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PREST: How to Halloween when every single day is a horror show

Here are some fun activities to keep your little grim reapers from spreading actual death

It’s that time of year again when little goblins, ghouls and demons are unleashed upon the world, putting a fright into the hearts of all mere mortals.

I’m speaking, of course of those foul creatures who are prepared to spring forth from their dank caverns and cast a vote for Donald J. Trump. Gahhh! Terrifying.

Just kidding. I’m talking about Halloween, a beloved annual tradition for children and families around the world. But the year 2020 has been a horror show all-around, which ironically threatens to turn Halloween into a much tamer affair. Normally on All Hallows’ Eve, if you saw a house covered in yellow tape, biohazard signs and warnings like Death to All Who Enter, you would assume it was a hip Halloween household that could possibly be giving out full-sized chocolate bars. Ding dong!

This year, however, it may just be a literal description of your neighbours locked in COVID-19 quarantine, doing their best not to infect the local scamps with the deadly virus that’s going around.

“How was the haul this year, son?”

“Hit and miss, Dad. Mr. Gomez gave me Doritos, the Parkers had boxes of raisins, Farhad’s mom is giving out licorice, and old man Cuthbertson coughed in my face.”

“Ah! Gross!”

“I know, right? Raisins?”

Seriously though, the thrill of door-to-door sugar service will likely be greatly limited or even eliminated for most this year as fears of giving or getting COVID-19 will keep many of the little goblins at home and have a lot of households choosing not to give out candy. No one wants to be the dad who ends up with a positive test in the family and then needs to fill out 35 pages of contact tracing to include every address within a 20-block radius. Trick-or-treat indeed.

halloween dog
Be careful who you hang out with this Halloween. Stick to your bubble. photo Joan Klucha

But that doesn’t mean this Saturday need be devoid of frightful fun. My family will likely take our two boys out to do some seriously socially distant trick-or-treating with only a few of our close friends and neighbours on our block. Then we’ll come home and party like it’s 2020, by which I mean by ourselves and with lots of booze.

There are lots of fun things to do on Halloween even if you aren’t hitting the pavement. According to ancient folklore found in the historical writings of Wikipedia, Halloween may have grown out of the Celtic festival Samhain, meaning “summer’s end.” In old Ireland and Britain these festivals were celebrated with fun games for the whole family, many of which can be replicated now as we, much like our ancestors, hide from the plague. Try out these fun activities!

Bobbing for apples

Remember this one? Chances are you probably did this once or twice at a fall fair. You put a bunch of apples in a big bowl of water – they float! – and then try to grab one with your teeth! No hands allowed! And to make it even more reminiscent of torture tactics that could run you slightly afoul of the Geneva Convention, you can tie the person’s hands behind their back. Please though, no drowning.

Also you probably want to only take part in this activity with people who are entrenched in your inner inner COVID-19 bubble. Nothing screams pandemic problems like slamming your face and hair into a bucket of water with 50 of your closest friends and acquaintances.

Fortune telling

Harry Potter and his nerdy friends may scoff at the ancient art of divination, but my family enjoys swirling the dregs from a cup of tea or coffee and seeing what foretelling images appear. You can also pour egg whites into hot water and predict the future based on the shapes that emerge. This is called oomancy, which coincidentally is my new favourite word. If you don’t have egg whites handy, you can simply use molten lead.

Why yes, that is a 923-pound pumpkin with an alien carved into it. North Vancouver's Jeff Pelletier is famous for his massive gourds. This year, if you don't have a 923-pound pumpkin, try carving a scary face into a turnip. photo Andy Prest, North Shore News

Turnip carving

Yeah, any old joker can carve a pumpkin. But you wanna go old school? Do like the pranksters of the 19th century did and carve a creepy face into a turnip. Whether you succeed in turning a turnip into a grim monster or not, this certainly sounds like a much better idea than actually eating a turnip.

Watch a scary movie

Of course not all Halloween fun needs to be rooted in ancient mysticism. My family will probably finish the night curled up on the sofa with a huge bucket of popcorn in hand and Hotel Transylvania on the TV. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d suggest funny scary over actual scary for your viewing pleasure this year.

Goodness knows we’ll have enough horror to last a lifetime if the U.S. election goes wrong three days after Halloween. The original script for that four-year horror show was already truly grotesque. It’s hard to even imagine how terrible the sequel would be.

Stay strong, mortals. Happy Halloween!

Andy Prest is the News’ sports editor. His humour column runs biweekly. [email protected]

pumpkin drop
The annual pumpkin drop fundraiser hosted by the District of North Vancouver Firefighters Charitable Society always provides so smashing good fun. file photo Cindy Goodman, North Shore News