It’s been another eerie year for sure but not so scary that the ongoing pandemic will suck the spirit out of Halloween.
Health experts at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have, for now, given trick or treating the green light, but you still need to be careful. The recommendations for those who choose to celebrate: You should try to do so outside, wear masks when inside and continue to make activities such as trick-or-treating “as contactless as possible.”
That seems pretty simple. After all, we came up with some clever ways to celebrate Halloween safely last year under similar guidelines. Many of those COVID-19 workarounds will be a good idea to incorporate again in 2021.
“We got really innovative during Halloween last year, where people could set out candy on a table and still smile and wave,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said previously. “It keeps the kids safe, and it keeps you safe.”
In 2021, it’s still a smart precaution to avoid crowded haunted houses, the communal candy dish and large unmasked crowds. But all those safety regulations don’t mean the spooky season needs to be canceled.
“People seem to be putting extra effort into decorating their homes,” Tracy Caufield Johnson, owner of Caufield’s Novelty, 1006 W. Main St., told The Courier Journal. “We can definitely tell people are ready to celebrate.”
Scary clowns are popular, and Johnson said you can’t go wrong with big giant spiders and webs or any moving prop.
No matter whether your family enjoys super creepy or delightfully festive, we’ve rounded up a handful of suggestions to supercharge the Halloween spirit (safely!) during this strange and spooky time.
Halloween costume ideas for 2021
Part of making your family’s holiday memorable is spending time together. And don’t we all have plenty of together time during the pandemic?
So do something different and thrifty in 2021 and consider constructing a “boxtume” with your kids, Maura Hazard, Louisville-area owner of Two Men and a Truck, says. “Making box costumes is a great way to keep kids entertained at home.”
The moving company knows a thing or two about cardboard boxes and has created a series of how-to videos to help make a silly T-Rex dinosaur, an adorable flower pot and even a mermaid costume for your favorite pup.
If you do plan to don a costume and venture out of the safety of your home, keep in mind the CDC says decorative or costume masks are not a substitute for a cloth one.
No matter whether this year’s costumes get worn around the house or are only seen by others at a distance, Caufield’s Novelty has plenty of “must-have” characters in stock, including top sellers like classic horror and vintage looks.
“It’s all about retro and vintage costumes this year,” Johnson said. “Michael Myers from ‘Halloween’ is always popular but this year even more so with the new ‘Halloween Kills’ coming to theaters. And ‘Scream’ is celebrating its 25th anniversary so we are getting a lot of requests for that and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street.'”
Customers are also asking for retro costumes like the classic witch or devil.
“Anything vintage or retro is super popular,” Johnson said. “The one thing we don’t have is the ‘Squid Game’ tracksuit. No one anticipated the popularity of that show when we ordered our 2021 Halloween supply in January.”
The store carries all-in-one packaged costumes and a la carte options. With multiple isles of theatrical makeup, wigs, rubber masks and a wide assortment of accessories, Caufield’s even has an in-house make-up artist who can guide you if you prefer to decorate your face.
Halloween trick-or-treating tips for 2021
However you decide to celebrate, health experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween, given that most trick-or-treating children are under 11 years old and likely to still be unvaccinated.
That means while the general tradition is deemed safe, it’s important for costume-wearers to travel in small groups to go house to house and to avoid boxed-in candy counting/trading scenarios or trunk-or-treat gatherings in a central location.
“We don’t want a large group of children congregating at doorsteps. Smaller groups for very short durations at someone’s door is advised,” Krystal Pollitt, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Yale School of Public Health, told USA TODAY. “Halloween activities can be done quite safely if we respect physical distancing and are wearing masks. Overall, it presents low risk if done safely and responsibly.”
Halloween decorating ideas for 2021
Halloween trees are a hot decorating trend, especially during a pandemic when we are spending more time at home. This spooktacular idea is exactly what you’d think — a faux tree decorated in orange, black and purple rather than red green and gold. Instead of Christmas garlands and ornaments, Halloween trees are decorated with pumpkins, goblins, witch’s hats and brooms.
For decorations, craft and home decor stores like Dee’s, 5045 Shelbyville Road, have aisles full of Halloween decor and craft items. Items such as glittery, light-weight balls and squiggly ornaments attached to sturdy wire are perfect for sliding into your Halloween tree. They can also be arranged in a vase with a bit of greenery for a centerpiece or a wreath for your doorway.
Swap your tree topper for a black bat or skeleton head, wrap your tree with sparkly orange or black-wired ribbon, and you’re all set for the spooky season.
And here’s another way to incorporate trees into this year’s festivities, especially if you are expecting little goblins and ghosts to stop by on Halloween night: Hang small bags of treats from a decorated tree in your yard for the ultimate touchless trick-or-treat stop.
Borrowing another Christmas tradition for this year’s fall season, edible Halloween Cookie Houses are a cool project to do with your family that you can display once the building is complete. Many stores carry this new twist on the gingerbread house, including Target, where you can pick up a chocolate cookie Halloween House for $13.
Halloween gift ideas for 2021
While you are decorating your home, elevate the Halloween ambiance by adding the scents of the season. Bath & Body Works has more than 20 Halloween-themed items in its stores across the Louisville area and Southern Indiana.
While scented candles are great, it’s the Halloween-themed hand sanitizers and foaming hand soaps that can take some of the scary out of the holiday during COVID-19.
If trick-or-treaters do show up at your door, this year you can definitely get away with handing out tiny bottles of Halloween scented anti-bacterial hand gel rather than candy bars. (A one-ounce bottle of Vampire Blood anti-bacterial hand gel is $1.95.)
If D.I.Y. is more your style, mix up an autumnal potion using items you may already have around the house. It’s easy to do, just fill your cauldron — er, stove pot — with boiling water and toss in some cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla and apples. Let the brew simmer while it fills your home with the memories of a crisp fall afternoon.
Halloween outdoor movie night ideas for 2021
Take your Halloween party and spooky decor outdoors and throw a movie night with your favorite horror flicks.
Of course, you’ll need a projector for your movie night. They can range in price from about $90 to over $600. Or perhaps you have a kind neighbor or friend who already owns a projector and will loan it to you for the party.
To add an extra eerie vibe to your outdoor fright night, pick up a few skulls made specifically for your firepit. Made with refractory material like that found in faux fireplace logs, the spooky stoneware skulls are fireproof and lightweight.
They’ll cost you around $35 apiece at stores like Walmart and Home Depot. Or if you’ve got some time on your hands, you can try making your own firepit skulls with fire-resistant cement. You’ll find DYI instructions online.
Reach Kirby Adams at [email protected] or Twitter @kirbylouisville.