Halloween habits: City, towns ought to decide soon on how to celebrate the holiday safely | Editorial

Noble Horvath

With October at hand, no doubt many kids’ imaginations have already turned toward Halloween. What treats will be in store? How to decorate the house, the yard? What costumes will be worn? Will they be scary? Funny? Will they be store-bought, or homemade? Traditional or creative? Will they accommodate double-layered […]

With October at hand, no doubt many kids’ imaginations have already turned toward Halloween. What treats will be in store? How to decorate the house, the yard?

What costumes will be worn? Will they be scary? Funny? Will they be store-bought, or homemade? Traditional or creative?

Will they accommodate double-layered cloth facemasks?

Will there even be trick-or-treating?

Will Halloween, like so much of our lives, be turned upside-down or put off entirely by the still-dangerous coronavirus?

In answer to the last of these queries, at least, we’d say that the possibility certainly exists that the current pandemic will worsen by month’s end, but if not, there ought to be some way to salvage a modicum of holiday fun.

There’s no question the threat of virus transmission will require some changes. Kids sticking their hands into buckets or bowls of treats is a nonstarter. No bobbing for apples, which seems ill-advised even during non-pandemic holiday parties.

There are some built-in advantages to Halloween fun. Trick-or-treating is largely done outdoors, in small groups of people who already know one another. Since costumes are de rigueur, it’s easy to incorporate protective masks, even gloves.

Still, the CDC has advised against some usual seasonal activities: no costume parties; no confined haunted houses; no communal hayrides or crowded festivals; no trick-or-treating.

At least, not in the traditional sense. The CDC does say there are safer — not totally safe, but safer — ways to enjoy the usual. Instead of meeting kids at the door, those giving out treats can package them individually and leave them outside as each group comes calling. No rummaging around in bowls, trying to avoid the Whoppers and Jolly Ranchers.

We even heard of one family that planned to set up a chute by the front porch, through which treats can be slid safely to trick-or-treaters. That’s ingenuity.

The key is distance, and keeping items separated, so they’re not touched by more than one person. And, of course, sanitizer.

Gov. Chris Sununu, echoing his back-to-school stance earlier this summer, a week ago said it’s up to each community to decide how best to deal with the holiday. The state is setting no restrictions on trick-or-treating, the centerpiece of the season.

And a few municipalities have already made some decisions. Bedford officials have already said they intend to allow trick-or-treating, though they advised those doing so to respect the decision of homeowners who leave their exterior lights off so as not to participate.

Hancock went the other way, opting not to set trick-or-treating hours. The selectmen last week noted they expect some trick-or-treating, but wanted to diminish the potential crowding downtown, which they said can draw up to 300 people for trick-or-treating on Halloween. And Hinsdale’s Beautification Committee is planning a week’s worth of Halloween events, including an outdoor spooky movie and a trunk-or-treat.

Any communities that haven’t already made plans or issued guidance ought to be doing so soon. That includes Keene, where the mayor or city manager should weigh in. In the past, the city’s mayor has proclaimed “official” trick-or-treating hours, though not everyone adheres.

At the council’s last meeting, Councilor Randy Filiault suggested sponsoring a “trunk-or-treat” event, in which kids go from vehicle to vehicle in a parking lot, having treats handed out from the trunk of each. That may be a solution as well. Some communities have held such events in recent years specifically to provide an alternative to traditional trick-or-treating. The council meets again tonight.

Whatever city leaders — and those in other area communities — feel provides a safe but fun Halloween experience, they should decide soon and get the word out.

Leaving citizens to figure it all out on their own could get truly scary.

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