Dear Miriam | Is Trick-or-Treating OK in 2020?

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Dear Miriam,

I know you’ve answered a lot of questions over the years about whether Jews should participate in Halloween because of its pagan origins. But what about this year? Should anyone participate given the current state of the pandemic, CDC recommendations, etc.?


Halloween Help

Dear Halloween,

I do love talking about Halloween and how much I support families participating in this neighborhood-based tradition if it is, in fact, the tradition of your neighborhood. I completely and totally believe that trick or treating is actually an important opportunity to build community. This was true in the rural town in which I grew up as well as the close-quarters urban neighborhood in hich I’m raising my kids. Going out in costumes and giving out candy is good for goodwill.

In a normal year. As has been said approximately nine gazillion times so far, 2020 is not a normal year. So, just like everything else about 2020 has to be altered in some way, so, too, do Halloween celebrations.

Unlike other COVID-related decisions which you can primarily make for yourself and your family, you can’t force your neighbors to give out candy. That is, even if you decide you want to move forward as you usually would and go trick-or-tricking, your kids may still be disappointed if neighbors aren’t participating.

Depending on where you live and how you relate to your neighbors, I suggest talking with either the families on your block or a few trusted families nearby. See if you can send your kids over to their homes on very specific trick-or-treat missions, and then offer to reciprocate for their kids.

There are certainly a lot of innovative ideas out there: candy chutes, long grabbers, scavenger hunts and many more. Creativity is great, but it’s not going to make the potential risks go away, and it’s certainly not going to make this year’s Halloween feel normal.

If you do plan to send your kids out trick or tricking (or to give out candy yourself), masks are a necessity – the mouth and nose kind of mask, not the Halloween kind (though I suppose it’s possible to combine these in some way), as is proper hand washing and social distancing. Even if there are crowded places where “everyone” is going, you should still use common sense and do only what feels really and truly comfortable and safe for your family’s pandemic practices.

I have heard, many times, this trope: Our kids have lost so much this year — let’s not take away Halloween, too. Kids, actually, seem to be the most understanding about how things have changed. They’ve adapted to mask wearing, they understand why playdates aren’t happening indoors, they look askance at adults who are making bad choices that could get people sick.

For kids doing virtual school, especially, it’s hard to fathom that they would think that trick-or-treating, of all things, is what should remain the same, while they are separated from friends and classmates and every routine that has grounded their childhood.

Give your kids some candy. Let them get candy from neighbors if you are sure you can do it in a way that feels safe for you (notice I didn’t say in a way that is safe – sorry, but there are no guarantees). Give candy to other kids who come by if that feels fun and festive and, yup, safe – for you and for them.

Wear your mask, on Halloween and every other stinking time you see another human being. Halloween is not the thing we should be mourning; it’s just a symptom of everything else that has gone wrong this year.

Grab a Snickers for me, and be well,



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