If you don't know I am a massive Halloween convert and think that the rest of the world is missing out on a great celebration.
"Fine, but everyone here knows that Halloween was invented by the candy companies. It's a conspiracy."
Quite true. Halloween is a case of massive commercialisation for the Candy Companies and the commercialisation of it is what makes me pleased that Australia (and even the UK) have not followed this American tradition. In a way, it keeps those countries "pure" from Americanisation and away from the over-commercialisation of the other holidays we celebrate in those countries. Therefore, why am I convert for Halloween?
In Australia, I had attended Halloween themed parties and there is nothing wrong with a bit of fancy dress but it was in 2018 when I came to the US for a holiday that I paired it up to ensure I could be here for Halloween. This is what converted me massively on the event. My first Trick or Treating, ever, was done at Disneyland, so that might have an influence but it was the actual date a couple of days later when I attended the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival where I saw the light. The bars and clubs, as too the streets were packed with people, all in fancy dress and having a blast. Halloween is so much more than just kids coming up to your door wanting candy but it's a day when everyone of all ages clearly let their hair down and have a bit of fun. Even if it's a work night too.
It is this part of Halloween that I think is greatly missing from the arguments of observing the event in other countries. We just see the commercialism of it and think "oh it's just another American fad" well it's so much more and its the Adult side of it that I think we need to consider. In 2019 I spent Halloween in Vegas, say no more there. Vegas was always an Adult playground but on Halloween, it went even further. This year the plan was to spend it in New York with a bunch of friends from Australia who were all planning to fly over. We were going to take it seriously to the point that we were planning to have either a float or at least march in the Halloween parade and then spend the entire night on a pub crawl. Nevertheless, COVID ended that plan very quickly.
This Halloween was certainly going to be different and the "traditional" customs would not occur. However, what I actually thought was outrageous was that even kids were effectively barred from celebrating it. Children and Families are the ones who are hurting the most this year. They have had to put up with the threat of jobs, the economy, putting food on the table as well as having to homeschool their children all year. If anything Halloween should've been a celebration for families and kids to have at least a bit of normality for one night. Therefore it was with some disappointment that I found that my building wasn't going to doing any form of Trick or Treating. Now yes, I get it. An Apartment building could be like a Cruise Ship when it comes to a spread. The CDC even classified Traditional Trick or Treating as a "High Risk" event.
Last year, about a week out from Halloween the Buiding's Team sent out an email asking for apartments to volunteer for trick or treating and that the concierge would have candy bags for all residents, there would be an online costume contest and even a little impromptu get together of residents and the employees of the building. This didn't occur this year, understandable. However, nothing came out? The Building's online Portal did have some resident's asking about even just doing Trick or Treating and there was no response. Finally, at the start of last week, they responded to the online posts saying that "there would be candy bags at the concierge desk."
I felt this to be a very week response.
Having worked in the Corporate Events sector and have a very good friend, who is struggling now, who still works in that part of the industry it was inconceivable that something couldn't be done in a safe way. At the start of the week, I was chatting to him on Zoom and he even agreed. His mind starting racing with ways that Halloween could even be virtually celebrated. Finally, after about half an hour, we came back to the point. Trick or Treating and families.
It started when I told him about how I went to the bank and the teller was a certain distance being the counter and I was a certain distance away. Combined with sharing the knowledge of how Disneyland ran Trick or Treating our minds from that moment began racing with figuring out how Trick or Treating could be done in a safe way. This is what we came up with:
A Socially Distanced Trick or Treat
Event is in a wide-open space (either outside or indoors).
In that area, you set up some Candy Collection Stations either in a line or cul da sac. The Stations have a marker on both sides of the table. Effectively like the bank. The trick or treater is on one side and places their collector on the table. On the other side is a Candy Teller.
Each station is more than 6feet apart at a minimum. With the markers for the Trick or Treater and even the Candy Teller then they are also greatly separated.
After a Trick or Treater places their Candy Collector or bag on the table and says "Trick or Treat" the Teller fills up their the Collector. The Trick or Treater then moves to the next table.
All items have to be commercially wrapped items. Candy Tellers are masked up and wearing gloves. Trick or Treaters wear masks too. All masks and gloves can't be Costume items.
Entry times to the event are based on a reserved timeslot. A timeslot only allows for two people above the age of 12 OR one above the age of 12 and two under 12. Below the age of two isn't counted in the person count.
Reserved timeslots are spaced out to stagnate the flow of people.
Prior to entering the Trick or Treat zone, all persons are temperature checked, including Candy Tellers.
During the booking of a time slot, you log your apartment number. So this provided a form of contact tracing.
Finally, we have an online Costume Contest under a designated hashtag.
Now it sounds more complicated than it really is. In layman's terms, you made a reservation like you would for a restaurant and when you arrived you treated it as if you were a bank robber. Put your bag on the teller's desk and say "fill it up". Except this "bank robber" got a temperature check and had their home/apartment logged.
