Written by Tracey Coutts, Ever Active Schools
THIS TIME LAST YEAR, WHO COULD HAVE PREDICTED THE DIFFICULTY OF THE DECISIONS TO COME AROUD HALLOWEEN 2020?
A Halloween night, with a full moon, falling on a Saturday for the first time in five years, should be a spooky season lover’s dream. And yet, here we are, in the midst of a global pandemic, wondering if it’s even safe to keep our annual traditions alive. Getting outside, walking and being with other people is so good for our physical, mental, and social health; however, putting ourselves and our neighbours in harm’s way of communal transmission sits on the other end of that metaphorical teeter totter. Many of us don’t know quite what to do.
HERE’S WHAT I KNOW
I am a seasoned Mom of three kids who LOVE to dress up. Even at 18, 16, and 12 years old, my kids are still cooking up costume ideas for this Halloween. Currently, the theme is Scooby Doo, but that may go back to Shrek at any moment. The suspense is killing me, I tell them, because that’s my role in all of this: cheerleader.
As a kid myself back in the 70s, I could not wait for Halloween. Every year, I was a gypsy. Even when all the other kids my age dressed as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Princess Leia, I held on tight to my gypsy ways. Off I’d go with my siblings to roam the neighbourhood. We’d meet up with friends and check out each other’s costumes (“Trace. Gypsy again. Cool.”), learn which houses were giving out what, and then thread our way through our neighbourhood, guided by lit Jack O’Lanterns and the constant echo of “Trick or Treat?” Fun–not candy–was the main driver for us all to participate, and still is for my own kids today (as proven by the mounds of candy I have to creatively dispose of every year.) Halloween also offered the opportunity to become familiar with our neighbourhood and be physically active… but that’s Gypsy Mom talking.
COVID-19 has taken a mental health toll on my family, and I know that we are not alone in this. I hear it regularly from teachers, administrators, fellow caregivers and kids. Restrictions and new routines have impacted us greatly, and we have grown tired of them. I live in a good community with good people, paddling upriver in COVID times, just like me. My neighbourhood has safe and inviting places to walk, but we have explored these spaces so entirely over the past seven months that they, too, have become somewhat routine. Enter Halloween and an opportunity to change things up: Many of my neighbours have jumped into the Halloween spirit by decorating their homes. Some houses decorate; some choose not to; some push the limits of tastefulness; some opt for tacky. Whatever the added trimming, this is front-facing community spirit. If you think it’s not important, think again.
My mother is 79 years old and lives alone on the other side of the country. Throughout the pandemic, she has had limited contact with the outside world and this has been isolating and trying for her. Yet, lately, her calls to us describe festive decorations that her neighbours have put up (which has inspired her to dig out her own, even after declaring in September that this, in fact, would not happen). The positive energy that holidays bring is contagious. My mother is choosing to take part in her community, to relish in the joy of being part of something. Her joy brings me joy.
Costumes and decorations, and a holiday in general, provide much-needed fun and distractions from our current reality. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy Halloween, there are ways to savour this time of year: taking a neighbourhood walk to crunch through leaves and say goodbye to the geese, winding your way through a corn maze, raking leaves, flying a kite, finding the perfect-sized pumpkin with a relatively flat bottom (the struggle is real), sharing ghostly tales, flashlight tag…the possibilities are endless.
SO, BACK TO HALLOWEEN 2020…
How do we decide what to do? For starters, we can look to the Alberta Health Services guidelines: Halloween during COVID-19 | Alberta.cawww.alberta.ca › halloween-during-covid19. These guidelines provide safe procedures around giving and collecting treats. If participating in those activities makes you uncomfortable, then create your own version of the holiday! Whatever your choice, choose to celebrate in some way. Cheer on your kids and those in the neighbourhood; get out and enjoy the community spirit on full display; and remember to have fun with it. It matters.