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Celebrating Halloween in an already horrifying year

The spooky holiday can be adjusted in a way that's fun and avoids large gatherings like parties or trick-or-treating


"A pandemic provides both limitations to Halloween activities and opportunities for costume ideas." Illustration published on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

Halloween is the one time of year when it’s OK to be scared — it's part of the fun. But in a year where every morning brings new horrors, many of the usual traditions have to be adjusted or outright canceled. 

Usually, I celebrate Halloween with a small group of friends, dressing up if we can, going out to a late-night movie or staying in to watch a scary movie. I spent last Halloween with my roommate watching “The Witch.” Since the next day was a First Friday, we couldn’t make any big plans, as we would be working throughout the night and the rest of the weekend.

This year, my plans haven’t changed much. Working at the Phoenix Art Museum, we’re allowed to dress up in costumes if we work on Halloween or the days around it. Since I didn’t work the last two, I plan on dressing up this time around. 

I feel obligated to dress up as Spider-Man because people have told me countless times I look either like Peter Parker in general, or specifically Tom Holland. I’ll wear an actual Spider-Man mask rather than the face mask. 

To top off the celebration, I plan on watching my favorite Halloween movie: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” While it doesn’t often find itself on any top Halloween movie lists, I think it represents some of the other parts of the holiday that get overshadowed by the horror, like adventure, mystery and pleasure. 

And of course, I look forward to the most important part of any Rocky viewing: the call-backs. Viewers can respond to what’s happening on screen either through ad-libbed insults or props connected to the scene. 

For example, when it rains on screen, you put a newspaper over your head, or when the characters make a toast at dinner, you’re meant to bring toast to the theater and throw it at the screen. For me, it gives me the sense of being back in a theater watching it at midnight on Halloween, even if it’s just in my room. 

Manny Alemany, an ASU junior studying criminology and criminal justice, said this year will be completely different from how he spent Halloween in the past. 

“The biggest difference with celebrating is you can only do stuff with people you already know, there’s no going to a party with tons of people you don’t know who they are or who else they’ve been with,” Alemany said. 

He said he plans to hang out with a small group of friends. That way, he knows he isn’t exposing himself to strangers, and he can just enjoy a nice night with some friends. 

Living in Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus, Alemany said he isn’t too worried about any super-spreader events because students can only have one guest from the same residence hall visiting at a time. 

The biggest thing Alemany misses from a usual Halloween is meeting new people, especially those from Tempe that he said he "wouldn't get to meet otherwise." 

Emma Murphy, a sophomore studying digital culture with an emphasis on music, lives in an apartment near the Tempe campus and hopes to put up decorations, wear costumes and watch scary movies with her roommates and close friends from the same building while being safe. 

“Halloween is my favorite holiday, I’m definitely going to celebrate,” Murphy said. “I’m going to dress up as Shaggy and buy a Scooby-Doo doll to top it off.”

Murphy said her favorite movie genre is horror so staying in this year to watch "The Silence of the Lambs" feels like a suitable replacement. 

She said she has seen a lot of partying going on throughout her apartment building even "without any major holidays this semester,” and she worries about how many people will dismiss guidelines to go to parties throughout Halloween weekend. 

Murphy said she wishes she could go to a party like usual this year and be around many people again. 

“Seeing everyone’s costumes is a big part of it, and it’s so fun to do group costumes, I wanted my friends to dress up as the rest of the Mystery Gang with me,” Murphy said. 

While usually associated with activities that should be unthinkable in a pandemic, Halloween is also one of the holidays best suited for such a dramatic adjustment. Unlike Thanksgiving dinner, trick-or-treating or partying isn’t the core of the holiday — it is just a way to celebrate. 

The spirit of Halloween is more personal than that. For one person, it could be the horror side and for another, it could be campy. But for both, it's just what they think is fun and safe. And some regulated fun is definitely something we all need more of right now. 

Reach the reporter at and follow @RyanKnappenber3 on Twitter. 

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