As per the CDC guidelines we actually met and even had extra precautions such as temperature checks, stagnated arrivals and contact tracing. These are things that don't happen in restaurants or bars that you can attend in the exact same building complex. The only thing we didn't have was "individually wrapped items" for kids to take, however, the decision here was to treat it like a food handler in a restaurant. Because if you had a bunch of goodies on the table for people to take then we felt that opened up more chances of cross-contamination. Just like the fruit and veggie section of a supermarket.
Obviously, the first step here was to see if residents actually wanted to do any form of trick or treating for the younger residents. I submitted the above plan to the Building Manager and they loved it. They sent out a residential email to get an idea of anyone interested in doing a "COVID Safe" trick or treating. There were no details of the event in regards to times, procedures etc. it was just an expression of interest because if say only two people were keen, then there would be no purpose in running an event. But there were 15-20 positive responses. So the online booking portal was created, the venue was chosen, which was outdoors, a time was decided on and three people were prepared to be "Candy Tellers" and started shopping.
Needless to say, the event was cancelled. Once it became official, the Building Manager and anyone in the office failed to advertise the link, share details on how the event was to be run or even the time it was going to be. The real capper was they didn't even feel it wise to share a hashtag for a residential costume contest? It became a total radio silence.
Suspicions started to be raised on Friday that there was a change of heart and the Building was wanting to cancel Halloween altogether, especially this event. Well, an email to me on Monday was trying to make out "oh sorry we didn't see the email with the link" and that apparently there was a "backlash" from some residents about a mass gathering. Well as you can see if people were advised of the details then they would've seen that it was far from being a mass gathering of people. There were controls in place and the environment was also controlled. I love how apparently there was a backlash when residents weren't even advised of an event? It was just an expression of interest and if there was a backlash where was the email or phone call to me to say "hey sorry, although we had about 20 people keen we've had about 100 against any form of trick or treating event." It reeks more of "we buggered up" or "we hoped you'd give up".
Instead, another American custom took place on Saturday night. Prohibition.
A couple of families had already made contact with me during the week when they found out who came up with the plan. They just wanted to say "thank you". Well, when the event was cancelled they were disappointed and contacted me again to ask if it was ok if they came to my apartment for a "traditional trick or treat" albeit socially distanced. I was more than happy to oblige and also got them in contact with the other planned Candy Tellers to see if they would do the same. To which they agreed.
As I said this Halloween should've been about families and their children and this was epitomised by the first family to come to my door. Their child had this amazing idea for a costume and had come as a Food Truck. It was so cute. But what struck me more was that the mother was in tears as her son got his Candy Booty. With tears in her eyes she simply said to me:
"If not for social distancing I would so give you a hug right now. Thank you."
It was clear that for these parents and this mother, in particular, all they wanted was a sense of normality and to let their kid be a kid for one night. The fact that their child had the chance to go to a door in their costume and say "Trick or Treat" was more than enough to make this mother's day. The other families that came to my door were also similar. They couldn't have been more overjoyed at the fact that their child could at least do something on Halloween.
To all of them, all I said was "I just wanted to do something for the kids on Halloween because it could be celebrated in a safe way and it's a shame that the building didn't share that viewpoint."
Now before people say, actually they did . . .
I get it though, the USA is the land of litigation. However, the event was a Resident run event, not a building sanctioned event and it had massive controls in place too. As I say you would've had more of a chance of getting COVID by going to a restaurant in the same building complex or by going to the Supermarket. The painful thing here was the stringing along by the Building. If they had concerns from the get-go then they could've just said "no". Just like they have with the building's facilities that all remain closed when other complexes around the city are finding ways to reopen safely.
Once again, people, COVID is serious. But we can't have a one-track mind. Humanity is about evolving and finding ways to deal with problems. As mundane as it is, Halloween was one of these issues. Is there a way to conduct the event safely and let kids and families have fun for one night? Yes. This is how we can do it. This is how the CDC recommends you do it and we are adding further precautions. Yes, kids can run amok and not follow the rules. But considering how low the numbers of people that would be allowed in the space being used for the event then seriously it would not have been an issue. If one kid went mental and dived into a candy bag and thus "contaminated" a Teller's bag well then it's gone. Even us Candy Tellers had discussions and agreed that we would not take photos of a family together because if we were doing so then we would have to use their own device and thus our "Candy hands" (even gloved up) faced contamination and there was a threat in coming within six feet of each other during this time.
Quite simply, the building opted to take the "hide under the bedsheets" approach to Halloween this year, to not even want to push a Virtual Halloween Costume Contest or to bring some form of joy to families who are doing it tough is a joke. Simply going to a Concierge Desk for a bag of Candy removes the joy that kids clearly get from going to different places, meeting different people and getting the positive feedback of their costumes and a reward of different Candies for their work.
No doubt this building's response to Halloween was exactly what Winifred did to Sarah but when it comes to Halloween 2020 I will never forget the mother who broke down with tears for a simple gesture of people who just wanted kids to be kids for one night. What is so wrong with that I ask?