Halloween is a beloved holiday among children, teenagers and adults alike. There are few people who don’t like candy, costumes, carving pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and a fright or two. How will Halloween differ this year during the pandemic?

This Halloween will take place on a Saturday, with an extra hour to celebrate due to Daylight Savings ending on Sunday, November 1 at 2 a.m. There will also be a full “Blue Moon” and a pandemic, making it a spookier holiday than usual.

It’s possible that Halloween is one of the most COVID-19 friendly holidays. People typically wear their costumes only once and there are opportunities to creatively incorporate masks and gloves. As for trick-or-treating, children and teenagers are usually in small groups and far apart. Store-bought candy and chips are wrapped and portioned. In addition, many celebrate Halloween by having a small gathering with their closest family and friends to carve pumpkins or watch scary movies.

Dr. Louis Francescutti, a professor at the University of Alberta’s school of public health, told the Edmonton Journal, “Without a doubt, absolutely cars are by far a bigger threat [than the coronavirus].” He also mentioned, “If you’re sending your kid to school I really don’t think you need to be worrying about sending them trick-or-treating. The likelihood that they’re going to get it at school is probably far greater than trick-or-treating.”

This year, Halloween provides a great excuse to get creative. Many Canadians plan on packaging candy in bags a week before Halloween. Others have the idea to decorate their driveways with tombstones to direct traffic. According to Global News, one mother in South Shore, Montreal created a contact-free Halloween system to deliver candy to trick-or-treaters using a PVC pipe on the railing at her house. This way, she could slide the treats down to children right into their treat bags.

Businesses have also been innovative. For example, Sweet Convenience, a candy shop in Edmonton, Alberta, has been taking pre-orders on Halloween Baskets for people who don’t feel safe getting out for Halloween.

Many Canadians don’t know about the major Canadian candy producers. For example, the Allan Candy Company is located in Quebec. Although it is owned by Hershey, it retains its Canadian home base. Ganong Bros. is Canada’s oldest candy company, founded in New Brunswick. Krave’s Candy Co., located in Manitoba, was the first to introduce Clodhoppers, a candy made of graham wafers, cashews and vanilla coating. Canada Candy Co. makes premium bulk candy in a peanut and gluten-free facility on Ontario. And did you know that the Cadbury Crunchie is a Canadian iconic candy bar, with a recipe found nowhere else?

Sylvia Black, a registered dietitian in Toronto, and a member of Farmwork to Feed Canada comments that it’s acceptable to let children enjoy all their favourite candy and treats on Halloween without the need to “health-ify” them. However, some children can’t eat candy because of allergy or other medical reasons. In this case, Sylvia highlights the Teal Pumpkin Project. She says, “this is a movement where people put a teal pumpkin on their doorstep to signify that they have non-food treats, like small toys, available for kids who can’t have candy for any reason.”

On October 1, 2020, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta, said, “I know Halloween is a favourite day for many. And I know many parents are already planning costumes and activities. I have no plans to suggest that Albertans cancel Halloween this year. My own children would never forgive me. In many ways, Halloween is actually safer to celebrate than other holidays… most of Halloween takes place outdoors and largely within one family.”

In their Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, the Government of Saskatchewan put in place a number of rules that may help to create a better Halloween environment and trick-or-treating experience. These include:
• Using tools such as tongs to hand out candy
• Only distributing store-bought, wrapped treats
• Frequently disinfecting doorbells, handrails and doorknobs, etc.
• Wearing a non-medical mask if two meters of physical distance are not possible
• In neighbourhoods anticipating a high volume of traffic, placing tape markers every two meters

For trick-or-treaters, the government shares a reminder to:
• Practice physical distancing and take turns when approaching houses
• Carry hand sanitizer and use non-medical masks
• Disinfect candy wrappers with wipes or leave them out for 72 hours before consuming

Keep in mind that loose Halloween masks with tiny holes should not replace non-medical cloth masks that fully cover your mouth and nose. Francescutti pointed out, “You want something that’s closer in contact. If they want, [kids] can put something else on top.”

If you decide to participate in Halloween activities, remember to stay with your cohort. In Ottawa Public Health’s statement from October 8, 2020, Dr. Brent Moloughney, Associate Medical Officer of Health, said, “When it comes to hosting a gathering – whether it be a party, haunted house or other get-together… we are asking people to limit their Halloween celebrations to their household contacts.”

Ideas for celebrating Halloween during COVID-19:
• Make Halloween fun by getting customized non-medical masks
• Leave a self-serve basket with candy outside for trick-or-treaters
• Hide candy around the backyard to have a candy hunt with your cohort
• Drive around to admire the best-decorated houses in your neighbourhood
• Organize a socially distanced costume parade in your neighbourhood
• Hold a virtual costume party contest and chip in to make a cash prize
• Hold a cider tasting at home with your cohort (support local!)
• Visit a haunted farm or corn maze to support Canadian farmers

While preparing to celebrate in any capacity you feel comfortable, don’t forget to also support local pumpkin patches. Whether we are dealing with COVID-19 or not, Halloween is a perfect opportunity to decorate with festive pumpkins inside and out, roast pumpkin seeds, make pumpkin pie, and carve scary faces or your favourite designs with your immediate circle.

Halloween brings about a sense of community and is the last big holiday before a long and cold winter. If we work together to make it safe, we can all enjoy this spook-tacular celebration.

About Farmwork to Feed Canada: Farmwork to Feed Canada (F2FC) is a national volunteer not-for-profit initiative by Canadian communication professionals, students, and recent graduates in communications. F2FC collaborates with farmers, and agri-businesses amid COVID-19 pandemic-related challenges to Canada’s food supply and food security, to engage Canadians, pro bono, with compelling stories about their food system and build support for Canada’s farmers, food producers, and their essential skilled workers.

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