus. Children usually need to get close to the person giving out the candy. It is difficult to stay a safe distance away.

Each area of the United States is dealing with trick-or-treating differently. Many cities and states have canceled trick-or-treating. And many parents are still deciding whether to let their children go trick-or-treating.

In Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Jamie Bender is mom to two kids, ages 3 and 5. She said she is still deciding whether her family will go trick-or-treating.

"If our neighbors are wearing masks when they open the door," she said, "we would let the kids trick-or-treat a few houses."

Bender added she would then clean the candy covers before letting her children eat them.

Still, Americans are buying a lot of Halloween candy.

The AP reports that U.S. sales of Halloween candy were up 13 percent over last year in the period ending September 6. Experts say this is likely because Americans may want to celebrate after months of worry and concern.

People are thinking of safer ways to give candy to trick-or-treaters. Some say they will use long sticks or other devices to safely deliver candy from a distance. Others say they will just throw candy at children and hope it lands close by.

Fifteen-year-old Alina Morse lives in Detroit, Michigan. She developed a candy company. She also created a Halloween Tree. The tree lets children pick a piece of candy (or two, or three) but still stay physically distanced. Alina told the AP that "selecting a treat from the tree makes the safe, self-serve experience much more fun."

That excitement is good news for candy companies. Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year for candy makers.

Miranda Leon of Albany, Georgia, still plans to buy Halloween candy. And she plans to take her children trick-or-treating and give out candy.

"So much has been taken from our kids this year — classes cut, sports canceled, summer camps canceled," she said. "I refuse to take away the joy of trick-or-treating from my kids."

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.

I'm Anna Matteo. And I'm Bryan Lynn.

Leanne Italie and Dee-Ann Durbin wrote the AP stories with contributions from Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas and Anne D'Innocenzio in New York. Anna Matteo adapted two AP stories for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the VOA editor.


Words in This Story

pandemic – n. medical : an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

corn maze – n. a confusing arrangement of paths or passages made from tall corn stalks

festival – n. a special time or event when people gather to celebrate something : an organized series of performances

haunt – n. a place often visited: haunt – v. to visit or live in as a ghost

decorate – v. to make more attractive by adding beautiful or festive things

candy – n. a sweet food made with sugar or chocolate

attraction – n. something interesting or enjoyable that people want to visit, see, or do

association – n. an organized group of people who have the same interest, job, etc.

costume – n. special or fancy dress (as for wear on the stage or at a masquerade)