3 ideas to enjoy a pandemic-friendly Halloween
I was definitely one of those kids whose favorite holiday growing up was Halloween. I wasn’t ever into the scary undertones, but I loved candy. A night’s work of going door-to-door asking my neighbors for protection payments in exchange for not giving them some sort of trick seemed like a good, honest way to earn a solid month’s worth of saccharine goodness.
On Halloween night my dad would load a spooky mixtape or CD into the stereo and play it on repeat while we got our costumes ready. Bobby Pickett’s perennial classic “Monster Mash” was always at the top of the track listings as well as the under-appreciated “A Nightmare On My Street” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “This is Halloween” from the “Nightmare Before Christmas” soundtrack and a few spooky SFX noises in between.
Come rain, sleet or (as was often the case) snow, you would find me out on the streets until the last porch light was off. Nothing could stop me.
Now I’m too old to be socially acceptable as a trick-or-treater and we’re in the midst of a pandemic, which has many officials asking us to tone down our Halloween festivities in the hopes of preserving as much of the ski season as we can. What can be done?
Plenty actually. For starters, the state of Colorado has put out some suggestions for ways to enjoy the holiday in a socially-safe way, but I would like to add a three others to the list.
- Lining up candy at the edge of a driveway
- Using a tube or slide to slide candy to children
- Hosting a trunk-or-treat event in an empty parking lot or open space
- Setting up a easter egg or treasure-hunt-style event
- Driving around to see spooky house decorations
- Hosting a movie night at home
- Hosting a pumpkin carving contest at home
- Virtual costume contests
- Virtual haunted houses
- Host a candy swap
One of the things I like least about Halloween as a grownup is the lack of variety you have when you have to buy your own candy. Even those multi-candy packages are kind of lackluster compared to going out and getting who knows what from house to house.
One way to solve this and stay pandemically-distanced: get a group to participate in a candy swap. Everyone in the group can buy a bag of Halloween candy, divvy it out into a number of roughly equal portions and distribute it. For distribution I recommend either a main gathering area where you can stay distanced or else having one person be the candy banker where everyone can drop off and pick up their goodies.
2. Try a new way to carve a pumpkin
A few years back I tried my hand at carving a pumpkin like those people do on some of those Halloween reality shows. Not just cutting out shapes, but actually carving details into the surface of the pumpkin. The results were somewhat mixed, but it was also not too hard to get started. I got a cheap ceramics kit from a craft supply store and used the tools to carve out something that looked mostly like a face.
The loop tool turned out to the most useful for me. It allowed me to get some finer details in and carve deeper furrows in as well. I’ve heard you can file in some ridges on the edge of the loop tool that will make it easier to carve away pumpkin flesh from bigger areas.
The big advantage to doing this during a pandemic? If if goes horribly wrong there’s no trick-or-treaters to see it, and if it goes horribly right you can show it off on social media. One nice thing about carving this sort of thing at Halloween is that a disfigured face can be “intentionally scary” instead of “badly carved.”
3. Turn candy corn into actual candy
I am one of those people who actually likes candy corn, which I’m still surprised is almost as contentious as liking to put pineapple on pizza.
That said, I really only ever want a handful or two for the whole month of October, and my wife eats even less than I do, so a full bag can end up sitting in our cupboards for months. That is until we found a solution.
There’s a three-ingredient recipe floating around the internet that converts candy corn into a passable version of a homemade Butterfinger candy bar, and it actually works. Even if you’re a fan of candy corn, I’d encourage you to give this one a try. It’s quick and easy, and is one more thing to do now that you’ve killed off your pandemic sourdough starter.
- 3 cups candy corn
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 10 ounces chocolate almond bark or candy melts (I find semisweet chocolate chips also work in a pinch)
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking spray and set aside.
- Place candy corn in a large microwave safe bowl. Heat candy corn in microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir until candy is completely melted. Heat for additional time, in 15 second intervals, if needed.
- Once candy corn is melted, heat peanut butter in microwave for 25-30 seconds until runny. Stir peanut butter into melted candy corn until completely incorporated.
- Turn out onto baking sheet and press down to about 3/4 inch thickness (8-by-8-inch square). While candy is still soft, cut into 1-by-2-inch bars. Let candy cool for 1 hour.
- Line a second baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt chocolate according to package directions (a microwave can work if you need to).
- Dip each bar into melted chocolate, coating to cover completely. Place on waxed paper to set.
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