Celebrating Halloween During a Pandemic

Celebrating Halloween During a Pandemic

By Rebecca Abu Sharkh | Solutions Consultant

With Halloween just around the corner and a 20% uptick in U.S. coronavirus cases over the past two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance around how families and individuals can safely celebrate Halloween this year. They are dividing popular Halloween traditions and activities into three categories: lower, moderate and higher risk activities.

Carving or decorating pumpkins with neighbors or friends outside in a socially distanced fashion falls under a lower risk activity. Instead of traditional trick-or-treating, the CDC has deemed “one-way trick-or-treating,” in which you place individually wrapped goodie bags at the end of a driveway or the edge of a yard for trick-or-treaters, a moderate risk activity. Traditional trick-or-treating, where children go door to door to be handed treats directly, constitutes a high risk activity and should be avoided to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

As previous holidays earlier this year have shown, however, many are loath to follow such strict guidelines, preferring instead to celebrate as they did in pre-pandemic times or bend the guidelines. So, how will Halloween 2020 pan out?

Halloween Plans 

At the beginning of October, Premise surveyed 1,375 of its U.S. contributors to gauge how they plan on celebrating Halloween this year and any precautions they may be taking. To ascertain how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected plans, Premise asked respondents to reflect on how they spent last Halloween and what their plans are this “spooky season.” 

Distribution of responses throughout the U.S. Premise gathered data from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Many across the country are planning on ramping down their participation with the holiday this year, while some traditions are proving to be resilient in the face of the pandemic. 

Last year, 39% of respondents reported that they wore a costume or dressed up. This trend will continue this coming Halloween, as 39% said they plan on dressing up again this year. All other Halloween activities, however, will see drops this season. The percentage of respondents who will decorate their homes decreased from 46% to 44%. Similarly, decorating the inside of one’s home fell from 43% last year to 40% this year. Indeed, many are opting to forgo any sort of Halloween celebration this year, with the response option “none” climbing to number four on the list of Halloween activities compared to last year’s sixth place.

Other drops seem less precipitous than expected in light of the CDC’s recommendations. The percentage of people planning on attending Halloween events only dropped by five percentage points, from 21% last year to 16% this year. Of those who answered that they will be attending an event this year, nearly 64% plan to attend a friend or family Halloween party, 45% intend to visit a haunted house, and 39% aim to engage in a community event. Visiting a corn maze, most likely deemed a “moderate risk activity,” jumped from 30% last year to 33% percent this year. 

Of course, responses heavily depend on location. In Illinois, only 9% foresee attending a Halloween event compared to 27% in Texas, 21% in Florida, 16% in New York and 12% in California. Age is also a major factor in determining Halloween plans, with older individuals less likely to attend events or parties. 69% of individuals between 16 and 25 plan on attending a party, while only 46% of those aged 45 years or older plan to do so. 

Halloween event plans unsurprisingly depend on local and state gathering regulations. Due to fewer social distancing restrictions in Florida, 65% of respondents going to a Halloween event plan to visit a haunted house and 59% a community event. Having canceled Halloween Horror Nights initially due to COVID-19, Universal Studios recently opened two haunted houses with plexiglass screens dividing visitors and employees, social distancing markers and virtual lines. Other haunted houses in Florida have opted for a “drive-in” format. In comparison, last year in California, 50% of respondents who went to a Halloween event visited a haunted house, while only 24% plan on doing so this year. This is likely due to most haunted houses in the state now being hosted virtually on sites like Zoom. 

Virtual Celebrations

Although only 6% of respondents plan to partake in a virtual celebration, respondents opting for online rather than in-person events shared many creative ideas with Premise. Common virtual celebration plans were to connect with friends and family over Zoom or Facebook and throw virtual costume contests or eat Halloween candy and tell ghost stories. Other ideas include hosting an online Halloween movie marathon watch party or playing online murder trivia with friends. Online community get-togethers were also top on the list. This included Zoom dance parties, attending virtual school hangouts and connecting with co-workers over online happy hours. 


2020 has had its fair share of scary events. Nonetheless, many across the country are looking forward to planned spooky moments in the coming weeks. Whether celebrating in new or more traditional ways, Premise has found that nearly 80% of respondents plan on participating in Halloween in one way or another.

If you’re interested in using our technology to identify sentiments in a rapidly changing world, email us at info@premise.com.

Visit us at www.premise.com/COVID-19 to follow along with our COVID-19 coverage.

Data Source: Premise Data | Data was collected between October 1-5, 2020, from 1,375 contributors. The survey responses allow for a 95% confidence interval with a margin of error of approximately 2.5% based on WorldPop 2020 U.S. human population data.

About Rebecca Abu Sharkh

Rebecca Abu Sharkh is a Solutions Consultant based in San Francisco, California. With a background in global operations and government, at Premise, she serves as a technical and functional subject matter expert on Premise’s operations platform and smartphone app and conducts data collection and analysis.