Due to the scarring effects of Halloween 1976 (I’m sure I’ve told you this story before, but let me know if you need a recap), I’m probably not the best person to sympathize with the loss of Halloween 2020 to COVID. So if you’re wallowing in despair about your missed opportunity to hit the town incognito, or about your kids’ missed opportunity to bring home a pillowcase full of bonbons, the wrappers of which you will find all over the house for the next two months, then you may want to skip this column.
Yep, it’s a total bummer that the giant trick-or-treating frenzies for which Winthrop and Twisp are known will not be happening this year. They’re joyful, inter-generational community events, a chance for people of all ages to show their sartorial creativity, with the added buzz of a sugar high.
I’ve heard some parents say, “Our kids have given up so much, they should get a normal Halloween.” It’s true — our kids have given up so much this year. They’ve given up access to daily in-person education, large family gatherings, sports competitions, potlucks, the community pool, parades and rodeos. They’ve given up movies at Barnyard Cinema, roller skating at the Community Center gym, and the county fair. Many of them have given up the stability of a household with a regular paycheck. Some of them have given up a loved one.
This won’t come as news to anyone: COVID isn’t going away by Halloween. So we have to make a choice: focus on what our kids are losing, or make the best of a situation we can’t — at this point — change. So instead of retrofitting traditional Halloween to accommodate COVID, why not try something completely different?
I’m not one to dole out a lot of parenting advice, but one thing I wish I’d done 15 years ago, before my kids had heard about the traditional walk-around-and-take-candy-from-strangers option, was firmly establish an unconventional Halloween tradition. It’s too late for me, but not for you parents of young children. Like “here’s what our family does on Halloween — we make homemade salted dark-chocolate-covered caramels together and we take them to the neighbors.” Or “on Halloween, we carve pumpkins, make pumpkin pie, and eat it outside by a bonfire.” Or “for Halloween, we hike up Patterson Mountain at dusk and howl like wolves.”
Maybe for Halloween this year your family re-creates famous paintings and takes a family photo. Or you watch a scary-but-not-too-scary movie together. Maybe you create a scavenger hunt for your kids with candy stashes hidden around the house and yard. You might consider exploring Halloween’s roots as a pagan festival with your children. Or perhaps you turn off all the lights in your house, bundle up, and watch the full moon rise over the valley.
This is a milestone year for our kids — one that many of them will never forget. They’re missing out on a lot of normalcy, through no fault of their own. But what an opportunity the pandemic presents for these kids. It’s an opportunity to become resilient and resourceful; an occasion to be creative, to imagine different possibilities; a chance to look inward to themselves and their families for entertainment and gratification; a means of understanding that things will not always be the way they always have been.
Most of all, COVID-19 is giving an entire generation the opportunity to truly realize how connected to and dependent on each other we are; to understand how the actions of an individual make a difference to entire communities, regions, nations. If our kids can learn this, then a missed Halloween out on the town won’t matter a bit in the long run. Learning critical life lessons may not be quite as much fun as trick-or-treating, but the rewards will be far sweeter.