When you were a kid, what was the worst thing that could happen on Halloween? Think back. It wasn’t having to carry a ratty floral pillowcase to collect candy or coming home with a cruddy candy haul.
Most definitely, it was getting that E.T. or Barbie costume on and having parents tell you to go back in the house and put a fully-buttoned, Arctic-grade parka or bright yellow raincoat over the whole amazing get-up.
I, for one, thought that was the worst it could get. But how about this year for local kids? Halloween 2020 is a perfect trifecta with a full Blue Moon, mild temperatures and a Saturday calendar date to boot – but a pandemic is the new winter coat killjoy, making trick-or-treating a scary proposition.
We’re talking about Halloween candy here, and kids who missed out on so much already this year shouldn’t suffer through another holiday – especially one dedicated solely to sugar.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is discouraging door-to-door trick-or-treating and direct contact with candy distribution, suggesting people “plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.” The Philadelphia and Montgomery County health departments are doing the same, but some forms of neighborhood revelry will be allowed to continue with stringent regulations and guidelines.
Many of the regulations are no-brainers, like always wearing masks, trick-or-treating in small groups with family only, staying six feet away from front doors, and keeping the celebrations outside. Others are creative COVID-19 alternatives thought up this year to keep kids from running up to doors and grabbing candy directly from someone’s hands.
“There are ways kids can still go out and celebrate but still listen to the social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands,” said Pam Lawn, director of environmental field services for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health. “The main message is that they are socially distanced and wearing their masks.”
The Philadelphia and Montgomery County health departments issued some guidelines this week, as well as some fun alternatives to the traditional ring and grab method. I also looked locally for more ways parents can celebrate the spooky day safely and keep kids healthy.
- Scavenge it! One idea that seems to have the consensus of health officials is doing a scavenger or egg hunt for candy in your backyard or in a neighbor’s backyard. Keep all the hunting outside and space eggs or candy bags at least six feet apart. Have children use their own bags or baskets to collect the haul. There are pumpkin-faced fillable “eggs” you can buy.
- Parade Time Instead of a trunk-or-treat, which can turn into a massive, glorified public tailgate, consider decorating the exterior or your car and having a neighborhood drive-through costume parade, where everyone stays in the car but the costumes are still on display – without coats on! If you do a trunk-or-treat, Montgomery County suggests parking cars “15 feet apart, and to designate an adult to hand out candy and another to monitor the crowd size.” Outdoor gatherings are limited to 250 people.
- DIY Chocolate Opt out of grocery store bagged candy and make your own candy, treats you will enjoy with just your family at home if you don’t want your child walking around the neighborhood. Mary Ellen Salamone, of Made by ME Handmade Gourmet Chocolates in the Market at the Fareway (8221 Germantown Ave.), makes gourmet chocolate spider pecan turtles and spooky white chocolate truffle eyeballs for Halloween. Though she uses high end chocolate and ingredients, she says you can easily make at-home versions. Dip round lollipops like Tootsie Roll Pops in melted white chocolate, then fingerpaint an iris and bloodshot eyes onto them with food coloring. You can also mold Kraft soft caramel squares into a ball, stick a few pretzel sticks in the sides, dip them in milk chocolate and voila, spiders. “Add a little coconut or olive oil to the chocolate when you melt it so you can dip them easily,” Salamone said.
- Distant Display Hang candy bags from a fence or other object, like a small tree or a stand in a driveway, so walkers can grab one without coming up to the door. Remember that whether you are giving out candy or collecting it, officials warn everything should be handed out and consumed only from original wrappers, unopened and unaltered. And remember that grabbing even wrapped candy directly from bowls with hands is discouraged.
- Special Delivery! Set up fun alternative ways to deliver the candy, like Montco’s suggested “candy graveyard,” where kids can find candy alongside fake gravestones on front lawns, or a “candy chute,” which is essentially a large tube or shaft that rolls candy from someone’s front door into someone’s bag about six to eight feet away. (Think 90s bar ice luge, but a lot more sanitary.) Bonus: making the candy chute means you’ll have a use for those empty paper towel rolls!
- Role Reversal Some locals are “reverse trick-or-treating” a tradition that already exists where you dress up and do a quick candy drop-off to loved ones and friends instead of taking candy from them. You can pick up cute $8 candy bags at Zipf’s Candies (8433 Germantown Ave.) or at Busy Bee Toys (8511 Germantown Ave.) The bags include a selection of candies and a message saying, “We’ve Been Booed.”
- Table Service Many of my neighbors are doing front yard table displays, as suggested by Montco. It’s as easy as decorating a large folding table along the sidewalk and offering candy to kids as they walk by. Pre-portion candy into small treat bags or paper cups for kids to grab and keep going. Not a good idea to make this a booze stop station for fellow parents.
- Keep it Home Make the night an indoor family celebration by making funky cupcakes with the kids. Ella Vanilla (7922 Germantown Ave.) cake decorating supply shop owner Noelle DeSantis sells special Halloween sprinkle mixes at the shop for creating “pinata” cupcakes. All you do is core the top of the cupcake after it is baked, fill the hole with sprinkles or even gummy worms, then plug the hole with the removed cupcake core before you throw the icing on top. “When people bite into it, they’ll get an extra surprise inside,” DeSantis said.
And hey, as a bonus, your kids will think that you - unlike your parents who forced you to wear a coat - are cool, since stuffed cupcakes are huge right now on TikTok.