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Halloween 2020: Planning for a family friendly, socially distant holiday

By Lina Zhu & Lijin Zhao

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.

This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter—a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.

On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory and two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain explains the tradition of bobbing for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

History of Trick-or-Treating

Did you know?

One quarter of all the candy sold annually in the U.S. is purchased for Halloween.

History of Trick-or-Treating

Borrowing from European traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day.

Parents were encouraged to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

Did you know?

More people are buying costumes for pets.

20 percent did so in 2018,

up from 16 percent in 2017.

“We will be dressing up with my son Logan, baking Halloween cookies, carving pumpkins, and having grandparents and I give out candy in the backyard. We are skipping on going to door-to-door as well as giving out candy, as it’s coronavirus plus flu season, so we are planning on being more cautious. Can’t wait until we feel safe enough to go trick-or-treating again!” - Jenny Cheuk, Aurora

Halloween under COVID-19

Flash forward to the present and each region of the world is currently living under various threat levels of COVID-19. Many of the usual Halloween events have already been cancelled. And those that are still planning to go ahead have shifted to more family-friendly and socially-distant events.

CDC Recommendations

The CDC says that lower risk activities can be safe alternatives, and recommends:

Carving or decorating pumpkins with family, friends, and neighbors at a safe distance and displaying them

Decorating your house, apartment, or living space

Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children look for Halloween-themed things while they walk around the neighborhood admiring Halloween decorations at a distance

Having a virtual Halloween costume contest or a Halloween movie night with people you live with

The rise in drive-thru haunted houses

Most haunted houses are expected to be closed in 2020. However, a unique new drive-thru haunted experience is becoming popular in large cities including Los Angeles, Orlando, Houston and even Tokyo.

In Denver, City of the Haunt ( is offering the drive in haunted house. The website says: “This year for the first time ever, we’re letting the monsters out and bringing them to you in the “safety” of your parked vehicle.”

“Halloween so we are still dressing up at home. My daughter Melody’s birthday is right before Halloween so we are celebrating with a real life Candy Land game in the house. Every move will have candy so the kids will carry a bucket as they play. I have also heard of a family setting up a PVC pipe candy slide so kids can put their buckets underneath the pipe to catch the candy to follow social distancing standards.” - Joanne Liu, Denver

2020 Denver Halloween events

In Denver, you can also join Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse for a spooky movie series in their backyard space. Enjoy themed cocktails and nibbles at each show for $5 per person.

The Union Station will transform into “Boonion Station” for its family-friendly Halloween celebration on Oct. 29, 2020. Families with little ones will love trick-or-treating at the shops, participating in a costume parade and a contest with prizes for best costume and best group/family costume. There will be adult drink specials for the grown-up goers.

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