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Rethinking Halloween during COVID-19

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Rethinking Halloween during COVID-19

Even in a pandemic, you don’t have to let Halloween fun slither from your grasp.


Maybe you’ve decided to ditch the big parties and traditional trick-or-treating. Depending on your area’s COVID status, that’s probably a safe move.

“This is a chance to re-center and think about the things about Halloween that are really important to us and what we really want to celebrate and find time to do,” said Karen Collins, a registered dietitian in western New York who specializes in cancer prevention and heart health.

Maybe there are things you think you have to do, but some of those old traditions may have given up the ghost.

Here are some tricks for making new memories:

  • Plan a fun night at home. Pull out a favorite board game and cue up a spooky movie. Ask your kids to concoct a costume based on someone they’ve been reading about in history, or the outcome of a crazy science experiment, Collins said. See what they can find around the house to bring their ideas to life.

    The good news is you’re not bound by geography. Your special out-of-town friends or cousins 2,000 miles away can connect online to show off their own costumes, or watch the same movie your gang is watching.

  • Leave creative treats or decorations at a neighbor’s home on the sly. You can drop and dash!

  • Plan a scavenger hunt. Get together a simple list and run with it. This can be a physical hunt (allowing one person in a yard at a time) or virtual (everyone checks in from home within an hour).

  • Throw a virtual pumpkin carving contest. Participants send in pictures or you host a Zoom session to show off masterpieces. Give each person 30 seconds to explain their theme, and give props for spookiest, most outlandish, etc. Another idea: A kid with a few tricks up his sleeve could perform a magic show!

  • Think about the community. Older children could work on a service project to donate to a local organization. Does your elderly neighbor have leaves? Ask teens to rake ’em. They can joke and tease while masked and physically distant.

About those treats

“As a dietitian, I would like people not to overdo it on treats, but I don’t believe in being the sugar police, like ‘you should only have an apple and some oven-roasted sweet potatoes,’” Collins said. “It’s a great opportunity to rethink what makes Halloween food and treats fun.”

What’s not fun is the mental crash that follows the sweet surge you get from added sugars. That mental fog can be downright scary.

“The foods that tend to be high in added sugars are generally not giving us anything that is promoting health or strength or brain activity,” Collins said. “There is an absence of nutrition.”

Yeah, but it’s Halloween, you say. And I wanna make this fun for my kids.

“There are totally healthy, non-sugary things you can have,” Collins said.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a spooky dip contest. Use hummus, peanut butter, yogurt dip or guacamole, and serve fruits and vegetables for dipping. Get creative to decorate dishes with creepy faces and funny monster eyes.

  • Set up an apple tasting. Now’s a great time to visit the farmers’ market. Load up on a few varieties of apples and ask everyone to pick a favorite.

  • Repurpose those pumpkin seeds or grab a can of pumpkin puree. You can toast the seeds, add them to pasta sauce, whip up some muffins or make smoothies. If you’re doing this online with friends, consider a recipe exchange.

  • Get the kids’ buy-in. If pumpkin puree will elicit howls (or the evil eye) at your house, chat about it. Hint: Conversations about candy control work better than edicts, Collins said. Ask your kids what they’ve heard about eating a whole bunch of sugar. What fuels a strong body and a smart mind? What seems like a reasonable amount of sweet treats?

Remember … it’s just one day.

For some people, Halloween marks the start of a two-month period of overeating and feeling like they’re on a spiral, Collins said. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, think of it as a practice run for how you’ll embrace the holidays.

“It’s a one-day holiday, not a month’s worth of sweets all gulped down in a night or a week,” she said. “There are many fall foods we can savor, giving us a whole new perspective of enjoying food — for our kids and ourselves.”

Here are some tasty treat recipes to try: