As many have long expected, a Halloween in New Haven will look different in a year where the pandemic has put a stop to many facets of public and social life.
In an Oct. 14 press conference, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker recommended that New Haven residents refrain from traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating or “trunk-or-treating” — the practice of trick-or-treating between cars. The mayor also reiterated that the prohibition on large gatherings, mandated by Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order, would extend to Halloween. In order to adhere to social distancing requirements, many New Haven residents have canceled or altered their Halloween plans. Among parents, youth and businesses in the Elm City, residents have looked for small ways to celebrate.
“We are not recommending door-to-door trick-or-treating because it’s really difficult to maintain proper social distancing on porches and front doors and ensuring that individuals will be at minimum risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19,” Ana Garcia, executive assistant to the mayor, said at the press conference.
For Tina Lu, Pauli Murray head of college, Halloween has long been a big deal for her family. But this year, she has felt the spirit of Halloween come more slowly. She has yet to decorate her house as she usually does.
Lu said she decided not to allow her children to trick-or-treat this Halloween. The decision, Lu said, has come as somewhat of a disappointment for her 9-year-old son, who had hoped to shave his head and paint a blue arrow on his head to dress up as Aang from Avatar. But Lu said she plans on saving the costume idea for next year.
“He’s 9, so he can go again next year.” Lu said.
Stuart Semmel, Lu’s husband and a senior lecturer in history and humanities at Yale, said he has heard of alternate plans for Halloween festivities, such as trunk-or-treating, car parades and online pumpkin carving. Semmel said that his family does not plan on participating in them.
The New Haven Health Department recommended that residents participate in virtual events like online pumpkin carvings, Halloween car parades and drive-in movie nights instead of traditional trick-or-treating.
Semmel said he doubts such recommendations will appeal to everyone.
“It makes sense that people are trying to do whatever they can via Zoom, but I guess doing pumpkin carving in front of the screen doesn’t sound like it’ll be very easy,” said Semmel.
During the press conference earlier this month, Garcia announced the city is not recommending trunk-or-treating as an alternative because it is “difficult to avoid crowds and gatherings of small groups and the sharing of food” at these events.
Lee Cruz, a father of two sons and a resident of Fair Haven, told the News that during past Halloweens, his family has frequented a local gathering at his neighbor’s house. At the parties, the families would eat pizza, socialize, watch the sunset and, at dusk, head out to go door-to-door trick-or-treating with their kids.
The pandemic forced them to change plans several times. After first considering the pandemic, Cruz originally planned to take his children to attend a local trunk-or-treating event in their neighborhood. As Halloween approached, Cruz changed his mind after observing that local residents often do not abide by social distancing protocols when they wear masks.
Elm City teenagers similarly feel wary about traditional trick-or-treating. New Haven high school students Luis Tavarez and Feliz Nunez told the News they do not plan to socialize this Halloween as they normally would, in great part to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. Nunez cited concerns of spreading the virus to his family.
“If it was a normal year, I’d probably be at a Halloween party on Saturday,” Tavarez said. “But because of coronavirus, I’ll stay home this year.”
A dampened Halloween has also kept most local businesses from partaking in any festivities. But the recently reopened Havenly Treats on Temple Street has made an effort to adjust their offerings to fit the season. The refugee-owned shop has begun to sell Halloween-themed treats and will sell all its dessert items for 50 percent off throughout the week of Halloween.
Caterina Passoni, Havenly co-founder and executive director, said the restaurant will sell kunafa, a Middle Eastern pastry that Havenly will color orange for Halloween.
Passoni said the store also plans to hold a small gathering on Halloween night for its staff of refugee women and their children. The employees and their families hail from all across the Middle East and North Africa. Many, Passoni said, have little exposure to the day’s traditions. The gathering is an effort to introduce many of its employees and their children to Halloween traditions during the day.
Door-to-door trick-or-treating in the United States became popular in the early to mid-1900s.
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