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Halloween is looking a little different for 2020

  • Published
  • By Ricardo S. Campos
  • JBSA Fire Inspector/Life Safety Educator

European immigrants first brought Halloween to the United States and the celebration really gathered steam in the 1800s, when Irish-American immigration exploded.

Since then, customs have changed slightly.

As an example, during Halloween, or All Hallows Eve, people in 19th century Europe would carry lanterns made from turnips or potatoes.

In America, immigrants discovered that pumpkins were more common, and by putting candles inside them and using them as lanterns, people could see their way in the dark. That’s why you see jack-o’-lanterns today. 

By all accounts, traditional Halloween customs are looking a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this reason, Joint Base Fire Emergency Services has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, on the following recommendations to advise parents to use the alternative low-risk activities:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them.
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space.
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance.
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest.
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with.
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house.

Other moderate risk activities include:

  • Participating in one way-trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of yard). If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart.
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.
  • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced and where people can remain more than 6 feet apart.
  • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater is the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.  

For more information about Halloween safety, visit the National Fire Prevention Association website at or visit the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention website at for guidance on Halloween festivities.

People can also contact the local fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, at JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or at JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.