Liz Simmons’ house at 714 Newell Ave. from October 2013. Photography by Brittany Nunn

Halloween is typically a time of ghosts, ghouls and witches, but this year, the scariest intruder of them all is the coronavirus.

In a normal year, Halloween season in East Dallas consists of multiple events. There are parties for adults, children and everyone in between. Families trick-or-treat, others pass out candy and some people stay home, turn off the front porch lights and watch movies.

“Our family loves Halloween,” Lakewood neighbor Jenny Starcher says. “We normally meet up with neighbors for a pizza dinner in the front yard, then head out with the younger kids to trick-or-treat.”

But this year will be different. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against traditional trick-or-treating, going to indoor spook houses or attending crowded costume contests.

Here are a few alternative ways to keep Halloween on the calendar.

Trick-or-treating with a twist

Trick-or-treating doesn’t have to be canceled with these possible alternatives.

For example, the Starchers will continue their outdoor pizza dinner, but this year, it will include social distancing.

“One of us goes trick-or-treating with our daughter,” Starcher says. “In light of COVID, we will be sure to find a costume for her that features a fun mask.”

A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, according to the CDC. The centers recommend using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

East Dallas resident Lauren Valek Farris normally goes trick-or-treating with other families but hasn’t decided what her family of five will do this year.

“It’s going to have to be more low key this year,” Farris says. “Instead of going with friends, we’ll probably have to just stay on our block and go one block with our family only.”

East Dallas neighbors know Lakewood Boulevard and the surrounding areas are famous for elaborate decorations and tons of candy that bring families from across the city on Halloween night. However, a crowded block might not be the safest place to go this year.

“Don’t everybody congregate on Lakewood Boulevard and Swiss Avenue,” Farris says. “Pick a different area or stay in your two-block radius.”

Pass out candy without passing around coronavirus 

If trick-or-treaters decide to give it a go, they need candy to fill their bags. It is unsanitary to dig through a bowl of candy and dangerous for homeowners to pass out, but there are ways to keep trick-or-treaters safe and happy.

“We love passing out candy and seeing all the fun, creative costumes that trick-or-treaters are wearing,” Starcher says. “I’m guessing that we will be wearing masks as well and have a big bottle of hand sanitizer at our candy table.”

Another idea is to put out individual bags of candy, so nobody has to shuffle through a previously touched bowl.

“We are going to prepare bags of candy and leave them out on our porch table,” East Dallas neighbor Pam Montgomery says.

Other ways to celebrate

  • Instead of attending a party, have a Zoom party instead. This allows many people to participate without worrying about social distancing.
  • Stay at home and watch a movie. There’s no need to mask up and walk from house to house getting candy. Instead, grab a bag from the grocery store and enjoy corona-free sweets.
  • If trick-or-treating is the night’s event, plan it with your neighbors so it is organized and safe. “The neighborhood could band together and say here’s the hours of trick-or-treating,” Farris says. The CDC recommends one-way trick-or-treating in which individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up at the end of the driveway for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance.
  • Halloween decorations can spook up any house. Drive around and see if there are any ghosts or goblins haunting your neighbors’ yards.
  • Have a small-group, outdoor costume parade where people are socially distanced.
  • Carve pumpkins, decorate masks or do another craft. This spider headband is one of our favorites:
    • Materials:
      • Black construction paper
      • Googly eyes
      • Glue
      • Stapler
    • Instructions
      • Cut construction paper into thick strips that are long enough to fit around a child’s head. Glue two pieces together if necessary.
      • Cut construction paper into eight thin, long strips and fold so the legs become crinkly.
      • Lady down the headband piece, leaving a blank space in the center. Glue four legs onto either side of the vacant space.
      • Fold the headband piece in half over the legs, glue and let dry.
      • On the front of the headband, glue eight googly eyes and let dry.
      • Staple the ends of the headband together and begin creeping around the house like the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

See the full CDC Halloween guidelines here.